Exploring new musical experiences

Exploring new musical experiences

Kelly Smith

Do you enjoy listening to music? Do you enjoy going to concerts and listening to music being performed live for you? Are you interested in new music which moves away from music of the past and incorporates new ideas and styles? There’s an ensemble on campus called the New Music Ensemble (NME), which focuses on performing modern music.

The NME is nationally well-known. According to their ensemble biography on their official site, they’ve performed all across the country, including New York, Chicago, Atlanta, the Mid-Atlantic region, and even over in the southwest area of the U.S., and have been recognized by the New York Times, Billboard Magazine, Washington Post and LA Weekly.

What makes the NME so unique? The NME performs music that has been written within the last few decades. While many musical ensembles will perform works from eras such as the classical period, the NME focuses on music written by composers of this day and age, which allows many new musical styles to be brought into the light.

And this doesn’t include music, but includes other aspects such as spoken lyrics and visual choreography. Something that really intrigued me was a piece called “Counting Duet,” which consisted only of counting up and down in various rhythmic sequences while moving in various directions in time to the beat. Another similarly interesting piece is “Clapping Song” by Steve Reich, which consists only of different clapping patterns. These videos, along with many others, can be found on Director Bill Ryan’s Youtube channel.

The NME also creates many projects for their work. For example, the National Parks Project of 2014 involved the creation of music based on several national parks in the country, including the Grand Canyon, Zion, Capital Reef, Arches and Great Sand Dune National Parks. The music would be written in accordance to the environment of the park and is then performed in the parks. This project gave a stunning and beautiful visual aspect to the music that was performed. A video overview of this project can be found on the NME website.

Another project which the NME has been focusing on this academic year is their Music in the Words project. This project focuses on composers who are to “create works based on the speaking voice of landmark 20th Century composers.”

The NME’s performance schedule is posted on their website. One of these performances is at the Peter Martin Wege Theater in Grand Rapids on April 2 at 4 p.m. Admission is free. If you can spare some time, I highly encourage you to come check it out.

The NME has no limits in creativity. If you enjoy listening to music and are interested in new perspectives of music, I definitely recommend listening to a performance by the NME. In addition to performing across the country, they also perform right here on campus. If you have the time, it’s definitely something to consider attending.