Experimental Music Workshop

701 Center for Contemporary Art Presents
in partnership with
The University of South Carolina Honors College


The University of South Carolina School of Music:




The University of South Carolina Experimental Music Workshop
Director: Greg Stuart
Featuring: Michael Pisaro, Guest Composer & Performer

Tuesday, September 20, 2016
6:00 pm
Admission: free

701 CCA
701 Whaley St., second floor
Columbia, SC 29201


Twenty University of South Carolina students and two greats in the field of experimental music will perform compositions by one of those greats, Michael Pisaro, at Columbia’s 701 Center for Contemporary Art on Tuesday, September 20, 2016, at 6:00 p.m. Admission is free. The program, Gravity Waves: The Music of Michael Pisaro, will be performed by the University of South Carolina student ensemble the Experimental Music Workshop, directed by USC School of Music faculty member Greg Stuart, the other great. Pisaro is guest composer and will perform. The Experimental Music Workshop’s music has been praised by the New York Times as “patient, unpredictable, [and] exceedingly beautiful.”michaelpisaro-1

The performance will be the sixth and final one of a six-day tour that will take the Experimental Music Workshop to Gettysburg, Pa., New York City, Newark, Del., Baltimore, Md., Wilmington, NC and 701 Center for Contemporary Art. “By the time we get to Columbia,” Stuart says, “we will have played the program five times. It’ll be nice to give the final concert before a home crowd.”

Of the 20 students involved, 15 undergraduates are novices in the genre, while the five graduate students have some experience. “Usually this kind of program takes place at the end of a semester,” Stuart says, “but now it’s five weeks into the semester. We had to go from zero to 60 in no time.”

The performance will include Pisaro’s 2004 composition ricefall (1), which consists of dropping rice on objects against a sequences of electronic sounds. The second Pisaro composition, asleep, desert, choir, agnes, of 2016, is inspired by the work of conceptual and minimalist painter Agnes Martin. The work includes recorded sounds of a paint brush on canvas and “a lot of little sounds,” as Stuart puts it. Those sounds include metal brushes on objects, bowls with leaves, bags of pine cones and “little wooden objects that click click together.” During some passages, students will use voice – humming, singing, whistling and such. “Pisaro calls that the choir, the desert choir,” Stuart says. Artist Martin in the late 1960s abandoned New York City for the desert of New Mexico.

Pisaro refers to Martin’s 1997 series of paintings With My Back to the World ­– a world that he interprets, he has written, as that of “commerce and the art market, of social life and family, of media and entertainment.” Martin’s other world is one “of solitude and quiet,” Pisaro wrote, “of nature and light, and of an emptiness so austere that it becomes radiantly full.” It’s a world that “requires full engagement to perceive at all.”

With his composition, Pisaro, says, he hopes to “call up a series of sonic fragments of that world, not as they might actually have been if we’d recorded them, but as if their sonic traces had placed themselves onto one of Martin’s canvases.”

The USC Experimental Music Workshop was founded by Stuart in 2009 and has collaborated with an array of prominent musicians and composers. Its debut recording, of music of Jürg Frey, will be released in the fall of this year on Edition Wandelweiser Records.

Pisaro is a composer and guitarist and a member of the Wandelweiser Composers Ensemble. He has composed more than 80 works for a great variety of instrumental combinations. His work is frequently performed in the United States and Europe and has been selected twice by the International Computer Music Association for performance at the World Music Days festivals.

Stuart is a percussionist whose work draws on a mixture of music from the experimental tradition, Wandelweiser, improvisation and electronics. His performances have been described by the New York Times as “a ghostly, gorgeous lesson in how close, concentrated listening can alter and enhance perception.” Since 2006, Stuart has collaborated extensively with Pisaro.

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