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UC San Diego Explores World Beats during Intercultural Music Conference

Image: Michael Matsuno

Flutist and music graduate student Michael Matsuno will perform at Sunday’s “Musical Dialogues Across Continents” concert at the Intercultural Music Conference. Photo by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

Composer Hilda Paredes used the Mayan calendar as the basis for her solo percussion piece, “Tzolkin,” with soft eerie pulses suggesting the passage of ancient time. In a sense, her music bridged the divide between modern Mexico and its poor indigenous communities.

Paredes’ work, and other compositions from around the world, will be performed Feb. 26 – 28 at UC San Diego Department of Music’s Intercultural Music Conference (ICM). More than 80 composers, scholars and performers will present three days of lectures, concerts and panel discussions exploring music in our rapidly evolving intercultural landscape. They’ll consider music in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Mexico and other locales. Concerts will showcase both traditional and contemporary music.

“This is the first time that all four graduate programs of our department—computer music, composition, performance and integrative studies—have come together to present an international conference initiated by graduate students,” said Lei Liang, composer and acting chair of the Department of Music.

Siu Hei Lee, a music doctoral candidate, pianist and musicologist, hopes the conference will provoke fresh perceptions of music.

“We tend to think about intercultural music in pre-conceived ways—for its novelty or its connections to ideas and styles that we like,” he said. “The conference will confront ways in which our personal experiences and biases can shape and limit our perceptions of music.”

Image: Jann Pasler

Professor of Music, Jann Pasler. Photo by Éditions Gallimard 2015

The ICM program is a tour de force of fascinating titles. Ofer Gazit from UC Berkeley will present his paper, “African Drums, African Dreams: Immigrant Musicians in the Civil Rights Movement.” Wendy Wan-Ki Lee, from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, will share her paper, “Bells, Drums, and Gongs: Understanding Interculturalism via Percussive Devices in African and Chinese Contemporary Solo Piano Works.” And Northwestern University’s Laureen Whitelaw will present, “Reclaiming Creativity and Convention: Female Musicians and the Germanic Ideal in the Late Aufklarung.”

UC San Diego faculty are also in the mix. Music professor Jann Pasler’s keynote speech is titled, “Deconstructing Colonial and Postcolonial Interculturality.” Last spring, Pasler spent two months in France giving lectures and interviews about her recent book, “La République, La Musique et le Citoyen 1871-1914,” a revised version of her 2009 publication, “Composing the Citizen: Music as Public Utility in Third Republic France.” La République is the latest result of Pasler’s longtime fascination with music, culture and history that has included investigations into the roles music has played in former French colonies such as Vietnam (Indochina), North Africa, Senegal, Gabon and the Central African Republic as well as Madagascar.

UC San Diego composer and Professor of Music Chinary Ung’s Distinguished Composer Lecture is headlined, “The Space between Cultural Fingerprints, Dreams, and Imagination.” Ung, who grew up in Cambodia under the violent and oppressive Khmer Rouge regime, draws from those experiences and from traditional Asian music to compose new music.

On Saturday, 7:00 p.m., at the Conrad Prebys Music Center, UC San Diego’s percussion ensemble red fish blue fish and featured soloist Mark Dresser (contrabass) will perform Liang’s “Luminous.” The program also includes music by Paredes and Guo Wenjing, as well as Ran Duan and Stephen Lewis of the music department’s graduate composition program.

The conference closes with a Sunday afternoon concert of music by young composers from Guatemala, China, Azerbaijan, Germany and Turkey, as well as Americans with various international roots.

All ICM Conference concerts and events are free and open to the public. For a complete schedule and locations, visit the ICM webpage.

The conference is sponsored by the UC San Diego Division of Arts and Humanities, the UC San Diego Department of Music, UC San Diego Graduate Student Association and the UC San Diego Ibero-American Music Student Association.

The UC San Diego Department of Music is a leading program for new and experimental music. For more information, visit the website.

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