On Saturday, March 10, the SUNY New Paltz Music department hosted the world premiere of internationally recognized composer Susie Ibarra’s newest composition, “Talking Gong.” Studley Theatre was packed for the event, which was a smash hit.
Ibarra, a renowned percussionist, was accompanied by flautist Claire Chase, and SUNY New Paltz’s own Dr. Alex Peh on piano. The three flooded the room with sound, in a mesmerizing display of what their individual instruments could accomplish.
This event was a part of the Kenneth Davenport Residency for New American Music, a program designed to showcase new and unique American composers. Dr. Christiana Fortune-Reader organized the event, alongside Dr. Peh. The idea for “Talking Gong” came about several years ago, when Dr. Peh was teaching Ibarra piano.
“Susie has an international career, and was really interested in incorporating music from the Filipino Kulintang gong tradition into a piece written for the concert stage,” Reader said. “We want to give the New Paltz community a chance to listen to music written by composers who are still alive today, and to experience music performed by artists that have international careers.”
The performance kicked off with a set of pieces for traditional Philippine gongs by the SUNY New Paltz Gong Ensemble. Gongs and chimes are integral to Southeast Asian culture, especially in the Philippines, where they serve as a building block of community and bring folks together. Here, they served greatly to get the audience pumped up for the main event, “Talking Gong.”
“Talking Gong” incorporates many different musical styles. At times, the piece sounded jazzy, and then would segue into some avant-garde and even electrical parts. The gongs were used continuously and incorporated seamlessly into all of the different musical styles. Diversity was a central theme of the performance, and is central to the music department’s mission.
The performance astounded the bustling audience, and these three musicians were able to elicit a lot of emotion from their instruments.The multitudinous moods and energies they brought were fantastic; the piece was hauntingly beautiful, and the three musicians played off of each other perfectly. When the performance finished, Ibarra and Chase shared a heartwarming, accomplished smile. The concert had been a success.
Ibarra is currently engaged in many projects, including one entitled Himalayan Glacier Soundscapes, where she is researching the sounds of glacial recession along the Ganges River. She is also a faculty member at Bennington College, where she teaches percussion at the Center for Advancement of Public Action, an organization devoted to the importance of public art.
“Both Susie and Claire are driven by an inspirational commitment to public action and community engagement. They have the most unique musical careers that don’t really exist otherwise. They invented their own careers in music, and continue to reinvent themselves every time they tackle a new project.” Reader said. “We want to give both the audience, the musicians, and our university students the experience of working with and hearing these incredible musicians up close.”
For more information on upcoming music department events, contact Dr. Christiana Fortune-Reader (firstname.lastname@example.org) or stop by the department in College Hall.
You can also sign up for music department updates online at newpaltz.edu/music/mailinglist.