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I/O NEW MUSIC: Masque-Rondeau

I/O NEW MUSIC: Masque-Rondeau

Saturday, October 2, 2021

3:00 PM–4:00 PM
Fernández Terrace
The Williams College Department of Music performs Eliza Brown’s Masque-Rondeau under the direction of Matthew Gold as a part of the group’s continuing I/O program of new music. Free; no registration required. Bring your own chairs or blankets for lawn seating. 

Masque-Rondeau (2018) is a music-theater work for 10–26 musicians in which groups of performers gradually spread out across the performance space, shifting, reorganizing, and dispersing, while filling the space with long swells of sound. The pianist acts as a conductor through a series of musical cues that change the musical and spatial roles of the other players. The performers play slow, overlapping chords, at times in concord with other groups and at others creating piquant clashes deliberately reminiscent of seventeenth-century Restoration music.

Brown conceived of the piece as a stylized solstice festival—part ritual, part party—elapsing in slow motion. Social dynamics emerge from the score, which asks musicians to group and regroup and approach one another with musical propositions, which may be accepted or declined. The slowness with which moments of musical connection and parting emerge heightens their emotional impact in unexpected ways.

Every performance of Masque-Rondeau is a unique event, the details of which are determined by performers in real time as they respond to the score, the performance space, and one another. What its performances share in common is an immersive sonic and visual experience, with a beautiful sonic surface and gentle pace of development that bely the work’s surprising power.

Eliza Brown’s music is motivated by sound and its potential for meaning, an engagement with the broader arts and humanities, and fundamental questions about the nature of human existence, social relationships and responsibilities, and sensory experience. Her compositions have been performed by leading interpreters of new music, including Ensemble Dal Niente, Spektral Quartet, ensemble recherche, International Contemporary Ensemble, Network for New Music, Ensemble SurPlus, Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, and Wild Rumpus New Music Collective. Brown’s works have been heard on stages throughout the USA and in Mexico, Colombia, Germany, Hungary, Spain, Canada, and the UAE and have been recorded on multiple labels.

Image: I/O Ensemble (Keith Forman)