NIU’s Electroacoustic School of Music host mixes in 60 seconds

By Jerene-Elise Nall

NIU’s Electroacoustic School of Music will hold the 60×60 Crimson Mix concert tomorrow at 8 p.m. in the music building’s Recital Hall. This concert will feature the music of some current NIU students and staff, as well as NIU alumni.

“I run a company called Vox Novus, and the mission of Vox Novus is to expose and promote contemporary new music,” said Rob Voisey, creator of the 60×60 project. “Back in 2002, I had become heavily involved in some electronic music and some other contemporary music. I was looking for a way to present and promote this medium in a way that would be enjoyable for audiences.

“60×60 refers to a one-hour audio program, for starters, although it’s become much more than that,” said Robert Fleisher, Coordinator of Composition and Theory at NIU. “It’s 60 electroacoustic compositions, either recorded, modified, filtered, sped up, slowed down, whatever. It could be natural sounds, synthesized sounds, whatever. These 60 pieces on any one of these mixes are in most cases by 60 different composers and not one of which exceeds 60 seconds.”

“We’re going to start with ten one-minute pieces by NIU students who are studying computer music,” Fleisher said. “They were invited by Dr. Jim Phelps, who is my colleague that runs the computer music program, to create pieces for this concert in particular, and they were given the task to make them no longer than one minute. It’s a 10×60. It’s seven current students, one of which has two pieces, and then two alums that have pieces. We’ll have a little break and then go into the 60×60.”

“It’s supposed to introduce newcomers and people who haven’t had experience with electroacoustic music to this wide field,” Voisey said. “60×60 is very eclectic. Anything and everything you can think of, we tried to throw into the batch. So if you’re an audience member and there’s a particular piece or aesthetic that you don’t like, in 60 seconds, something new is going to come by.”

Along with emphasizing the importance of exposure to new music, Voisey’s 60×60 encourages community building.

“I would say that this is a directly community-related project,” Voisey said. “The project is presented all over the world, so every little enclave that we attach to outside of [New York City] I’ve found are these little pockets of new music, some really great stuff, and really active communities all over the world. This project is a place for them to rally together and bring their music to the forefront. 60×60 in a lot of ways is really a grassroots project. In a lot of ways, the artists build up the project.”

“I’m one of 60 composers that had a piece selected for this,” Fleicher said of his personal involvement with the 60×60 project. “The nice thing about us is it not only connects us to Rob Voisey, it connects us to this whole network of composers.”

Besides connecting the artists with one another, the 60×60 lets audience members connect with music that may be entirely new to them.

“Most people aren’t even familiar with the genres,” he said. If you go up to a few people in the street and ask them to go to a glitch music concert, they’re probably not going to know what you’re talking about. The drive of 60×60 is not only to be an introduction to these genres, but to do it in a positive light. I’ve found that a lot of people wouldn’t normally listen to a noise concert or a glitch concert or an ambient concert, but with the 60×60, they’re given the permission to not like the piece.”

Voisey noted that audience members typically respond well, regardless of their initial reaction to a piece.

“Instead of people turning off for 60 seconds, they wind up listening more intently, because this isn’t something they’d normally go to. They’ve got 60 seconds, what’s the harm?” Voisey said.

While 60 seconds may not seem like a very long time, it is certainly enough time for a composer to make quite an impact.

“I noticed after I was a few minutes into it, I started thinking, ‘My God, that’s a lot of time!’,” Fleisher said. “You start by thinking it’s nothing, but some of these actually feel so expansive somehow. They make such an impact. They play such tricks with your perception of time.”

While the 60×60 concert may be an entirely different experience, Fleicher promises to be well worth seeing.

“This isn’t going to be your grandmother’s concert,” Fleicher said.