With a truly exhilarating range of programming the 18th annual CSU Fullerton New Music Festival offered four days of interaction with influential performers and composers and memorable, cutting-edge concerts, February 19-23.

Among the highlights were performances by the student ensembles, including the Wind Ensemble which performed Cindy McTee’s “The Unquestioned Answer.” The CSUF New Music Ensemble engaged in two of Pauline Oliveros’ iconic “Meditations” as a tribute to this hugely influential composer who passed away just over two years ago. “The Tuning Meditation” is focused and contemplative, while “Interdependence” demands rapid response and agility.  The works offer sets of instructions that ask the performers to make decisions and to respond and the sounds of others. These musical processes are a very different set of demands on the performer than that of reading conventional notation, and open up another realm of musicality and creative exploration.  The NME also played Amy WilliamsStop Yield, and  Crossings, as well as Julia Wolfe’s Big Beautiful Dark and Scary.

In a session of afternoon Symposia, composer-in-residence Amy Williams discussed her dual role of composer/pianist, examining the role of the piano in her compositions – even those without piano.  Kate Stenberg, violin, Sarah Cahill, piano, both renowned new-music specialists, explored Gabriela Lena Frank’s work Sueños de Chambi: Snapshots for an Andean Album.

The final Saturday concert featured Amy Williams, Stenberg, and Cahill in music by Williams, Kaija Saariaho’s Tocar, Pamela Madsen’s   There Will Be Stars/There Will Be Rest/Earth Horizon, Madsen’s Polonium (a section from the multi-media opera “Luminosity: The Passions of Marie Curie”) with video by Quintan Ana Wikswo (watch and listen here), and a performance of Frank’s  Sueños de Chambi discussed in the previous symposium.

Artistic director Dr. Pamela Madsen, Artistic Director, is to be applauded for this brilliant and innovative Festival, which continues to make CSU Fullerton a real center of the New Music scene.