February 21st, 2006

For Immediate Release
Travis Weller

The Percussion Music of Stuart Saunders Smith

 On March 4th The Austin New Music Co-op will present a concert of
 imaginative music by one of the United States' most important and
 singular voices in American music, Baltimore composer Stuart Saunders
 Smith. The Sylvia Smith Percussion Duo and pianist Michelle Schumann
 will perform percussion and theater pieces alongside members of the
 Austin New Music Co-op in a wide ranging program of experimental
 music composed in the last quarter century. The composer will be in
 attendance for the concert.


Detailed information and press photos on the NMC web site at:

 On March 4th, NMC is proud to present an evening of engaging
 percussion music with guest composer Stuart Saunders Smith in
 attendance. The program will feature pieces involving percussion,
 theater, and text performed by internationally renowned
 percussionists Sylvia Smith and Ayano Kataoka as well as chamber
 music performed by local musicians Michelle Schumann, piano; Callie
 Shelton, flute; and Nick Hennies, xylophone & percussion. As a
 testament to the contributions of women to new music, women
 performers will outnumber men four to one on this program.

 The Sylvia Smith Percussion Duo will perform pieces incorporating
 percussion, text, and theater including "...And Points North" - a
 percussion "opera" in three scenes which tells the story of a Native
 American in search of her soul. Smith is known for using
 unconventional objects as percussion instruments. "...And Points
 North" features the sounds of trees, rocks, logs, metal pipes and
 buckets, and cast-off urban trash. "I don't even use low tech. I work
 with junk - cultural castoffs - to make enjoyable music, very rich in
 its poverty of means.  Too often composers think that by focusing on
 so-called sophisticated materials and machines sophisticated art will
 automatically result." Said Stuart Smith, "The materials of art do
 not matter.  The imagination of the composer is the only
 compositional technology."

 A portion of the program also showcases Stuart Saunders Smith's less
 theatrical side.  Local percussionist Nick Hennies will perform two
 recent works for solo drum set "Brush" and "Two Lights" that
 exemplify Smith's "melodic" style of writing for so-called
 "non-pitched" instruments. In an interview, Smith said that, "In my
 drum set music, time is released to freely roam the many highways of
 time simultaneously.  There's no such thing as non-pitched
 percussion.  All percussion instruments have pitches; often whole
 bandwidths of pitches, but pitches nonetheless."  "Brush" and "Two
 Lights" are two of the best examples of Smith's elegant melodic
 sense; they are intricate pieces, yet they sound fluid and free to
 the ear.

 Hennies will also perform alongside pianist Michelle Schumann and
 flautist Callie Shelton in a trio entitled "Gifts" which was created
 using a different kind of fluidity.  Composed early in his career
 (1974), "Gifts" is the quintessential example of what Smith calls a
 "musical mobile". Each performance of "Gifts" is different but the
 end result is always the same. This could be compared to the dynamic
 nature of Alexander Calder's sculptural mobiles. The performers are
 asked to freely choose their own order of events from the written
 page based on a small set of rules and limitations. Stuart Smith,
 "conceived of the piece as a pool of water...  the pool never changes
 but the water always does." Due to their constant redefinition, the
 pieces resist memory and in turn extend their lives as exciting and
 vital compositions.

 "I am most alive when I'm just a little bit confused.  When things
 are forming.  When things are in a state of becoming." says Smith,
 "So I'm trying to make a music which does that for as long as it can,
 and then it dies."

 Considering himself first and foremost a jazz composer, Stuart
 Saunders Smith has been composing contrapuntal, polyphonic music in a
 highly focused and refined way to create a music informed by not only
 jazz but also 20th century avant-garde music, sound-poetry, and
 American folk song. Romantic yet experimental, his music is rooted in
 tradition yet created with entirely new means.

 NMC will also host a percussion/composition workshop by the Sylvia
 Smith Duo. For more information, see

 About the Sylvia Smith Percussion Duo

 The Sylvia Smith Percussion Duo, founded in 1998, is a women's
 percussion duo centered around music that integrates percussion,
 spoken language and theater. Percussionist Sylvia Smith has performed
 at Merkin Hall in New York, the Percussive Arts Society International
 Convention, and with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Her
 performances are recorded on oodiscs and Eleven West Records.  The
 recipient of numerous honors, Dr. Smith was awarded the American
 Music Center Letter of Distinction in 1988. She is also the founder,
 owner and editor of Smith Publications/Sonic Art Editions, publishers
 of serious American art music. Her scholarship includes publishing
 several articles on music notation, and curating many concerts of
 John Cage's music.

 Ayano Kataoka recently became the first percussionist to be accepted
 into the Chamber Music Society Two residency program in New York. 
 She has appeared with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble at Carnegie
 Hall, given a debut recital at Tokyo Opera City Recital Hall in
 Japan, and performed with Emanuel Ax at Lincoln Center.  More
 recently, she gave the US premiere performance of "...As If time
 Would Heal By Its Passing" by Stuart Saunders Smith at the 2005
 Percussive Arts Society International Convention. A leading marimba
 specialist, Ayano Kataoka is a graduate of Tokyo National University
 of Fine Arts and Music, the Peabody Conservatory, and earned an
 Artist Diploma degree from Yale University. She is recorded on
 Respect Records.  She describes her approach to percussion
 performance, "I think of percussion performance as essentially
 theatrical. I am particularly drawn to compositions that involve the
 whole person, using standard percussion instruments along with spoken
 voice, singing and acting, and elegant props."

 About Stuart Saunders Smith

 Stuart Saunders Smith was born in Portland, Maine in 1948.  He was
 raised in Portland and central Maine.  Smith now resides in
 Baltimore, but very much still lives in Maine.  His music reflects
 the culture, geography, and the general ethos of his home state. 
 This is easily seen in a description of some of his compositions.

 Poems I, II, III (1970) describes the Maine winter.  3 for 2 (1972)
 are portraits of three places in Maine that factor in the roots of
 his family:  The Kennebec, The Forks, Caratunk.  In Bingham (1985)
 expresses the loss of the mills in small towns.   ...And Points North
 (1990) is about the Passamaquoddy Nation in eastern Maine.  Two
 Lights (2002) is a sound portrait of Two Lights State Park in Cape
 Elizabeth, where the cliffs of granite boom into the sea in swirls of
 mist and spray.  Smith has composed 110 compositions to date.  In
 overt and implicit ways, each piece evokes the downeast character,
 and the "pine tree" soul.

 Concerning his compositional process, Stuart Saunders Smith is a
 confessional composer.  With each piece, he proclaims and reconsiders
 his core beliefs, sound by sound, in the context of decades of
 music-making.  Smith holds that each sound is intelligent, and when
 listened to, can direct the course of events in the composition.  So
 Smith listens to each sound to tell him what sound should come next,
 until the piece is finished.

 About Austin New Music Co-op

 The New Music Co-op is a community of composers and performers from
 the Austin area dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding
 of new music.  Since 2001, the NMC has presented a wide range of
 innovative and compelling new works and created a unique environment
 for collaboration and the free exchange of musical ideas.  Notable
 New Music Co-op concerts have included John Cage's Songbooks, Pauline
 Oliveros' Four Meditations for Orchestra (with the composer in
 attendance), a three-day series of the works of the New York School,
 and Terry Riley's In C.  New Music Co-op members come from highly
 diverse backgrounds, from classical performance to electronic music
 to formal composition to rock bands.  The group runs by consensus,
 and gains its strength from its members' varied experiences and
 interests.  The New Music Co-op is a 501(c)(3) non-profit
 organization, and all donations to the group are tax-deductible. This
 project is funded in part by the City of Austin through the Cultural
 Arts Division and by a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts.

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For more information contact:
Travis Weller