UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 07 Winter 17 Library

The Gassmann Fund for Innovation in Music

(Photo: Marcy Day)

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On April 29, the UVA Jazz Ensemble took on its greatest musical challenge thanks to the support of a new fund aimed at expanding the creative worlds of students throughout the McIntire Department of Music. The Gassmann Fund, created by Michael Gassmann and Cynthia Lewis, will support visits and residencies by innovative artists who perform or incorporate into their music experimental rock, free improvisation, world and computer music; support innovative and experimental projects that allow students and faculty to push musical boundaries; and organize trips for UVA students to collaborate with musicians, and present work outside of Charlottesville. The April concert, the first supported by the fund, was entitled Natural Synergies, and welcomed guest trumpeters Glen Whitehead and Cuong Vu, the Cuong Vu Trio, and featured an extended composition by McIntire Department of Music Chair Matthew Burtner. Burtner, a renowned composer known for combining computer/electronic/synthesized and acoustic music, composed his piece Ecoacoustic Concerto (Eagle Rock) from geological sonifications and field recordings of Eagle Rock in Colorado Springs. He originally wrote the piece for modern jazz great Cuong Vu and his trio, and re-orchestrated it for the UVA Jazz Band and this unique collaborative musical experience. The focus on synergy comes naturally to John D’earth and his talented jazz ensemble, which is known for stretching the very definition of what a college jazz ensemble can do, ranging from the classics of the genre to D’earth’s own highly-acclaimed compositions and various forms of collective improvisation. This particular show was the perfect launching point for The Gassmann Fund, according to D’earth, as it captured the very essence of the fund’s mission. “As a trumpet player, I can say that the trumpet guests are at the very top level of brass playing, and their creative visions are on the extreme cutting edge of what modern music is all about. But there is more to Matthew’s piece than the electronics, the avant-garde improvisatory aspects, the virtuosic writing, and the scientific measurements of natural phenomena, like rocks and weather, that compose one foundation of his work. There are meditative instructions in the piece that make the performance something like an exercise in mindfulness: the audience plays their rocks but must remember something; the trumpeters, on the first performance, were instructed to literally go and meditate at Eagle Rock just before the concert. Though musicians are familiar with using visualization, such instructions would not be expected from composers like Beethoven and Mozart, or even Duke Ellington!”

(Photo: Marcy Day)
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