IC and Cornell group brings new music genre to Ithaca
The Ithaca Music Collective rehearses for its upcoming performance on April 25 at the Argos Inn. The group brings together musicians from Ithaca College and Cornell University.
By Silas White — Staff Writer - The Ithacan
Published: April 19, 2016
Ithaca is a town that is not known for being short of musicians. With live concerts on The Commons and in local bars, as well as the music majors who come out of the college and Cornell University, there is a great deal of music coming out of Ithaca.
The Ithaca New Music Collective, or INMC, is a group of local musicians dedicated to performing pieces written by composers from the college, Cornell and the Ithaca community, with the help of local bars as performance venues. The group’s first performance was Dec. 7, 2015, at the Argos Inn, and its next performance will be April 25 at the same venue.
The group’s co-artistic directors, Emily DiAngelo ’07 and Josh Oxford ’07, founded the group in 2015. They became friends while attending the college together, and, after keeping in touch throughout the years, reunited in Ithaca and founded the INMC. Currently, DiAngelo teaches oboe at Cornell, while Oxford is attending the college as a graduate student in his second semester.
The group was founded after DiAngelo commissioned Oxford to write her a piece for a performance at the college, and she realized there was potential to bring the music scenes at Cornell and the college together in terms of student collaboration.
DiAngelo said the INMC’s members and composers are not static, as they are always looking to showcase new talent. One thing they focus on is what Oxford called “new music,” which he said is instrumental music coming out of the classical movement, although not everyone agrees with that opinion. DiAngelo said this is because new music, such as an atonal clarinet solo, does not sound similar to what audiences might be used to.
“There is a very interesting comparison I think Milton Babbitt made, that ‘Contemporary classical music is like theoretical physics. Most people, it’s over their heads, but these experiments need to be done,’” Oxford said.
Oxford said new music, in this context, may be difficult to appreciate but that it’s necessary to keep music moving forward. He said the idea is to take “intellectualized” music and put it in places where people wouldn’t normally expect to see it. Oxford said many new music pieces focus on atonality or lack of tone altogether.
“The idea is to sometimes avoid pitch entirely and just make sounds and noises,” Oxford said.
Jacob Gunnar Walsh ’15, a composer for the group, said in an email that listeners can expect a diverse musical experience and new sounds.
“Not only is there very dissonant, harmonically advanced and more avant–garde music, but by saying we are dedicated to premiering ‘new music,’ that gives us room for any music being written now,” Walsh said. “This coming event, there will be indie pop, completely atonal solo clarinet, ukulele and opera song cycle about fruit.”
The group creates nontraditional music in other ways as well. DiAngelo said they have one piece written by graduate student composer Tonia Ko at Cornell that’s performed on Bubble Wrap, as well as another piece by composer John Cage, called “4’33,” that is completely silent, the idea being that the sounds of the bar or concert hall is the music of the piece.
One of the main goals of the collective is creating opportunities for composers, such as Oxford and other members of the community. DiAngelo said as a musician, commissioning pieces written by local composers is a way of showing appreciation. DiAngelo said their ultimate objective is to enrich the music community by giving composers an opportunity to have their music performed.
“My vision for this collective is that we want it to be hip, something that people consider to be the ‘it’ thing to do,” DiAngelo said. “We want people to want to be a part of it. We don’t want to be exclusive at all. We are completely inclusive.”
DiAngelo mentioned taking inspiration from Gertrude Stein, an experimental writer and modern art collector born in the late 19th century. The idea behind the events is that people will come together, have a drink and collaborate.
“If a composer and an instrumentalist meet and they get along and the instrumentalist likes what the composer wrote, in a couple of months, they can meet and play it at The Collective,” she said.
The first event at Argos Inn was organized after DiAngelo and Oxford used their resources reaching out to members of the alumni community and people they knew in the area who they thought could be ready to play on short notice.
“Josh was able to get people fast, I was able to get people fast, and we put it together in about a month,” DiAngelo said. “It was such a big success we thought, ‘We have to do this again, and again and again.’”
Oxford said as a composer, he thinks any melodist enjoys the chance to write new music for their instrument.
“Everyone likes the opportunity to enrich the literature for their instrument,” Oxford said. “These opportunities allow composers to enrich the repertoire.”
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