Ithaca Sounding celebrates homegrown modernist, experimental work

Cornell’s Department of Music is collaborating with performers from Ithaca College and the community to offer Ithaca Sounding 2020, a multi-day, multi-venue event Jan. 30-Feb. 2.

The festival and symposium will feature concerts, workshops, talks, presentations and readings focused on modernist and experimental concert music by Ithacans past and present, including keyboard composers Julius Eastman, Sarah Hennies, Robert Palmer, Ann Silsbee and David Borden.

“Initially I knew I really wanted to present the music of Julius Eastman in some important way: he was born in Ithaca and grew up here, and his music and legacy is undergoing quite a remarkable ‘renaissance,’ “ said festival coordinator and pianist Richard Valitutto, a DMA performance practice student in the Cornell Music Department, who then discovered other Ithaca composers through friends and colleagues.

The events will connect and mediate the themes of music in the academy, marginalized art, improvisational performance practice and queer experimentalism.

Although the composers don’t have a lot in common musically, Valitutto said they do prize personal collaborations and community connections. “This is actually a really important thing for me as an artist, scholar, as a person really: connections and networks are what ultimately make the work worth it, in my opinion,” he said.

Featured presenters include musicologists Sara Haefeli (Ithaca College), Ellie Hisama (Columbia) and Matthew Mendez (Yale). Featured performers include New York City pianists Joseph Kubera, Adam Tendler and Cornell alumnus David Friend; Ithaca composer and percussionist Sarah Hennies and Valitutto.

Events take place at Cornell, Ithaca College and downtown at Buffalo Street Books from Jan. 30-Feb. 2. Highlights include:

  • Workshop: Decolonizing the Curriculum: with Sara Haefeli, 4:30-6 p.m., Jan. 30, Lincoln Hall, room 124
  • Semi-Occluded Vocal Tract, Richard Valitutto plays Sarah Hennies’s hour-long work SOVT (2017) for solo prepared piano, 7-8 p.m., Jan. 30, Johnson Museum Lobby
  • Panel: Listening Locally: Intersectionality and Contemporary Music: a discussion on festival themes, 10 a.m.-noon, Jan. 31, Lincoln Hall, room 124
  • Lecture: Julius Eastman’s Heterological Perspectives and Queer Practices, paper presentations, 10 a.m.-noon, Jan. 31, Lincoln Hall, room B21
  • Letters, Stories, and Journeys for 1 & 2 Pianos, solos and duos by Julius Eastman, Ann Silsbee, David Borden, and Robert Palmer, 8 p.m., Jan. 31, Barnes Hall
  • Festival Finale: Julius Eastman: Joy Boy / Femenine, 7 p.m., Ithaca College, Whalen Center for Music, Hockett Hall; preconcert lecture at 6 p.m. by Ellie Hisama
  • Reading: Poems and Memoirs by Musicians (who also write), Noon-2 p.m., Feb. 2, Buffalo Street Books

All of the events are free and open to the public. Visit the music department website for a complete listing.

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 Ithaca Sounding poster