From Jan. 27 to 31, the UC Davis Music Department, in collaboration with the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, will present Music and Words Festival 2015. The five-day festival will include more than seven concerts and presentations from university artists, distinguished professors as well as local and national performers.
The festival, which is titled differently every year, began in 2010 and occurs every two years. According to Sam Nichols, co-director of Music and Words Festival, this year’s theme came about from a piece the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra is playing, titled “Sinfonia,” which he said uses text in a strange and revolutionary way. The piece, which is composed by Italian composer Luciano Berio, features eight singers during the orchestra’s performance. The songs are about unique texts, for example, words from graffiti art found in Paris in 1968.
“This work sums up knowledge, philosophy, social criticism, popular and high-brow intellectual thoughts,” said Christian Baldini, the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra music director. “It engages the audience, it is provoking and it is extremely original and satisfying.”
In addition to performances from the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra, Music and Words Festival also invited acclaimed percussion group Sō Percussion to perform three concerts featuring original works, as well as join UC Davis percussionists in a performance of Steve Reich’s “Drumming.”
“We love the spirit of invention and experimentation that brings us to new sounds and ideas,” said Adam Sliwinski, a member of Sō Percussion. “We really like to invite people in to our weird and fun world of these instruments.”
In collaboration with the Mondavi Center, the festival will also include performances from UC Davis’ ensemble-in-residence, Empyrean Ensemble. The ensemble, which is known for its avant garde music style, will perform pieces focusing on living composers that emphasize the relationship between music and words. The pieces will include “Knowledgeable Viuda”, composed by Tomas Gueglio, and “Noggin,” composed by festival composer-in-residence Melinda Wagner. During her time in Davis, Wagner, who also composed the ensemble’s performance of “Four Settings for Soprano and Ensemble,” will also be teaching a group of eight composers who traveled from all over the country to work with her. These composers will also have their works featured during the festival.
In addition to concerts the festival will also include presentations of works from local artists, which include a performance of sound artist David Coll’s sound work “Construction” as well as UC Davis technocultural and cinema studies professor Bob Ostertag’s performance of his solo electronic work “Sooner or Later”.
The festival will also feature a music and words colloquium featuring professors from across various departments including Music, English and Theatre and Dance. Henry Spiller, the Department of Music chair, will also be participating in the colloquium, and highlighted that although music and words are separate genres, they work together to broaden the audience’s understanding of human connection and the way people create meanings.
“Everybody is aware that music and words are among humans’ most versatile forms of expression, and that the combination of words and music is often more powerful than either alone,” Spiller said.
In addition to allowing for the opportunity to bring national talent to perform at the university, Nichols says the festival is an important way for professional artists to work with students as well as offer students a university-wide event to perform on a larger and more professional scale.
“It gives us a chance to do something ambitious — to have our students involved, to have them actually be not just audience members, but performers on stage as part of this is really important and is a major part of why we do this festival,” Nichols said.
Music and Words Festival 2015 will begin on Jan. 27 and run until Jan. 31. Ticket prices range from free to $32 and performances will be held at venues across campus. More information regarding ticket prices, specific dates and locations, and select performances can be found at arts.ucdavis.edu/music-and-words.