Summer brings creations from Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble

| Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

July may be the best month of the year for new music, at least in Pittsburgh. In fall, winter and spring there are plenty of opportunities to hear new music presented by the big organizations and many valuable smaller ones, as well.

But July and just touching into August is when the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble sets up shop on the South Side. Artistic director Kevin Noe likes to say he “composes” the concerts, in the sense that he combines the pieces he selected with an eye and ear to the overall shape and meaning of the experience.

The Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble opens its 2014 season July 11 and 12 at City Theater, South Side. It will present four main concerts, plus three other events.

The season opens with a program called “The Lost Traveler.” Noe's theme is the voyage of life, filled with wonder and distraction and about freeing ourselves from delusions we pick along to rediscover our true selves.

Although the program's title is taken from a piece by Martin Bresnick that will be performed, Noe's point of origin in building this concert was Vinko Globokar's “?Corporel.”

“Vinko Globokar is a French avant-garde experiential composer who is doing a lot of work not only involving theater but also body theater, which uses the body as an expressive instrument,” Noe says. “I saw this piece many years ago when a percussionist auditioned for us and played it. I loved it and knew I wanted to create a program around this piece.”

The remainder of the new music ensemble's season, all at City Theater except as noted:

July 18 and 19: “The Cage Variations,” a piece commissioned from Ted Hearne which samples music from other contemporary composers, followed by those works themselves in whole or in part

July 25 and 26: Voice and Guitar, featuring the commissioned “Guitar Album” by Ryan Francis

Aug. 1 and 2: Kieren MacMillan's “Drunken Moon” pair with Arnold Schoenberg's “Pierrot Lunaire.” This program, one of Noe's most successful, debuted in 2006.

Noe says the group has presented an enormous number of new shows during his 14 years with it and that some of its most successful shows will gradually be brought back. He also is looking forward to taking the pairing of “Drunken Moon” with “Pierrot Lunaire” to the Luminato Festival in Toronto.

The extra shows are:

July 18 and 19: “Imitation of Wife: An Unauthorized Autobiography,” a benefit show starring “Mrs. Eda Bagel,” which has been praised as a “splendid, campy romp,” at the Arcade Comedy Theater, Downtown

July 20: Jazz Happy Hour at La Mont Restaurant, Mt. Washington

July 23: Nathalie Shaw Showcase, featuring the ensemble's violinist

The season is being presented on a $130,000 budget according to Pamela Murchison, the group's new executive director. A freelance flutist, she is a Duquesne University graduate working on her doctorate at West Virginia University in Morgantown.

She and Noe have had packed schedules in the weeks before the season opens. They've reconnected with old friends and made new ones, starting early with breakfasts and even including a musical performance at an evening event.

Noe tendered his resignation last summer over concerns about steps he felt the organization needed to take, but agreed to stay after negotiations with the board. He believes his concerns about building the audience and reaching out to the community are being addressed now.

“I think this is an ongoing process,” he says. “I hope we will continue in this direction. I think it will make a huge difference.”

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or

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