Every summer, the present and future tenses of music emanate from the University of Missouri.
Part of the school’s sure and ever-evolving relationship with new music, the Mizzou International Composers Festival gathers emerging resident composers to workshop their music with revered guest composers, then have their pieces loosed into the world during a concert of premieres.
The sounds — and stories behind them — are invigorating, and remind listeners that art music is not the province of the past.
This year’s edition is on approach, set to take place July 25-30. Here are six things to know before attending this year’s festival:
More:Meet the four conductors in line to lead the Missouri Symphony
1. Luminous guest composers guide the way
Following the likes of previous guest composers Donnacha Dennehy, Nico Muhly, Augusta Read Thomas and Steven Stucky, this year’s pair twine knowledge and talent to offer considerable musical wisdom.
The marvelous Meredith Monk owns honors such as the National Medal of Arts as well as Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships for her work in a nearly 60-year career spent in concert halls, theaters and museums. Monk’s work spans music, performance and installation art, film and more — and she is known for her thoughtful, innovative use of the natural human instrument, the voice.
“Monk has mapped a world that never quite existed in the history of the arts,” Alex Ross wrote for the New Yorker.
Ross added a statement that ultimately describes how Monk is a perfect fit for this festival: “If Monk is seeking a place in the classical firmament, classical music has much to learn from her. … She may loom even larger as the new century unfolds, and later generations will envy those who got to see her live.”
Puerto Rican-born artist Angelica Negron has written for our age’s greatest ensembles (Bang on a Can All-Stars, Kronos Quartet and orchestras across the U.S.) while combining the conventional and idiosyncratic; she “writes music for accordions, robotic instruments, toys, and electronics as well as for chamber ensembles, orchestras, choir, and film,” her online bio notes.
In a 2020 interview with I Care If You Listen, Negron described the great inspiration that she derives from everyday moments and small musical packages — “tiny, miniscule sounds like music boxes, toy instruments.” She also described coming to composition without holding composition in mind.
“I started composing in a kind of unorthodox way. Even though I was in music school for most of my life and I was a violinist and playing orchestras, I really didn’t explore sounds. I was just practicing my skills,” she told writer Sun Yung Shin. “When I started exploring sounds … I had no idea that composing was a possibility. I had never played anything by someone that was living.”
2. This year’s resident composers span the world of music
The festival always fields a remarkable group of resident composers. In keeping with its tradition of innovation, this year’s class spans both the physical globe and world of new music.
Composers hail from or currently work in locations including Italy; Singapore; Thailand; Princeton, New Jersey; Portland, Oregon; New York; Colombia and Columbia — MU grad Niko Schroeder represents and reflects a homegrown approach.
This year’s roster has collaborated alongside or had compositions programmed by the St. Louis Symphony, R&B icon D’Angelo, Singapore National Youth Orchestra, International Contemporary Ensemble, Sō Percussion and other remarkable ensembles around the U.S. and the world.
To hear their work is to know the sure, superlative future of music — but also to hear how their creativity is already stretching to so many corners.
3. House band Alarm Will Sound has serious chops
A stirring band is required to bring all this new music to life, and the festival boasts one of the world’s best. Ensemble-in-residence Alarm Will Sound ranks among the true leaders in performing, encouraging and reframing new music and chamber sounds.
With a remarkable roster of players — including MU professor and festival artistic director Stefan Freund — the group has performed on great stages and collaborated with artists and composers ranging from Medeski, Martin & Wood to Steve Reich, John Adams to Tyshawn Sorey and more.
4. The festival isn’t short on guest artists
In collaboration with Dismal Niche, a Columbia-based music and arts collective, the fest will present an impressive lineup of guest artists in concert July 29. Headliner Laraaji is a prolific Philadelphia-born musician whose innovative style has shaped the current state of ambient music.
Also on the bill are the Onishi-Beis Duo — featuring MU post-doctoral fellow Yoshiaki Onishi and graduate student Santiago Beis — as well as Katina Bitsicas, a video and performance artist who is a professor in the MU School of Visual Studies.
More:Samantha Fierke, OK Samaritan among latest Columbia locals to release quality music
5. You can hear Mizzou students as well
The festival’s opening concert July 25 features MU students performing new works on percussion, electronics, flute, clarinet and more.
6. Each event is free
This year’s festival features five concerts as well as composer presentations, and each event is free. They can be attended in-person as well as streamed via Facebook and YouTube.
Learn more about this year’s festival at https://newmusic.missouri.edu/micf.
Aarik Danielsen is the features and culture editor for the Tribune. Contact him at [email protected] or by calling 573-815-1731. Find him on Twitter @aarikdanielsen.