Arts & Culture

‘Music Now’ Forum presents guest Kate Soper

Forum provides students, faculty opportunity to study contemporary music viewpoints, voices

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, January 29, 2018

The Orwig Music Building hosted the Brown Arts Initiative event last week. Students had the opportunity to hear from composer Kate Soper.

Students passionate about composition listened eagerly as performer and composer Kate Soper discussed her experiences in the world of music last Wednesday. The event was part of “Music Now,” an informal lecture series established in 2015.

“We founded (Music Now) with the goal of providing a forum for students and faculty interested in contemporary music,” said Assistant Professor of Music Eric Nathan, who founded the series along with Assistant Professor of Music Wang Lu and Professor of Music and Director of the Brown Arts Initiative Butch Rovan.  The series hopes to give younger composers “an opportunity to see what’s going on in the field” and to build a community, Wang said.

In selecting the artists for “Music Now,” diversity is a key criterion. “We try to have diverse representatives from different cultures, ages, ethnicities and genders,” Wang explained. “Music Now” also looks for artists that run the gamut of musical voices, aesthetics and viewpoints, Nathan said.  The artists featured this year comprise a “terrific line up of musicians,” he added. They include Kristina Warren, Tania León and Joan Tower, among other celebrated musicians.

Kate Soper’s credentials are a testament to the high standards of “Music Now.” A Pulitzer Prize finalist, Soper “is garnering great recognition in the field for her work and is having her work presented at top institutions,” Nathan said. She “has done very interesting things using voice and theatrical context,” he said, adding that he has included her music in his teaching and that his students have loved it. “I knew (her talk) would be something our students would be really looking forward to.”

Most of Soper’s recent and current compositions are focused on music with text, Soper said. “I try to think about how meaning exists in music and how the presence of text can complicate that meaning,” she explained.  “What happens to a text when you set it to music?  Can music tell us something real and direct?”

Soper also said she often employs theatrical elements in her work, which allows her to engage with the audience in a different way. It prompts them to start thinking of the musicians more as fellow humans rather than as people merely making music, she said.

Soper’s talk gave an overview of her music and answered both practical and abstract questions about how to be a composer. “I hope to alleviate anxiety amongst young composers,” she said. “I wanted to share some of the conclusions I’ve come to.”

While a significant number of the artists featured in the “Music Now” series are involved with composition, the founders have made a point of also inviting guests who are not composers, Nathan said. This includes conductor Gil Rose and pianist Gloria Cheng as well as  Nadia Sirota, violist and producer of the Peabody Award-winning radio show “Meet the Composer.” Some of the artists are also faculty members, which allows students to see what Brown faculty are doing in their creative work, Nathan said. 

The doors of “Music Now” are open to the general public, Nathan said. “We want to bring new music and new ideas about music to the Brown community — but to the larger Providence community as well,” he said.

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