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Using everything from piano and violin to computer sound effects and the audience itself, Brown New Music put on a sacred music concert Friday in Grant Recital Hall to an audience of about 50.

Affiliated with the Multimedia and Electronic Music Experiments program, New Music "has been around for 10 years or so," said Mason McGill '13, who said he was "more or less" the president of the organization.

"We're sort of the experimental avant-garde music group at Brown," McGill said. The group has "done a range of things" from "original compositions" to well-known pieces, he explained, adding that there is "a trend towards a lot of improvisation and electronic and multimedia work."

For this particular concert, McGill said the group was "trying something new," and the performance would be "a little more tonal than we usually go for, but we're still sticking to the theme of having experimental music." The theme of the concert, as the title hints at, was world religious traditions.

The beginning of the concert quite literally set the tone for how the event would proceed: The usual announcements about fire safety and silencing cell phones were not spoken, but sung by one member, whose vocals were supported by two others singing a bass note. While this introduction had a comical effect, it also demonstrated the group's unique take on music.

The first piece, "Tuning Piece," was "an experiment," composer Dylan Nelson '11 told the audience. The instructions on the program asked everyone in the room to join in as one member of Brown New Music began to vocally produce a note, either producing the same note or harmonies thereof. The resulting sound had eerie, discordant layers, akin to members of an orchestra tuning their instruments. It elicited creepy natural imagery, like an amalgamation of animal night calls. Lucy Boltz '12 said she "really enjoyed" this "interactive part" despite not knowing many of the words used in the instructions, such as "tonal" and "sonic."

The other student-composed piece was "Who Am I? (Music for Meditation)" by McGill. It was comprised of piano, violin and computer-generated wind-like sound effects. The program said these three instruments represented "mind, body, and soul," respectively.

The remainder of the selections included "Mictrotonal Raga #11" by 20th-century avant-gardist John Cage, which was inspired by traditional Indian music, and Igor Stravinsky's second arrangement of "Ave Maria." A particularly unusual piece was "Hosianna Mantra" by Florian Fricke, an eclectic combination of voice, oboe, acoustic guitar, electric guitar and piano.  

The sacred music concert was not only an accurate representation of the experimentation Brown New Music aims for, but also a great opportunity for students to expose themselves to a new definition of music.


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