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Northwestern Hosts Second New Music Conference Nov. 6 to 8

Ensemble Dal Niente and Third Coast Percussion among NUNC! 2 participants
  • Weekend of concerts, presentations, workshops, reading sessions, master classes open to all
  • Midwest premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s “Oltra Mar” set for Nov. 6
  • Pianist Marilyn Nonken to perform Morton Feldman’s spare “Triadic Memories,” Nov. 6
  • CME concert looks back at Hurricane Katrina with Ted Hearne’s “Katrina Ballads,” Nov. 7

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The Ensemble Dal Niente, a contemporary music collective, and Third Coast Percussion, a group that explores and expands the sonic possibilities of percussion, are among the guest ensembles participating in an early November new music conference on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus.

Presented by the Institute for New Music in Northwestern’s Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, the Nov. 6 to 8 weekend conference will include concerts, presentations, workshops, reading sessions and master classes.

Conference events are open to composers, performers, theorists, musicologists and members of the general public who are interested in listening to -- and learning more about -- new music. Most of the events are free, with the exception of several ticketed concerts, as noted.

During the NUNC! 2: Northwestern University New Music Conference, the Chicago-based ensembles will be joined by five guest composers: Ted Hearne, Donnacha Dennehy, Kate Soper, Ann Cleare and Rick Burkhardt

Several Bienen School faculty members will be among the participants, including composer Hans Thomalla; saxophonist Taimur Sullivan; director of choral organizations Donald Nally; musicologist Ryan Dohoney; and composer Jay Alan Yim.


The Nov. 7 Contemporary Music Ensemble concert will begin with Ann Cleare’s piece, “On Magnetic Fields.” It also looks back at Hurricane Katrina with Ted Hearne's “Katrina Ballads,” and features noted traditional Irish singer Iarla Ó Lionáird in a work by Donnacha Dennehy.

“Donnacha Dennehy is the most influential and important Irish composer of his generation,” said Alan Pierson, co-director of the Contemporary Music Ensemble (CME), who helped coordinate the conference. “The piece of his that we’re doing, “Grá agus Bás,” is his first big hit and really launched his career internationally.”

Pierson said that Iarla Ó Lionáird, who will sing the solo in Donnacha’s piece during the

8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7 Contemporary Music Ensemble concert in Mary B. Galvin Hall, is one of the great Irish masters of the old “sean nós” (a complex style) of singing in Gaelic. Ó Lionáird sings with Afro Celt Sound System (a musical group that fuses modern electronic dance rhythms, such as trip hop and techno, with traditional Irish and West African music), among many other groups, and has a big following of fans.

“Katrina Ballads” by Hearne, a young Chicago-born composer, is a brilliant work with texts spoken by major public figures in the week following Hurricane Katrina, including Anderson Cooper, Barbara Bush, Kanye West, Dennis Hastert and George W. Bush. Hearne’s piece is accompanied by a film by New York filmmaker Bill Morrison. Ann Cleare is a young Irish composer whose music has been performed in various venues in Europe, Australia and the U.S., and at various international music festivals. 

“The Nov. 7 program is very Irish,” Pierson added. 

View a complete schedule of NUNC! 2 events and participants


The following events will take place at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive; Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts’ David and Carol McClintock Choral and Recital Room, 70 Arts Circle Drive; or the Ryan Center’s Mary B. Galvin Recital Hall, as noted.

Friday, Nov. 6

  • 2 to 6 p.m.Conference kick-off, David and Carol McClintock Choral and Recital Room. Various participants will make their presentations. 
  • 7:30 p.m.Welcome address and concert, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. Following a welcome address by Bienen School faculty member and director of the Institute for New Music Hans Thomalla, the concert will feature the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra, University Chorale, Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble and Anima Singers. The University’s ensembles will combine forces to offer two iconic contemporary works by winners of the Bienen School’s Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition: John Adams’ “On the Transmigration of Souls” and the Midwest premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s “Oltra Mar.” Anima is an internationally recognized youth choral organization comprised of Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus members. Tickets are $12 for the general public and $6 for students with valid IDs.
  • 10 p.m. Concert by pianist Marilyn Nonken, Mary B. Galvin Recital Hall. Nonken will perform a program focused on Morton Feldman’s spare, trance-like “Triadic Memories.” Nonken has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Guggenheim museum and Le Poisson Rouge. Her recent season highlights include performances of Hughes Dufourt’s “Erlkönig,” Claude Vivier’s “Shiraz,” Tristan Murail’s complete piano music and Oliver Messiaen’s “Visions de l’Amen.” Tickets are $8 for the general public and $5 for students with valid IDs.

Saturday, Nov. 7

  • 9 a.m.Presentations related to score reading and coaching, David and Carol McClintock Recital Hall.
  • Noon   Ensemble Dal Niente Concert, David and Carol McClintock Choral and Recital Room. The Chicago-based contemporary music collective will perform workshop pieces. 
  • 2 p.m. Musicology session, David and Carol McClintock Recital Hall.  
  • 5 p.m. Third Coast Percussion Concert, Mary B. Galvin Recital Hall. Third Coast Percussion, comprised of four Northwestern alumni, has performed hundreds of concerts nationally and commissioned dozens of new works by composers Glenn Kotche, Chris Cerrone, Donnacha Dennehy, Timo Andres, David T. Little, Ted Hearne, Augusta Read Thomas and others. The Chicago-based ensemble explores and expands the sonic possibilities of percussion. Admission is free.
  • 8 p.m. Contemporary Music Ensemble concert, Mary B. Galvin Recital Hall. Benjamin Bolter, associate director of the Institute for New Music, and Alan Pierson will conduct the Contemporary Music Ensemble in works by Ann Cleare, Ted Hearne and Donnacha Dennehy. They will be joined by singer Isaiah Robinson, performing two movements in the piece by Ted Hearne. Tickets are $8 for the general public and $5 for students with valid IDs.

Sunday, Nov. 8

  • 9 a.m. Score reading and coaching presentations, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall.
  • Noon   Third Coast Percussion presentation, Mary B. Galvin Recital Hall.
  • 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Presentations by guest composers Ted Hearne, Donnacha Dennehy, Ann Cleare, Rick Burckhardt and Kate Soper, David and Carol McClintock Choral and Recital Room.
  • 7 p.m.  Closing Concert, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. The program will feature the Ensemble Dal Niente, a group that has commissioned or premiered hundreds of works by composers George Lewis, Lee Hyla and others; and the Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble.

The Nov. 8 program will include works by Kate Soper and Rick Burkhardt as well as music submitted by other NUNC! participants. Tickets are $8 for the general public and $5 for students with valid IDs.

For more information, call the Bienen School of Music Concert Management Office at 847- 491-5441 or visit To order tickets, call the Bienen School Ticket Office at 847- 467-4000 or visit