For four days this weekend, Cal Performances and UC Berkeley’s music department celebrate contemporary music and give it a push forward with the first biennial Edge Fest.
The festival, which includes five concerts at Hertz Hall and two free events, has been several years in the making.
“The idea was to develop a modern music festival that would alternate with Berkeley’s biennial early music festival,” explains festival co-curator and Berkeley faculty member David Wessel.
The festival focuses on several of America’s most original composers, who are noted for incorporating non-Western music and electronics into their music, collaboration with artists in other mediums, and unorthodox approaches to composition. Several featured artists have strong ties to the Bay Area and to Berkeley.
The opening program on Thursday, June 5, features music by UC Berkeley faculty members Edmund Campion and Cindy Cox. Campion’s works feature two collaborations with his brother, poet John Campion, and incorporate state-of-the-art electronic music techniques. Cox’s music will be performed by the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, and she will perform in the world premiere of her Hierosgamos: Studies in Harmony and Resonance, a tour-de-force for solo piano.
Friday’s program features the music of Terry Riley. Celebrated as the founder of musical minimalism, Riley also incorporates Indian classical music and jazz into his work. The program includes his first performance in more than 30 years of “A Rainbow in Curved Air,” a work for electronic keyboard, and his premiere of Baghdad Highway, for solo piano, written in response to the war in Iraq.
The concert will be preceded by a free showing of “Terry Riley’s Musical Rainbow” in Wheeler Auditorium at 5 p.m.
The festival will present two concerts on Saturday. The 6 p.m. program features music by Ingram Marshall and famed Berkeley composer John Adams. In one of the pieces by Adams, the composer himself will conduct students from Berkeley’s Crowden School. Marshall, known for his meditative scores influenced by studies of Indonesian music, will make a rare appearance as performer in his Fragility Cycles.
At 9 p.m. on Saturday, Wessel will perform using live electronics in tandem with George Lewis and Steve Lacy, both recipients of the Macarthur Foundation’s coveted “genius” award. Lewis is a virtuoso trombonist and innovator in electronic music, while soprano saxophonist Lacy is a major jazz figure. The trio will test the limits of improvisation, performing with computer music programs that respond spontaneously to the live musicians.
The festival concludes on Sunday at 3 p.m. with a tribute to composer Lou Harrison. Harrison, who died in February at age 85, was probably the single most important figure in opening contemporary classical music to the influence of non-Western music, particularly that of the Indonesian gamelan ensemble. He selected five recent gamelan pieces to receive their world premieres in this program before his death. The tribute concert will span 60 years of his creative output. The music will be performed by several artists with whom he worked closely: pianist and festival co-curator Sarah Cahill, the Abel-Steinberg-Winant trio, and Gamelan Si Betty, the ensemble he helped build, along with a group performing his groundbreaking works for percussion ensemble. Cahill will lead a free panel on Harrison’s music at 1 p.m. in Morrison Hall.
All concerts are at Hertz Hall on the UC campus. Tickets are $22, or all five concerts for $88. Student discounts are available. Tickets are available at the Cal Performances box office at Zellerbach Hall, at (510)642-9988, at the Web site www.calperfs.berkeley.edu, or at the door.