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Friday, September 29, 2023


Contemporary ensemble to feature worldly tunes


The Moores School of Music is featuring the AURA: Contemporary Ensemble concert, “All the Angles,” at 7:30 p.m. on Monday at the Moores Opera House. | Courtesy of Moores School of Music

The Moores School of Music contemporary ensemble AURA will have a concert at the Moores Opera House on Monday.

The set list includes contemporary pieces from all over the world, including pieces composed by Toru Takemitsu, Olivier Messiaen and Lorenzo Ferrero. The concert, “All the Angles,” features pieces that contain titles associated with geometric slants, inclines, shapes, points and outlooks.

The AURA ensemble focuses on classical contemporary music from the last two decades and has a limited number of instruments, including a flautist, a clarinetist, a violinist, a cellist, a harpist, a couple of pianists and a percussionist.

The show will feature special guests flautist Caity Piccini and percussion professor and Director of Percussion Studies Blake Wilkins.

“We’re trying to further that tradition of classical music. (For) any art that you want to keep alive, you need to keep doing fresh things,” said associate professor of composition and AURA director Robert Smith. “You can’t keep recycling the same old stuff.”

The set list also includes a piece, “N. 42° W,” composed by composition graduate student Daniel Webbon. He was inspired by his drive to Waco to visit his fiancée.

“He started thinking about his piece, and he realized that when he drives to visit his (fiancée), there’s this angle from Houston to Waco,” Smith said.

Although Webbon will not perform or conduct, he and Smith have been coaching the ensemble in preparation for the show.

“The most difficult thing was how to translate all the complex rhythms I improvise as a drummer to notes on a page that a player could read,” Webbon said. “There aren’t that many pieces written for piano, violin and clarinet.”

Smith said the AURA program is a training ground for musicians.

“This is a way for them to learn all these contemporary techniques that may occur musically,” Smith said. “They’re going to have to play for their career.”

Webbon won top honors at the University composition department’s Sarofim Composition Awards in 2012.

“Every year we have a contest (with) a graduate winner and undergraduate winner,” Smith said. “I want to commission (the winners) to write something new. I look at what I have and I tell them, ‘Here’s the theme for my concert, and here are the other pieces that I’m doing.’ I think a lot about that individual composer of what I think would be great for them to write next.”

Another piece on the set list is James Correa’s “Retrato cubist da cidade de Porto Alegre.”

Second-year doctoral student and violinist Ingid Gerling approached Smith with the piece.

“What I immediately liked about the piece was that it is very exciting and fast,” Gerling said.

Gerling was curious to learn the music and understand how the composer created this “new” aesthetic. Although it is a short piece, she said the technical challenges for the violin include fast scales, specific articulations and sudden mood changes.

“This piece is actually one of the first pieces that got me interested in new music,” Gerling said. “The performance is going to be very exciting, and all the pieces on the program are very interesting and keep the listener engaged.”

The audience can look forward to how the flautist will create a non-traditional flute sound by using a different finger arrangement to play two or three notes simultaneously.

Smith said this is the first year he has a harp player in the ensemble.

In addition, the harpists will de-tune their harps while they play; Smith said the note will be somewhere in the middle between a “D” and a “D” flat.

The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for general admission and $7 for faculty, staff and alumni.

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