Cutting-edge electronic music, video and sound art, and improvisation.

NYUAD’s festival of electronics and improvisation returns with a hugely varied program exploring the interfaces between performers, composers, audiences, and technology. ElectroFest showcases both classics and moderns, with five world premieres and eight UAE premieres.

Two themes encircle this year’s edition: John Cage and Percussion Music. Guest speaker, Professor William Brooks, long-time associate of John Cage, will give a talk on Cage’s technological practice, supported by four performances of Cage’s music.

ElectroFest also offers a plethora of works for percussion, from bass drum to cacti, tom toms to prepared piano, rain sticks to poinciana pods!

Composers include: John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luigi Nono, Janet Beat, Carlos Guedes, João Menezes, Kristin Mueller, Jonny Farrow, and Cristobál Mar Yan. ElectroFest spotlights a diverse array of performers: Clare Lesser (soprano and percussion), David Lesser (piano and percussion), Julian Faultless (French horn), Carlos Guedes (live electronics), Cristina Ioan (flutes), Kristin Mueller and Jonny Farrow (percussion, live electronics and video art), João Menezes (live electronics), João Dias (percussion), Tomas Krajhanzl aka Vj Krajta, and students from Fall 2019’s John Cage class (percussion, piano, radios and live electronics).

ElectroFest will take place oversee three sessions:

In the first session Clare Lesser will perform Luigi Nono’s searing political soundscape La fabbrica illuminata (soprano and tape). This will be followed by the UAE premiere of Carlos Guedes’ Fragile Ecosystems, and live improvisation combining computer processing and prepared bass drum with João Dias. Cristina Ioan closes the set with works for flute and bass flute, including the world premiere of NYUAD alumnus Cristobál Mar Yan’s Life Lag – “B”.

The second session focuses on the works of John Cage. The program opens in the foyer with Radio Music and Music Walk, both of which demonstrate Cage’s exploration of the boundaries between theater, sound and its wider performance environment. The audience and performers then move into The Black Box theater for the futurist inspired Imaginary Landscape No. 1 and Cage’s iconic work for amplified plant percussion group, including cacti, nuts, seeds, pods, and rattles, Branches. Session two continues with the keynote presentation by the distinguished Cage scholar, performer and associate of John Cage, Professor William Brooks (University of Illinois, University of York, Orpheus Institute, Ghent) focusing on Cage’s aesthetic of ‘machine’ performance practice. The session closes with a panel discussion exploring ElectroFest 2020’s wider themes.

After dinner, the third session features virtuoso French horn performances by Julian Faultless (University of Oxford). Janet Beat’s Hunting Horns are Memories (horn and tape) exploits mistakes and mishaps in live performance, making a virtue of these ‘accidents’, while Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Solo is one of the earliest explorations of the possibilities inherent in creating an extended piece of music in ‘real’ time. The third session continues with the world premiere of Jonny Farrow and Kristin Mueller’s multimedia extravaganza The Fold. The work’s title comes from philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s book of the same name. In it, Deleuze interprets the work of the Baroque-era philosopher Gottfried Leibniz’s concept of the monad as a unit of perceptual reality. Deleuze takes this fundamental unit and asserts that it is made up of folds which interact with one another in complex ways that allow for a cosmology of infinite openness (vs. Liebniz’s closed, pre-established harmony, or shared reality). Composers Jonny Farrow and Kristin Mueller simultaneously conceived of this work in sections and in stations, where they have choreographed perambulations from instrument to instrument, station to station to create the diverse sonic interactions you hear. The folds multiply! ElectroFest 2020 closes with a live multimedia set by João Menezes and VJ Tomas Krajhanzl (VJ Krajta).