Kari Besharse


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ICMC 2011, University of Huddersfield

Sunday, I returned home to Louisiana after traveling to England for the annual International Computer Music Conference. This year’s conference was very well organized by the conference committee and I felt very welcome as soon as I arrived. All events took place on the University of Huddersfield campus, and many of us even stayed in one of the student dormitories. This made for a very close-knit community of electroacoustic composers, researchers, and performers and I had the opportunity to meet a lot of new friends and colleagues. Special thanks to Michael Clarke, conference chair; Pierre Alexandre Tremblay, music chair and technical director, Monty Adkins, paper chair, and Alex Harker, the board operator and my mix assistant at St. Paul’s Hall.

I was privileged to have my piece Dissolution for trombone and Max/Msp performed at the conference by Andrew Digby, a fabulous trombonist and new music expert who lives in Germany. Andrew frequently performs new music all around Europe and is a member of Ensemble Ascolta and the Composers Slide Quartet.

View of St. Paul's Hall (where Dissolution was performed) from the Creative Arts Building (photo by Steve Benner)

The Creative Arts Building at University of Huddersfield

It was an extremely intense week of concerts (I saw 12/13 concerts plus some UnConference concerts) and paper sessions. There was so much to do that of course there was no way to go to everything, but I did hear a lot of new electroacoustic/computer music and learn about some of the research people are doing in the field. Wednesday, there was a special field trip to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park for the ICMC banquet. I did not attend the banquet, but I did have some time to look around the park and at a fantastic Jaume Plensa exhibit. There was also a special “walk” organized by Michael Clarke on Saturday at the Mardsen Moor which I was able to attend part of before departing for Manchester.


Well, unfortunatly, my summer adventures are over. Classes at Southeastern Louisiana University start back up on August 17th. My next big adventure (to Africa) is about four months away.


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MIZZOU New Music Summer Festival

The Columbia Theater

The Columbia Theater

Wow. The Mizzou New Music Summer Festival was an intense experience. The performance of Rails by Alarm Will Sound on Saturday night was truly the best performance I have ever had. Hopefully, I will be able to post some audio in a few weeks.

I have been blogging about the festival at NewMusicBox.org, where I have written a series of four posts about the festival.

Additionally, the press for this festival was amazing. I had three interviews for three separate newspapers:

Now, I’m just trying to catch my breath a bit before leaving for ICMC at Huddersfield, England next Tuesday…

Resident composers in the "Hall of the Ducks" at MU

Resident Composers Steven Snoweden, Liza White, David Biedenbender, and Michael Fumai enjoying pizza and a pitcher at Shakespeare's Pizza

Alarm Will Sound during the dress rehearsal on Saturday


A group meeting with Anna Clyne and resident composers David Biedenbender, Michael Fumai, and Patrick Clark


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MIZZOU new music festival is approaching fast!

It’s only five days until I leave for the MIZZOU New Music Summer Festival.

Alarm Will Sound recently interviewed me and the other resident composers (David Biedenbender, Pat Clark, Michael-Thomas Foumai, Yotam Haber, Clint Needham, Steven Snowden, and Liza White) by e-mail.

Follow the link below and scroll down a bit for the interview questions which give some insight into how we all thought about our works and prepared for the festival.

Alarm Will Sound – Home.


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Rails

For the past couple of months I have had my head completely underground composing a work for the MIZZOU New Music Summer Festival coming up July 10-17. This piece was written for Alarm Will Sound, one of the top American new music ensembles directed by Alan Pierson. This year, the festival will feature the music of guest composers Roger Reynolds and Anna Clyne. There is an interesting lineup of daily masterclasses, presentations and concerts. Although resident composers were not able to include electronics in their works, I am psyched to see that many of the other concerts will include electroacoustic works and pieces for instruments and electronics. I am really looking forward to this festival!

The piece that I wrote for Alarm Will Sound is titled Rails, which was inspired by the soundscape of Hammond, Louisiana (my current home). Here is the program note:

Rails (2011) was inspired by the soundscape of Hammond, Louisiana. More specifically, it engages the sounds that I have heard on a daily basis since moving from Champaign, Illinois, to Hammond, Louisiana in August 2010. My apartment is two blocks away from two intersecting railroad tracks. One is the Illinois Central line, which runs from Chicago to New Orleans, the other is a freight track. Intermittently all day (and all night) I hear trains approaching and passing from different directions. These trains are too loud to simply ignore, and often it feels like there is a low-level earthquake shaking the apartment. The conductors of these trains tend to lay on the horn as they are passing through town, creating a long and varied sound as the train whistles are warped by their own mechanism, the atmosphere, and by speed and distance. Additionally, each of these trains has its own unique rhythmic profile, its own pattern of creaks, clicks and knocks, and its own speed. Each time a train passes; a unique sonic experience is created. Therefore, the sounds of these trains are very much a part of my piece, the spectra of their whistles, the rush of sound when they pass by, and their creaky mechanical rhythms. My apartment also looks out over a park, so my piece is also populated by pastoral sounds such as birds and wind chimes.

Jasmine

Jasmine assisting with the composition of "Rails" (and no, I didn't stab her in the throat with the pencil)

With my piece finished, it’s time to satiate some of my wanderlust.  Phil and I will be taking off in a couple of days for a 2-week camping adventure in Colorado or Appalachia. In July, after the MIZZOU New Music Summer Festival, I am also looking forward to ICMC in Huddersfield, England.


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Embers

Embers, my latest work for saxophone and piano premiered March 19th at the North American Saxophone Alliance region 6 conference at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida. This piece was written for Southeastern Louisiana University saxophone professor, Dr. Richard Schwartz. He was accompanied by Dr. Philip Schuessler (my astonishingly talented husband) on piano. The premiere performance was not recorded, but Phil and Rich are rehearsing the piece for a recording session next week. Here is an excerpt from their rehearsal today!

Embers330_02


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It’s 2011???

Wow, it is really hard to believe that 2011 arrived so fast! The fall semester proved to be an extremely busy one. Teaching over 300 students at Southeastern Louisiana kept me on the edge of my seat and continuously occupied with grading and planning. After a long and productive Winter break, I am almost (sigh) ready to do it all over again starting this Tuesday!

With December came two new commissions for pieces. The first, a piece for a newly formed new music ensemble put together by U.I. comrade Ming-Ching Chiu. This work is titled Icons I is for clarinet, trombone, violin, electric guitar, and percussion and is set to premiere (tentatively) in February.

The second piece, which I am just getting started on is Embers for saxophone and piano, a work requested by Southeastern Louisiana saxophonist, Richard Schwartz for the upcoming National Saxophone Alliance region 6 conference in Jacksonville, Florida!

More about these new pieces, other activities, and updates to this site are coming soon!


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Etchings Festival & Adventures in France and Spain

In July, I had the privilege of being a participant in the Etchings Festival, which took place in Southern France, in the beautiful village of Auvillar. Of course, I ended up adding two weeks of travel time on to explore other new places in France and Spain.

I flew into Paris, spent one night, and then took the overnight train to Barcelona, Spain, which was a completely new city for me (overnight train travel on the cheapest seat possible – not recommended (but actually, I’ve got another overnight train trip coming up, maybe I’ll never learn)). I went to all the architectural sites and museums that I could possibly fit into four days, then it was time to hit the tracks again… Back to France, to the Pyrenees.

In the Pyrenees, I stayed in a great little town called Cauterets, which was the base for my mountain explorations. I hiked. About 25 miles in three days (but who’s counting, I survived, my feet survived, no ours or chiens des montagnes were encountered) on the GR-10 and other trails around the vicinity of the Parc National des Pyrenees. It was amazing, and honestly, I didn’t really want to leave. It was also incredibly inspiring, and my forthcoming set of guitar and viola pieces will be inspired by some of my hikes (and Miro).

Okay, so the Etchings festival itself was pretty incredible. I met a lot of fabulous people, and the performers were excellent. My latest acoustic piece, Luminous Flux, for alto sax, bassoon, violin, viola, and cello was rehearsed and then premiered by members of the East Coast Chamber Ensemble at this 13th century chapel in the town of Auvillar, France. The guest composers were Fabien Levy and Louis Karchin, who both had some extremely refreshing insight into my music.

My wonderful performers were Florence Cooke, violin; Oliver Margulies, viola; James Barralet, cello; Mary Joy Pratchett, alto sax; and Maria Wildhaber, bassoon. A special thanks goes to John Aylward for conducting the rehearsals and performances.

The participant composers were great, too. We had a lot of adventures (some countryside hikes), drank a lot of wine, and ate a lot of cheese.

The clock tower in the center of Auvillar, avec Aaron Bresley, Brian Padavic, Mu-Xuan Lin, and Craig Pellet, mes nouveaux amis.


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Hammond, Louisiana

After a fantastic summer spent traveling, composing, and hiking, my husband and I moved (on extremely short notice) to Hammond, Louisiana to teach at the music department of Southeastern Louisiana University. This fall, I am teaching three sections of Intro to Music and one section of Aural Skills I. So far, things have been pretty busy for us. Our furniture and everything else we own is still in Champaign, Illinois. Seriously, we have 2 TV dinner trays, a lawn chair, a college dorm chair from Target, and our fantastic air mattress (thanks to Ed & Amy Martin) (we are 5 weeks sleeping on the air mattress and counting).  We have managed one trip to the beach (in Alabama) and one swamp adventure, too. We do have plenty of new music in the works, so stay tuned for more news and a report of my exciting adventures this summer!


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Electric Monster and the Invasion of the Incredible B.S.O.s VIDEO!!!

I have finally uploaded the video of the world premiere performance of my laptop ensemble piece, Electric Monster and the Invasion of the Incredible B.S.O.s to YouTube (embedded below). The B.S.O. soloists did a great job, showing great mastery over their bouncy, mischievous instruments. I was also very happy with the laptop performers who got to know their patches very well and came up with many interesting sounds during the performance. Overall, the performance was a success and I look forward to seeing future interpretations of the piece.