Contemporary composer's minimalist
work to highlight New Music Agency concert
By Jeff Korbelik / Lincoln
(Friday, Dec 24, 2004)
The New Music Agency, fresh off its successful "Free at Six" experience earlier
this month, returns Thursday with another innovative concert.
The avant-garde chamber group will perform three works, with Terry
Riley's "In C" as the concert's highlight at the Lincoln Unitarian Church.
Third Chair Chamber Players performed Riley's mesmerizing minimalist work
in November 2000.
The New Music Agency felt it was time to revisit the work. And, if things
go well, the ensemble wouldn't mind performing it again and again at this
time of year.
"It's kind of my hidden agenda," New Music co-founder Karen Sandene
said. "I would like to make it an annual thing, like the ‘Messiah' or ‘The
Written in 1964, Riley's harmonic work consists of 53 melodic fragments in
the key of C that any number of musicians perform roughly at the same time,
Sandene compares it to running a 10K race, with all the participants averaging
Some musicians start out slow, playing certain measures over and over, while
others race ahead until they find a comfortable pace.
The goal is for all the players to finish at the same time.
"It's a wonderful experience for the performers and the audience," Sandene
said. "It's a very bonding piece of music."
The New Music Agency is in its second season of performing contemporary music
inside and outside Lincoln.
The ensemble is made up of university professors, Lincoln Public Schools
music staff and musicians of the Omaha and Lincoln symphonies.
Some of them have performed in contemporary music ensembles elsewhere in
the country. Two are active composers in the genre.
Personnel for Thursday's concert will be Christy Banks (clarinet), Rusty
Banks (guitar), Betsy Bobenhouse (flute), Diana Frazier (cello), Joe Holmquist
(percussion) and Sandene (bassoon).
The group earned a vote of confidence when it was one of six local groups
selected to perform at "Free at Six," the new concert series organized by
the Lied Center for Performing Arts.
The Lied created the series to recognize and celebrate the rich range
of artistic talent in the community. The New Music Agency played before its
largest audience — nearly 200 patrons — in the Lied's Johnny Carson
In addition to the Riley piece, the chamber group will perform Mexican composer
Mario Lavista's "Responsorio in memoriam Rodolfo Halffter for Bassoon and
Percussion" and "Bent Echos," an original work by Agency member Rusty Banks.
Lavista created his work as a eulogy for his composition instructor. The
bassoonist (Sandene) plays a mournful melody — reminiscent of the opening
of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" — while heavy drum beats depict a funeral
procession in a Mexican village, and chimes represent the tolling of church
"It's a very beautiful piece of music," Sandene said.
"Bent Echoes" features flute, clarinet, guitar, sound file (stored sounds)
and three boomboxes strategically placed in the room. Banks uses "synthesized
sound" to enhance the piece.
"I deliberately used synth sounds found in many bad pop songs from the 1980s,"
he said. "The way I use them, however, is very different."