WPKN Archives: Live Culture Episode 31: Sound Objects

Episode Info

Live Culture

Original Aired:
Saturday, September 30th, 2017
11:01AM to 12:00PM

59 minutes

Saturday, September 30th, 2017 11:01AM

art liveculture marthawillettelewis sethparkerwoods specertopel huihuicheng stringpiano icecello soundobjects


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Episode: Live Culture Episode 31: Sound Objects

Guests: Huihui Cheng and Spencer Topel.

During this September edition of the show I talk to two artists who experiment with sound and objects in very different ways. We begin with an interview with Huihui Cheng, an experimental composer I caught up with this summer at the Camargo Foundation in France. This is a recorded conversation in front of her prepared piano as she adjusts it for the premiere of a commission at the Royaumont Festival in France.

For Messenger 2017, Cheng has taken apart an upright piano, created a kind of chained harness for the musician to wear, binding the instrument to the player and allowing for unique methods of interacting with the instrument. This was played by Pianist Claudia Chan in the premier which took place on the 7th of September.

Cheng lives in France and Germany and has had her works performed internationally. In addition to deconstructing pianos, Her unique take on composing has included using the audiences to play the composition via their cell phones. Your Smartest Choice was a performance for four musicians, electronics, and an audience with smartphones which happened at the Eclat Festival in Stuttgart on February, 2017 with members of the 2e2m Ensemble of an original composition by Cheng.

We hear various selections from Cheng’s oeuvre during the show including an opening a selection from Etüde@S played on Tárogató and live electronics, and closing out with some pieces from Your Smartest Choice.

Huihui Cheng studied composition with Guoping Jia and Caspar Johannes Walter and electronic composition with Marco Stroppa and Piet Johan Meyer. She attended SWR Vocal Ensemble Academy and Cursus, practical training in composition and computer music at IRCAM, Paris. Her music has been played by Ensemble Courage, Ensemble TIMF Korea, Ascolta Ensemble Stuttgart, New Ensemble Amsterdam, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Saarbrücken radio symphony orchestra, Radio France, Vocal Ensemble EXAUDI. She has won the first prize of Con Tempo, 2007 in China and the Grand Prize of Isang Yun International Composition Competition 2011, She received the Giga-Hertz Produktion Preis in 2016 , and she has a fellowship for Musiktheater der Heute from 2016-18. Recently she has been awarded scholarships from the Baden Württemberg Art Foundation, Schloss Wiepersdorf, Künsterhaus Schöppingen and Foundation Camargo. She will publish her Portrait DVD by WERGO in the series “Contemporary Music Germany” in 2019.


During the second half of the program  we have a live conversation with Spencer Topel who is Assistant Professor of Music at Dartmouth College. From October 25th to November 3rd, 2017 his installation PART DES ANGES will be at the World Music Hall, of Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT.

What drew me to Spencer for this month’s show was his collaboration with musician Seth Parker Woods and the construction of a cast ice cello for the performance by Seth of ICED BODIES: Ice Music for Chicago which happened on August 12th at the Arts Club of Chicago in Illinois. In 1972, Fluxus artist/printmaker Jim McWilliams devised a piece for cellist Charlotte Moorman called Ice Music for London. It involved bags of frozen ice cubes fashioned in the shape of a cello, which Moorman, nude, “played” with a plexiglass “bow” for multiple hours. On the 45th anniversary of the original work, Seth Parker Woods and Spencer Topel readdressed McWilliams’ concept with an immersive experience. Woods, in a wetsuit, played an obsidian Ice Cello. As it melted, the amplified sounds of dripping water and falling ice filled the space. The audience was invited to come and go as they pleased during the 4 hours when Woods performed this epic work in its first major realization in 19 years.

We will discuss this and Spencer's many projects involving sound and object-making.

Spencer Topel is an American composer of experimental music and sound installations that explore relationships between architecture, space, and form. He is a recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a Danish International Visiting Artist Residency in 2013 (DIVA), the Palmer Dixon Prize from the Juilliard School for best composition, BMI and ASCAP Awards, and was an artist-in-residence with the Meitar Ensemble in July 2014 (Tel Aviv). Topel has produced works for many of America's premiere music and art institutions, including the Drawing Center NY, the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Juilliard Symphony, Oregon Symphony, and the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, TILT Brass, FLUX Quartet, and the Callithumpian Consort. Notable national/international collaborations include HUB New Music (Boston), FIGURA Ensemble (Copenhagen) the Contemporarte Ensemble (Venice) and the Meitar Ensemble and the Israeli Conservatory (Tel-Aviv). Topel received degrees from Cornell and The Juilliard School before joining the Tenure-Track Faculty at Dartmouth College, where he is currently an Assistant Professor of Music.


More about Spencer Topel and his projects: https://www.spencertopel.com/
More about Seth Parker Woods and Iced Bodies: http://www.artsclubchicago.org/exhibition/iced-bodies-ice-music-for-chicago/

More about Hui-hui Cheng and her music:https://huihuicheng.com/
more about the Royaumont Festival: https://www.royaumont.com/fr/presentation-festival-2017/presentation



Show: Live Culture

Live Culture is a discussion of ideas in and around contemporary art, with monthly themes and guests. Join host Martha Willette Lewis on the last Saturday of every month from 11am - 12 noon for an engrossing hour of talk and music.

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