Posted at 11:41 a.m., Feb. 16, 2015


The New Music Ensemble:

The new music group meets for rehearsal to prepare for its upcoming performance at the Cheyenne Civic Center on March 12. They will perform with a veteran soundpainting group, the Playground Ensemble of Denver.

Photo by Dalton Lopez

Concert promises unique musical experience

The up-and-coming Laramie County Community College New Music Ensemble is set to perform along with the Playground Ensemble of Denver, Colorado, on Thursday, March 12, at the Cheyenne Civic Center.

The brand-new LCCC New Music Ensemble is offering students and performers a unique take on music this semester with soundpainting and musical improvisation unlike anything LCCC has done before.

Bryan Christian, director of the New Music Ensemble and interim instructor of instrumental music at LCCC, said he is looking forward to collaborating with the Playground Ensemble, a group experienced with soundpainting for many years. The Playground Ensemble is also known for commissioning local Colorado composers to create pieces for the group, including an upcoming piece composed by Christian. The students will have the opportunity not only to play along with the professionals but also to create artistic relationships in the field.

Both musical experiences will be demonstrated at 7 p.m. at the Cheyenne Civic Center, giving audiences an in-depth look at a one-of-a-kind experience.

Improvisation allows music flexibility

Christian said new music, a genre of contemporary music, is a bit “noisier” than traditional music but much more flexible. Improvisation provides a constantly fresh take on the music performed, and the ensemble has every opportunity to make it its own with more engagement for students than traditional music.

“It’s like a moving sculpture,” Christian said, relating the style of music to the movement of a mobile. “It’s different every time, but it’s always the same.”

Christian also said he has given students the opportunity to control the music themselves with soundpainting, sign language for conductors to direct an improvisation. For example, if the conductor wanted to tell a specific performer to play a long, sustained high note, hand gestures tell the musician exactly what to do.

“It’s really about spontaneous creativity,” Christian said. “Any idea is a valid idea.”

Unlike the more traditional genre of symphony, where instruments are given a clear description, an ensemble is open to anything. Among other instruments, LCCC’s New Music Ensemble includes a guitarist, and one student considered playing a kazoo for a portion of one performance—an unlikely sight in symphonic content.

Anyone can participate regardless of experience

The New Music Ensemble has been designed to work with all ranges of musical experiences, from people who have never played an instrument before, to those who are veterans of their instruments. Christian said anyone who can understand the hand gestures of soundpainting can participate, even with their voice, without the fear of implied perfection.

“That’s not the kind of sound that it’s about,” he said. “It’s about a different type of experience.”

The director said students are enjoying the new experience. “It’s pushing the boundaries of what they consider music to be,” Christian said.

A second performance will take place later in the semester on May 5, when the New Music Ensemble will perform the results of their international call for submissions that took place at the end of last year. Two commissioned pieces for the ensemble, one written by composer Loretta Notareschi and the other by composer D. Edward Davis, will also be performed at the event.

Playground Ensemble

Bryan Christian's website

Loretta Notareschi’s website

D. Edward Davis website