Skip to main content

Bienen School hosts fourth biennial new music conference virtually on April 24

Guest artists and scholars join Bienen School faculty, students and ensembles

EVANSTON, Ill. — The Institute for New Music at Northwestern University’s Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music will host its fourth biennial Northwestern University New-Music Conference (NUNC! 4) in a virtual format on Saturday, April 24.

One of the leading conferences for new music in the world, the event welcomes composers, performing musicians, scholars and other new music advocates for workshops, panel discussions and concerts. Originally scheduled for April 2020, the event was postponed due the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the conference has been reimagined to include a combination of live-streamed events and on-demand videos.

“NUNC! has become an important fixture of the national and international new music scene,” said Hans Thomalla, director of the Institute for New Music at Northwestern. “The level of enthusiasm I sensed among the participants and our guest composers and performers in preparation for this event makes me very excited to have our first virtual NUNC! This year’s conference will present many new voices and will show, yet again, how much innovation and new developments are taking place in our field.”

The Arditti Quartet, a featured guest ensemble, recently recorded nine new Bienen student works remotely from Luxembourg — despite the ongoing global pandemic and travel restrictions in Europe. Works will premiere at NUNC! as part of the Call for Scores.

All events are free, open to the public and accessible via Zoom registration links for the conference presentations and roundtable discussions are available on the site.

About the artists

The Arditti Quartet has garnered international acclaim for its spirited and technically refined interpretations of contemporary music. Since its founding in 1974, the group has given world premieres of quartets by such composers as Thomas Adès, Benjamin Britten, John Cage, Brian Ferneyhough, Sofia Gubaidulina, Toshio Hosokawa and György Kurtág. The ensemble’s more than 200 recordings include multiple Deutsche Schallplatten Preis and Gramophone Award winners. To date, the Arditti Quartet is the only ensemble to receive the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, awarded in 1999 for its “lifetime achievement” in music.

Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir is the recipient of the Nordic Council Music Prize, the New York Philharmonic’s Kravis Emerging Composer Award and Lincoln Center’s Emerging Artist Award and Martin E. Segal Award. Her music has been performed by such ensembles as the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the New York, Berlin and Los Angeles Philharmonics, the BBC and Gothenburg Symphony Orchestras, Bang on a Can All-Stars, The Crossing, and the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet, among many others. Her music has been featured at major venues and festivals including Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, Brooklyn’s National Sawdust, the Lucerne Summer Festival and Beijing Modern Music Festival. She is currently composer-in-residence with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra.

Irish composer and Bienen School graduate Jennifer Walshe (’98 MMus, ’02 DMus) is the 2000 winner of the Kranichstein Music Prize at the Darmstadt Summer Course, a 2008 Praetorius Music Prize for Composition and a 2016 recipient of the BASCA British Composer Award for Innovation. Her work has been performed and broadcast worldwide by such ensembles as the Arditti Quartet, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), ensemble recherche and the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, and featured at festivals throughout Europe and the U.S. She frequently performs as a vocalist specializing in extended techniques, and is active as an improviser, appearing regularly in her duos Ma La Pert with Tony Conrad, PUTIF with Tomomi Adachi and Ghikas & Walshe with Panos Ghikas.

Bassoonist, improviser and Bienen School graduate Katherine Young (’17 DMA) has been commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW, Third Coast Percussion, Ensemble Dal Niente and the Spektral Quartet, among others. Her eight-channel outdoor sound installation, “Resonance and the Inhibition of,” was exhibited during the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art’s Chicago Sound Show in Fall 2019. Her solo work has garnered praise from The Wire and Downbeat. Young has collaborated with composer and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton, percussionist Sam Scranton, violinist Austin Wulliman and violist Amy Cimini.

Schedule of Livestream Events

The NUNC! 4 schedule includes a day of live, online events as well as asynchronous videos available on the NUNC! website, from April 24 through April 30.

10 a.m. to 1 p.m. CDT: Guest Composer Presentations

Presentations by Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Jennifer Walshe and Katherine Young, moderated by Hans Thomalla.

1 to 2 p.m. CDT: Break

2 to 3:30 p.m. CDT: Musicology Roundtable: “Experimental Bodies, (Anti-)Political Lives”

A roundtable discussion between Bienen associate professor of musicology Ryan Dohoney, musicologist and percussionist Kerry O’Brien (University of Washington School of Music) and musicologist and musician Ted Gordon (Columbia University Department of Music). Featured topics of discussion are “Jill Johnston’s Closet Criticism” (Kerry O’Brien) and “No Ideas But In (Doing) Things: The Politics and Materialities of Alvin Lucier’s Early Works” (Ted Gordon).

4 to 6 p.m. CDT: Call for Presentations

Featured presenters from the NUNC! 4 Call for Presentations include:

• Sergio Cote Barco: “The (Un)Avoidable Force of Knowledge: Repetition, Canon Formation, and Ideology in Alvin Lucier’s Music for Solo Performer and Marina Abramovic’s Seven Easy Pieces”
• Elaine Fitz Gibbon: “Coney Island’s Strange Doubling: Music, Theater, and Uncanny Bodies in Steven Takasugi’s ‘Sideshow’”
• Daniel Tacke: “Expressive Performance Practice in Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s ‘Shades of Silence’”
• Ben Zucker: “im in ur discipline, making u music: Jennifer Walshe’s Composition of the Digital Everyday”

7:30 p.m. CDT: Contemporary Music Ensemble Live Stream

A live-streamed performance by the Northwestern University Contemporary Music Ensemble, conducted by Alan Pierson and Ben Bolter.

Pierson and Bolter conduct a program featuring Jennifer Walshe’s “HYGIENE” and Alyssa Pyper’s “Cradle,” with Alyssa Pyper as vocal and violin soloist.

Asynchronous Videos

These portions of NUNC! 4 may be watched at any time, from April 24-30 at

Video programs feature new compositions selected from the NUNC! 4 Call for Scores performed by the Arditti Quartet and Taimur Sullivan’s saxophone studio.

Also featured are performances by invited soloists and small ensembles, including improvisatory works and fixed media and live electronic works. 

For more program information and links to the asynchronous videos visit the Northwestern University New-Music Conference (NUNC!) website.

The Bienen School’s Institute for New Music functions as the nerve center of all contemporary music activities at the Bienen School of Music and Northwestern. Founded in 2012, the Institute presents numerous events over the course of each academic year — from residencies of visiting ensembles and composers to workshops, lectures and master classes.

The Bienen School is a member of the Northwestern Arts Circle, which brings together film, humanities, literary arts, music, theater, dance and visual arts.

Multimedia Downloads


Arditti Quartet photo by Astrid Karger
Arditti Quartet photo by Astrid Karger
Anna Thorvaldsdottir photo by Kristinn Ingvarsson
Anna Thorvaldsdottir photo by Kristinn Ingvarsson
Jennifer Walshe photo by Blackie Bouffant
Jennifer Walshe photo by Blackie Bouffant
Bienen School's Contemporary Music Ensemble conducted by Ben Bolter. Photo by Michael del Rosario
Bienen School's Contemporary Music Ensemble conducted by Ben Bolter. Photo by Michael del Rosario
Hans Thomalla courtesy of Bienen School of Music
Hans Thomalla courtesy of Bienen School of Music
Katherine Young photo by Deidre Huckabay
Katherine Young photo by Deidre Huckabay