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UNC Department of Music holds electro-acoustic concert

Classical music changes its tune in the UNC Department of Music’s electro-acoustic music concert, where modern technology meets traditional sound. 

Tonight, students in Music 266, the Advanced Composition course, will collaborate with the Chapel Hill Contemporary Music Ensemble to debut the pieces they have spent the semester creating. The undergraduates explored the field of electro-acoustic music, a genre that incorporates synthetic, computer-made music with natural sound, in each of the 10 pieces, which range from five to 10 minutes in length.

Richard Drehoff, the director of the ensemble, said this is the group’s second collaboration with the music department this year.

“It’s been a really neat opportunity for composers to get to work with electronics in a way that a lot of classical musicians don’t get to do,” Drehoff said. “We’re hoping, with the use of electronics, we’ll be able to appeal to a wider audience.”

Drehoff, who graduated from UNC last year, said the music ensemble is made up of 30 volunteer musicians — all undergraduate students or recent graduates of UNC. 

“It’s really something that’s run by the students,” Drehoff said. “We formed the ensemble in December 2012 to play the music that we wanted to play — to play music we felt was underperformed.”

Music professor Stephen Anderson, who teaches Music 266 this semester, said the class focuses on a different musical genre each semester, and it can be taken multiple times by any UNC student. 

Students have been working all semester in UNC’s electro-acoustic music studio in Hill Hall on this extensive project.

“The biggest challenge they have is tying the electronics together with the performers, that’s always a major challenge," Anderson said. "They try to find ways that the electronics can enhance the live performers and vice versa.”

Anderson said one piece will feature live interactive electronics, meaning musicians will play into a microphone that will then manipulate the sound. Others will feature prerecorded electronic tracks to accompany the natural sound.

Eliana Fishbeyn, a freshman music major, is one of the composers in the class. Her piece, titled “Concurrent Inkling,” is written for the piano and the vibraphone.

“The idea of it is just a stream of consciousness throughout the whole piece.," she said. "It doesn’t really have a distinct form, but it’s a lot of harmony and changes in texture and color.”

Stewart Engart, a senior music and political science double-major, said his piece commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act — a piece of legislation that preserved millions of acres throughout the United States.  He said the piece is written for a jazz quartet, which includes a piano, bass, drum and tenor saxophone.

“The whole idea of melody doesn’t really relate to my piece at all,” he said.

Engart said the piece is highly improvised, without a melody or inscribed key.

“The duration of the piece itself is not the same each time. Last rehearsal, the piece was two minutes longer than it was before,” he said.

Both Engart and Fishbeyn said they have learned a lot from their experience with composing for the class.

“It’s definitely opened up my view of composing. I didn’t ever write for different mediums other than acoustic instruments,” Fishbeyn said. 

“Exploring electronic stuff is really interesting, and this class has really opened lots of opportunities to explore so many different genres and mediums of music.”

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