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Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble kicks off 41st season with 'Off Leash,' 'Earthly Verses'

| Wednesday, July 6, 2016, 9:00 p.m.
Kevin Noe conducting the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble.
Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble
Kevin Noe conducting the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble.

Concerts by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble stand out by design.

The group's leader Kevin Noe combines the pieces on a program the way a composer might combine the separate movements of a work, with a keen eye to the emotional and symbolic flow of the evening. His creation of a “Theatre of Music” approach is designed to enhance the impact of the music he presents.

“I, personally, don't have any interest in new music, per se,” Noe says. “What I believe in is transformative experiences for the audience in whatever medium and in whatever way you can get that to happen.”

Noe will conduct the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble's first concerts of its 41st season on July 8 and 9 at City Theater, South Side.

The season is dedicated to the memory of the group's founder, composer and conductor David Stock, who died in November. Stock's music will be performed on each of the four weekly programs.

The first concert will open characteristically with a world premiere, Russell Pinkston's “Off Leash,” which the new music ensemble commissioned. The composer was inspired, in part, by poet Mary Oliver's book “Dog Songs,” but he was attracted to it because he's a dog person, with all the emotional bonds that implies.

Composer Shahrokh Yadegari “Earthly Verses” combines violin and piano with “a very, very Persian-inspired soundscape,” Noe says. “It involves some written composition and a fair amount of improvisation, as well as the use of his personally invented electronic instrument called Lila, which is a computer program that allows him to do things in real time.”

Yadegari, who is also a sound designer and electronic-music composer, will be part of a behind-the-scenes project to explore integrating an advanced recording technique to take Noe's “Theatre of Music” to another level.

The ensemble is auditioning pianists this season, starting with Oscar Micaelsson playing Stephen Bryant's “Red Line.” The piece exists in several forms, but “no one wants to play the piano version because it's too hard and too fast,” Noe says.

The week one Stock tribute will consist of three vocal works performed by his daughter, mezzo-soprano Sara Stock Mayo. One is a Hebrew blessing he wrote for her son, Ziv, which will be used as an invocation throughout this season. Another is “Little Lost Girl,” a song he wrote with his daughter.

The Stock premiere will be “Songs of Solomon,” a score found only after his death. It was written for pianist Nanette Solomon, setting texts by her poet husband, Jonathan Solomon.

“When someone says to me after a concert that it was ‘the greatest night of art in my life and that it changed the way I view all of it,' that's what keeps me going,” Noe says. “It seems clear to me that new music, when it's toned and tempered just right, has the power to do that and is unique in our time.”

Mark Kanny is the Tribune-Review classical music critic. Reach him at 412-320-7877 or

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