Great things at UNO

It has been hard over the couple decades or more, since arriving in New Orleans, to find much if any dialogue about what is new and most up to date in contemporary music thinking, let alone having that dialogue opened up to the freshest minds around town.  It was invigorating this weekend to catch up on what Yotam Haber and Henry Griffin and others had been putting together for student composers at UNO.

Professor Yotam Haber is a very interesting composer who gets novel and beautiful compositions played all over the world.  It is a great thing that UNO has a fellow of this capacity in its music program- which, especially on the jazz side has been excellent- but Yotam Haber offers things for a whole other musical direction to be available to a city that has not often seen the possibility of training or even exposure to things in these directions.  His enthusiasm and vitality for the subject is palpable, and clearly inspiring for the students whom he champions in a great way.

On Friday we played the film scores composed by Yotam Haber's students, live, along with silent movies selected by Henry Griffin and Laura Medina. Griffin is massively knowledgeable about film and had selected some of very wonderful key films from the silent era for the students to score.  A great deal of effort went in to getting these pieces played with a good degree of finesse, and that is a great opportunity for young composers- and essential if they are to keep developing  or gain confidence to keep writing.  It was clear that they had been given exposure to a plethora of interesting techniques and had made their own choices about what to use and, some of the results were quite interesting.

Saturday evening there was a concert of pieces by the students and also by Yotam Haber and another faculty member from Tulane.   

I was called in to play guitar with the Contemporaneous ensemble that Professor Haber had brought in from New York.  I have little experience or comfort in playing in such ensembles so it was humbling to be treated so well despite my own short comings, and I must add that the young players in contemporaneous, including their conductor, David Bloom, were also extremely generous in giving me pointers to help the event go off smoothly. Not to mention larger picture issues from my old friend, bassist Doug Therrion. It was all very interesting especially because I am usually in the composer's seat having a piece played, not usually doing the playing.  My strengths as a player are often in other directions, but it was nice to be given an opportunity try to find some way to contribute, given my limitations.  Fresh challenges in music are a good thing.

It seems that with all this going on we might see a healthy crop of fine composers develop out of New Orleans which is something that has been in short supply here, and something that could make a  fascinating musical town, even more so.