School of Music highlights young composers’ experimental works

Students break the boundaries of classical music with their musical and performative compositions.


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MU music students performed musical and performance pieces they composed themselves for the School of Music’s Student Composers Recital on Nov. 26.

The concert was held at the Whitmore Recital Hall in the Fine Arts Building and was free and open to the public. The pieces showcased a wide variety of genres and styles.

The first piece, “Duck Your Modernism,” was a performative piece involving two people trying to make the other laugh using rubber ducks whilst being judged by a man in a top hat, sequined vest, cheetah print capris and black heels. After the piece was completed, composer Niko Schroeder tried to clarify what had happened.

“Art just happened,” Schroeder said. “I’ve had people tell me that I don’t take art seriously enough. So I responded with rubber ducks.”

The second piece was “The Struggle of a Painter,” a classical piano piece written by MU sophomore Zachary Davis.

“[The Struggle of a Painter] is actually the first piece I’ve composed for piano,” Davis said. “I’ve learned that just because you can play the music doesn’t mean that people with normal hands can. Now I’m working on a string quartet and a piece that’s more jazzy. I want to do a piece for the next recital.”

Phil Davis, Zachary Davis’ dad, greatly enjoyed the concert.

“Both my wife and I were in marching band at UCM [University of Central Missouri], so we were hoping that he loved music when he was younger,” Phil Davis said. “We never expected this. I supported him through everything he’s done, and now I can’t even touch his ideas.”

As the night wore on, many of the composers and performers came into the audience after their piece, including the top-hatted man, who despite changing into some more formal attire, kept wearing his signature cap.

Next was “The Exquisites,” a flute duet written by Emily Shaw.

“The Exquisites is a piece that focuses on the frustration and fruitlessness of trying to reach perfection,” Shaw wrote in the concert program. “The frustration… turns into maniacal joy as one realizes that perfection cannot be attained.” This frustration was evident in the two players competing to try to outperform the other.

The next piece was a piano solo composed by Mikkel Christensen called “Numbers.” Then came “Stream of Consciousness”, a piece for flute, clarinet and piano written by freshman Jack Snelling. Snelling was the only composer to conduct his own piece due to the number of instruments it required.

“When Icarus fell it was Spring,” a piece for piano and violin by Aaron Mencher, was played next.

“The piece is about a Williams Carlos Williams poem that’s about a painting about a myth,” Mencher said. “It told something so matter-of-fact but still so dramatically. It was originally commissioned by Sheldon Music Hall [in St. Louis] and premiered earlier this November.”

Harry Tryer’s piano piece “The Bounds of Tonality” followed. Tryer was an engineering professor before recently retiring and is in his first year of musical study. The piece was performed by Ross Dryer, who also played the piano section of “When Icarus fell it was Spring.”

Finally came “Exquisite Corpse I”, a collaborative work featuring various instruments. The piece was made up of six individual takes on the “Happy Birthday” song created with only a brief knowledge of the parts that came before them. The players all wore party hats, and a tenor sang the iconic lyrics.

Thus ended the Student Composer Recital. The audience, mostly composed of the composers and their friends, greatly enjoyed this showcase of young diverse talent, as they applauded heavily after every piece.

Edited by Janae McKenzie |

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