Composition Colloquium: Ned McGowan (Leiden, HKU): Speed in Music, Brain and Body
Colloquium | January 25 | 3 p.m. | 125 Morrison Hall
Speed, as a function of time, is full of enlightening musical character. Take some common terms to describe tempo in music: largo (broadly), adagio (slow and stately), allegro (fast, quickly and bright), vivacissimo (very fast and lively). Formulated by humans, speed is relational, and it reveals aspects about how we think and feel.
McGowan's aim in this artistic research is to dissect the experience of speed in music. Taking artistic and pedagogic experience as starting points, the research considers the embodiment of rhythm and duration as experienced by practicing musicians and utilized by composers, exploring neurophysiological questions such as how temporal resolution relates to human physiology, the relationship between speed and emotion, the difference between physical and mental mechanisms for tracking time, and the length of a moment. The areas of performance, composition and notation as they relate to speed in music are explored both scientifically and artistically.
There is a visceral sensation to speed that gives rise to its expressive power, whether at extremely slow speeds, virtuosic blister, in a solitary line, in multiple simultaneous strata or in the profound absence of speed in the form of silence. It is these inherent qualities that McGowan would like to fully excavate, shine a light on and hopefully reinvent in this research.
For this presentation, McGowan will give a brief overview of the topic, then focus on the method of one component of his research, an exercise in 10 BPM from his Advanced Rhythm and Pulse course at the Utrecht Conservatory. Questions he is exploring are if we can keep track of time accurately only with cognition and why do we speed up when nervous. Topics treated will be how the brain and body keep track of time, the relationship between emotions and our experience of the speed of time, and practical methods for performers.
Pedagogical, practical and compositional approaches will be explained and demonstrated with video examples.
About Ned McGowan
If you are having a slow day, his samples will wake you right up. (Alex Ross, The Rest Is Noise)
Ned McGowan is a composer, teacher, flutist, improviser, curator and researcher. Known for rhythmical vitality and technical virtuosity, his music has won awards and been performed at Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw and other halls and festivals around the world by many orchestras, ensembles and soloists.
Neds compositions are informed by his experiences as a flutist in European contemporary, improvisational and non-western musical circles and his main artistic goal is to create self-contained musical worlds through a process of cross-genre translation. By utilizing the possibilities of notation and a variety of performance practice approaches, he seeks to create practical methods to universal, cultural and personal expressions. McGowans music strives for an idiom in which various musics American popular, European classical and avant-garde, Carnatic, a fascination with proportionally intricate rhythms, the use of microtones in the search for new subtleties of melody and many others, rub against each other and generate new meanings. (Bob Gilmore)
Orchestras who have performed his works include American Composers Orchestra, Valdosta Symphony Orchestra (USA), Orquestra do Teatro Nacional Claudio Santoro (Brazil) and the Dutch orchestras Radio Kamer Filharmonie, Radio Filharmonisch Orkest, Gelders Orkest, Rotterdam Sinfonia and Ricciotti. Reed quintets include Calefax, Splinter Reeds and Akropolis, and ensembles include Eighth Blackbird, Aleph, Array Music, Atlantic Chamber Ensemble, Duo Blow, Calefax, David Kweksilber Big Band, Flexible Music, Great Noise, Hexnut, Insomnio, Klang, MMM , musikFabrik, Nederlands Blazers Ensemble, Nederlands Fluit Orkest, BlowUp Flute Octet, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Post & Mulder Piano Duo, Rubiks, Sax & Stix, Spinifex, Ensemble Scala, Trio Scordatura, Ensemble Verge, Wervelwind, Zapp4 String Quartet, Zephyr String Quartet and soloists including Susanna Borsch, Helen Bledsoe, Keiko Shichijo, Guy Livingston, Tatiana Koleva/Rutger Oterloo, Kimberly Sparr, Greg Oakes, Reiko Manabe, Mysore Manjunath, Derek Bermel, Sarah Jeffrey, Egbert Jan Louwerse and Eric Vloeimans.
Neds piece Tools, winner of the Henriette Bosmans Prize (NL), was described as brutal and humorous (Geneco), while at the same time packed with discreet acoustic rooms, some more resonant than others, but all proving that... subtlety pays off (Guy Livingston, Paris Transatlantic). His work Wood Burn grew to be the highpoint of the evening (Mark van de Voort, the Brabants Dagblad). Hans van Lissum (www.cut-up.com) wrote, the compositions of band leader Ned McGowan, very complex in many ways, are especially well put together. Live performance also allows them to breathe enough, by optimally taking advantage of theatrical aspects .
Many of his works utilize unusual instrumentations, extended techniques or theatrical setups. For Tempest in a Teapot, commissioned by the Dutch Music Days for the Radio Kamer Philharmonic, the orchestra is spatialized around the public, which also participates in creating sounds. As winner of the Harvey Gaul competition from the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, he composed Sound becomes visible in the form of radiance, which is built around the bowing of a piano: a radical work that reorients the listener's relationship to time. (Mark Kanny, Pittsburgh Tribune) His recent set of six pièces mécaniques for Calefax and Eric Vloeimans is mostly comprised of text directions and staging diagrams. Also McGowan composed the worlds first Concerto for iPad (tablet computer) and orchestra, which saw its premiere with soloist Keiko Shichijo and the Rotterdam Sinfonia, conducted by Conrad van Alphen.
When playing the flute, Ned focuses mainly on creative projects and he has collaborated with Aka Moon, Derek Bermel, Gabriel Bolkosky, George Brooks, Oguz Buyukberber, Larry Coryell, Oene van Geel, Stephen Gosling, Dr. Marshall Griffith, Wiek Hijmans, Rozalie Hirs, Guus Janssen, David Kweksilber, Dr. Gregory Oakes, Erkan Ogur, Keiko Shichijo, Fahrettin Yarkın, mime-ist Virag Dezso and Zapp 4 in addition to many renowned Indian artists. He has also performed with the Asko Schönberg, musikFabrik, Slagwerk Den Haag, Beethoven Academie, the Erie Philharmonic, Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Non Sequitur, Axyz Ensemble, Spinifex Orchestra and his own quintet Hexnut.
His specialty is also the contrabass flute, where he often performs solo and teaches both privately and in workshops. In 2008 he composed the first concerto for contrabass flute and orchestra. Premiered at Carnegie Hall with the American Composers Orchestra, he proved theres still plenty of life in old-fashioned virtuosity withBantammer Swing, a playful, athletic concerto for his unwieldy contrabass flute," according to Steve Smith of the New York Times. He has composed often for flute and also for recorder in solo and chamber ensembles, and in 2016 composed both the competition piece for the National Flute Convention High School Soloist Competition and a work for the Grammy winning Eight Blackbird. Also in 2016, he released his album The Art of the Contrabass Flute, an album dedicated solely to this amazing instrument. A phenomenal technique and flawless feeling for rhythm and sound, he knows how to use it perfectly in his compositions., said Luister Magazine, "Fantastic album! Beautiful artistic playing with rich low flute tones. A most unique and worthy album for sure., said Peter Sheridan. Fluit Magazine even called him A master on the contrabass flute".
One strong facet of Neds influence is the Carnatic music from South India. Over the past decade he has collaborated and performed regularly in India and Europe with Indian musicians Dr. Mysore Manjunath, Mysore Nagaraj, Dr. Suma Sudhindra, Pravin Godkhindi, Jahnavi Jayaprakash, Ronu Majumdar, B.C. Manjunath, M.K. Pranesh, Anoor Anathakrishna Sharma and Ghiridar Udupa. What fascinates me is the Carnatic use of rhythmical complexities developed through a tradition of performance. Works exploring Indian forms from a European perspective include Chamundi Hill, for flute and harp, Alap for voice and ensemble, Stone Soup for jazz ensemble,Tusk for ensemble and Three Amsterdam Scenes for voice, viola and keyboards.
The festivals Canberra International Music Festival, World Minimal Music Festival, Acht Brücken, Grachten, Klankkleur Festivals, MATA, Nederlandse Muziek Dagen, Voorwaarts Maart have commissioned new works from McGowan and his music has been performed at Aspen, Gaudeamus, Dag in de Branding, North Sea Jazz, November Music, SinusTon, Huddersfield, Klap op de Vuurpijl festivals. Other current commissions include new works for the microtonal Fokker organ (NL), Youth Percussion Pool (NL) and Ensemble Offspring (AU).
Ned is a professor at the Utrecht Conservatory in composition, ensembles and the rhythmic training program he has developed, called Advanced Rhythm and Pulse. He regularly lectures and teaches around the world on subjects such as his music, rhythm, creativity and low flutes. He holds degrees in composition from the Royal Conservatory The Hague and in flute from the Cleveland Institute of Music and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. In 2014, he was awarded the Alumni Achievement Award from the Cleveland Institute of Music for his work as both a composer and performer. Since 2006 Ned is pursuing an artistic research PhD about speed in music at the Leiden University via the DocARTES program, supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). Since 2017 he has lectured regularly in Europe on musical and timing conferences with his interactive presentation "Speed in Mind, Body and Brain."