Composition Professor Mikel Kuehn to Release First Full Length CD

2014 Guggenheim fellow Mikel Kuehn will release his first full length CD, Object/Shadow, on Naxos, iTunes and Amazon, through New Focus Recordings on November 11. This recording includes works written over a twenty-year span, for soloists and ensembles, with and without electronics, and highlights Kuehn’s virtuosic compositional craft and poignant artistic voice. Object/Shadow features performances by Chicago based Ensemble Dal Niente, new music quartet Flexible Music, the BGSU Saxophone Ensemble, saxophonist David Wegehaupt (BGSU Alumnus) and soloists Gregory Beyer (marimba), Craig Hultgren (cello), and Daniel Lippel (guitar). The graphic design and artwork for the CD was created by Kuehn’s son, Stefan, a junior in the Digital Arts program at BGSU's School of Art. In the liner notes, flutist/composer/icon Harvey Sollberger describes a dilemma — how should contemporary composers come to terms with the legacy of modernism as laid out by luminaries such as Boulez, Babbitt, Stockhausen, Carter, and Xenakis? Sollberger writes, “the project of Modernism after them has remained wide-open in its possibilities, leaving composers of the next generation to confront the issue of what to do (or not do) with it: to run with the ball, that is to embrace and extend the Modernist tradition in all its implications; to adopt only its more superficial qualities while jettisoning the rest; or to ignore it and go with the more easygoing flow.” Sollberger’s notes, and the remarkable music on this recording, testify with conviction to the fact that Mikel Kuehn has decidedly chosen to “run with the ball,” building his oeuvre on the depth of craft and the breadth of compositional inquiry that is at the core of the modernist project, while expanding further into realms reflective of contemporary aesthetic directions. Writing with a finely tuned sense of orchestration, Kuehn’s music balances rigorous pitch choice with attractive foreground textures. Undercurrents, the largest work on the disc, highlights hybrid timbres between sub-groups of the ensemble, a technique grounded in the music of the first generation of modernists. Chiaroscuro and Objet/Ombre are works from a larger series of electroacoustic pieces by Kuehn called Hyperresonance, which also fuse composite textures, though here Kuehn’s symbiotic relationships exist between live instruments and electronics. In Color Fields written for Flexible Music, we hear a different side of Kuehn’s voice, informed by the group’s instrumentation as well as his background in jazz. Referencing Louis Andriessen’s iconic canon, Hout, Kuehn adapts the compositional technique to his purposes, treating the shifting canonic order and pairings like a Rubix cube to create a prismatic texture. The strength of this collection of pieces ultimately lies with the maturity of Kuehn’s artistry; here is a composer who has patiently honed an integrated aesthetic rooted in tradition but which is forward looking. He now invites us into his compositional world with this comprehensive collection of sublime chamber works.

The music of American composer Mikel Kuehn (b. 1967) has been described as having “sensuous phrases... producing an effect of high abstraction turning into decadence,” by New York Times critic Paul Griffiths. A 2014 Guggenheim Fellow, he has received awards, grants, and residencies from ASCAP and BMI (Student Composer Awards), the Banff Centre, the Barlow Endowment, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (First Hearing Prizes), Composers, Inc. (Lee Ettelson Award), the Copland House (Copland Award), the Fromm Foundation at Harvard, the League of Composers/ISCM, the MacDowell Colony, the Ohio Arts Council (Individual Excellence Awards), and Yaddo. His works have been commissioned by the Anubis Saxophone Quartet, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Ensemble 21, Ensemble Dal Niente, Flexible Music, violist John Graham, clarinetist Marianne Gythfeldt, cellist Craig Hultgren, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), guitarist Daniel Lippel, Perspectives of New Music, pianist Marilyn Nonken, Selmer Paris, and the Spektral Quartet, among others. Kuehn holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music and the University of North Texas. His music draws influence from diverse sources such as chaos theory, computer science, digital signal processing, literature, musical acoustics, and visual art in addition to a love of hiking in forests.

Noted for its presentation of "bracing sonic adventures" (Chicago Tribune), Ensemble Dal Niente, "a superb contemporary-music collective" (The New York Times), aims to drive musical discourse with adventurous projects that exhibit an ambitious range of aesthetic values tied to contemporary life and culture. Recent projects include a collaboration with Deerhoof and Marcos Balter; a tour of Latin American countries; performances and recordings of works by George Lewis; an East Coast tour of German music; the Hard Music, Hard Liquor concert series and its annual Party. With each project, programs are curated and presented in ways that highlight the music’s relationship with our culture and society. The ensemble’s introduction to the international music community was expedited by their acclaimed performances at the Darmstadt Summer Courses for New Music in 2010 and 2012; in 2012, Dal Niente became the first-ever ensemble recipient of the coveted Kranichstein Music Prize and was invited to give the 2014 festival’s culminating performance in Darmstadt, Germany. Recordings of Dal Niente’s performances of new and recent repertoire have been released on the New Amsterdam, New Focus, Navona, Parlour Tapes+, and Carrier labels.

New music quartet Flexible Music (Eric Huebner, piano; Timothy Ruedeman, saxophone; Haruka Fujii, percussion; Daniel Lippel, guitar) formed in 2003 and has since been devoted to expanding the repertoire for their uncommon instrumentation. The group has performed on the Macau Internation Chamber Music Festival (China), the Bowling Green New Music Festival, the Kennedy Center, as well as performances and residencies at Brigham Young University, Manhattan School of Music, Syracuse University, Bowdoin College, and the Peabody Institute of Music. Flexible Music can be heard on several New Focus releases, their full length album “FM”, as well as “Sustenance” and Steven Ricks’ “Young American Inventions,” as well as on recordings on Albany and Centaur.

Hailed as a “prodigiously talented percussionist” (Chicago Classical Review) Gregory Beyer is a contemporary music specialist with significant experience in orchestral, jazz, and world music who combines the multiple disciplines of 21st Century percussion into a singular artistic voice. He has given solo performances and masterclasses throughout the world.

For several decades, cellist Craig Hultgren has been a fixture on the scenes for new music, the newly creative arts, and the avant-garde. Recently leaving Birmingham after more than 30 years as a member of the Alabama Symphony, he now resides outside of Decorah, Iowa as the farmer-cellist. The New York Classical Review commented that he, "…played with impressive poise and sensitivity…" for Dorothy Hindman's recent chamber music retrospective at Carnegie Hall. Hultgren is featured in three solo CD recordings including The Electro-Acoustic Cello Book on Living Artist Recordings. He taught at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the Alabama School of Fine Arts and Birmingham-Southern College where he directed the BSC New Music Ensemble.

Guitarist Daniel Lippel, called an “exciting soloist” (New York Times), “precise and sensitive” (Boston Globe) and a "modern guitar polymath" (Guitar Review) enjoys a unique and diverse career that ranges through solo and chamber music performances, innovative commissioning and recording projects, and performances in diverse contexts. Lippel is the resident guitarist for two critically acclaimed new music groups: the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) since 2005 and new music quartet Flexible Music since 2003.

Updated: 12/01/2017 11:14PM