‘CSUF New Music Festival’ explores traditional and unconventional instruments to find the ‘California sound’

In Arts & Entertainment, Music
(Sarah El-Mahmoud / Daily Titan) Linnea Powell and Adrianne Pope of Aperture Duo performed for graduate students in the Center of Performing Arts.

Esteemed musicians played a wide variety of music, from the traditional violin to the unconventional cactus, in order to define the “California sound” as they gathered from across the state for the CSUF New Music Festival.

Graduate students from all over California visited Cal State Fullerton to present their research to one another during the EUREKA! Musical Minds of California Conference collaborating on presentations, recitals and discussions.

The conference on Saturday was at the heart of the CSUF New Music Festival, a series of performances showcasing diverse music from Feb. 22 to Feb. 26. Pauline Oliveros, who died in November, launched the festival 16 years ago in order to bring attention to women composers.

Sarah Reid is a young composer from the on faculty at California Institute of the Arts and her work was featured at the festival, including a new piece called “Spectral Impulse” which premiered Saturday night.   

“The main thing that drew me toward this event is how amazing it is to have such a concentration of female composers and such an opportunity to showcase the work that’s being created right now by women in this field,” said Sarah Reid, young composer and faculty member at California Institute of the Arts.

The Los Angeles based group, Aperture Duo is composed of violinists Adrianne Pope and Linnea Powell. They were the ensemble in residence at the conference and performed a variation of works by the attending graduate students Saturday.

Pope opened the group’s intimate concert with a contemporary work by Annie Gosfield accompanied by various eerie electronic sounds, which she is famous for. Gosfield was also highlighted throughout the festival as the composer in residence.

“California was a huge influence on me, just in the most basic way because of its diversity living there,” Gosfield said.

The artistic director Pamela Madsen has dedicated the festival to Olivero in her memory. Madsen also presented a piece she composed called “There will be stars” to remember her by.

Graduate percussion performance student Milton Salazar worked as Madsen’s assistant during the festival. Salazar also performed using cactus, various leaves and tree bark as his instruments to play John Cage’s “Child of Tree.” He followed instructions and a chart written by Cage in 1975 to make the piece sound different each time.

“I don’t know how I would go out of my way to meet these people if it wasn’t for the conference or the festival,” Milton said of the experience. “Getting to know the people in your field, not just at your level but also at the professional level. It’s just really cool.”

Sisters Elisse and Leslie La Barre organized the EUREKA! conference to break down barriers between the disciplines within music studies. The first EUREKA! conference in 2015 at UC Santa Cruz was received well, and it has created new collaborations and connections for graduate music students across California each year.  

“It’s changing the way in which graduate institutions in music are thinking now,” Leslie La Barre said .

Celeste Oram from UC San Diego was among a small audience of music graduate students. She gave a talk at the conference about the history of amateur radio in New Zealand.

“I think it’s a really illuminating reminder that California is an enormous state, and there is an unfathomable depth of music making,” Oram said. “Here is one snapshot in one day.”

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