Festival allows students to tell their stories

By Jamie O'Toole l Contributor

The second day of the New Music Festival allowed NIU students to show off their skills in composition, percussion instruments and making musical noises with their mouths, while telling a story.

The night began with Monica H. Kim and Stephan Carlson’s piece “Myth of the Color.” Kim played the harp beside other percussion instruments. Benjamin Firer conducted the performance.

Kim, an NIU graduate student, said her piece was inspired by a book she read religiously as a child. She rediscovered the book as she packed to leave for NIU. 

What was unique about her performance was that along with the music, a narrator told the story. Kim referred to it as “rhythmic speaking.” Not only was the music pleasant and impressively conducted, but the story added meaning to those listening. 

Elena Stavopoulos’ piece “Golden Threads” had two meanings for the name; the first being the golden ratio — the rhythm and pitch the piece was composed of. The second is what the piece was inspired by: the greek myth of The Golden Fleece. Stavopoulos said the fleece was almost hypnotic, and anyone who laid their eyes on it wanted it desperately. She wanted the piece to act the same.

“Golden Threads” eased smoothly into louder percussion sounds throughout the song. There were unexpected divets in the music, grabbing the attention of the audience who wondered where the song might go next. 

Transitioning to a dual performance after the first one was refreshing in comparison to the cluster of people. Katie Monroy on cello and Qian Zhang on piano played Craig Peaslee’s “Tres Bailes Latinos” harmoniously. The two sat still behind their instruments, letting the sound perform instead of themselves. 

The second half of the festival welcomed mouthpieces. The first to take the stage was Erin Gee who performed noises similar to ones birds make. She wrote the piece after going to India where she listened to a variety of bird species. Gee had no intention to perform it until a professor said she should. 

This performance, while most of it was talent, it was clear a lot of it consisted of constant practice to perfect her art. Gee used two microphones throughout her performance and seamlessly, with a swiftness too, switched from one microphone for pop noises to another for vocals. 

Night two of the festival ended with a second, much longer mouthpiece. There were not only various instruments used in this performance, but objects as well such as beads and woods tools. These sounds were accompanied by vocals that sounded almost like words being said backwards. The ominous noises, and frog like sounds created an interesting scene. The piece truly sounded like the noises of a pond in a quiet forest, swaying during a windy night, just before the sun is about to rise. 

This night not only brought stories to life, but also settings one usually pictures with words or visuals. Tonight’s scenes and animals came to life with mere sounds.