FutureSounds Festival to take place May 13

As part of the Cornell ReSounds Project, the Cornell Department of Music presents the FutureSounds Festival on Friday, May 13 from 10:15 am-4:00 pm at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. The festival is an instrument-builder’s extravaganza, featuring guest builders and performers Mark Stewart, Jesse Jones, Bart Hopkin, and Cory Smythe, as well as the newly-designed instruments and compositions by Cornell students from the Music Department course FutureSounds. 

The FutureSounds course, taught by Elizabeth Ogonek and Ryan McCullough, spent the semester emphasizing the dialogue between past and future by considering new music written for old and newly constructed instruments. Students developed approaches to alternative tuning systems, notation, performance practice, sound color, and musical works and collaborations, extending the existing sound world. A sneak preview of the class’s projects may be viewed online.

The May 13 Festival will feature performances on these newly created instruments, along with talks and workshops from the guest builders. Bart Hopkin is a maker of acoustic musical instruments and a student of instruments worldwide. From 1985 to 1999, he edited the quarterly journal Experimental Musical Instruments. Since 1994, he has written numerous books on instruments and their construction, including the leading resource, Musical Instrument Design published by See Sharp Press. Jesse Jones is a composer and multi-instrumentalist with an obsession for innovative instrument design and construction. When not composing or practicing on mandolin-, guitar-, and banjo-family instruments, Jones is busy at work building instruments, both acoustic and electric. Mark Stewart is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, song leader, composer, improviser, and instrument designer who has been heard around the world performing old and new music. Since 1998 he has recorded, toured and been Musical Director with Paul Simon, and he is a co-founder (with Karen Curlee) of soundstewArt, a company that designs and builds immersive musical environments & instruments for all to play upon while presenting workshops to facilitate just that. Pianist Cory Smythe has worked closely with pioneering artists in new, improvisatory, and classical music, including saxophonist-composer Steve Lehman, violinist Hilary Hahn, and multidisciplinary composers from Anthony Braxton to Zosha Di Castri. Smythe’s interests in spectral harmony and microtonality have led him to many attempted electronic modifications of the piano including a second electronic manual tuned a quartertone sharp to the rest of the instrument.

Hopkin will lead a free instrument-building workshop at 10:15 am in the museum’s Hirsch Lecture Hall. Although the workshop is open to all ages, advance signup is recommended, as capacity is limited. The workshop will be followed by student performances and demonstrations throughout the museum, and the day will end with a performance from the guest artists at 3:30 pm in the Appel Lobby.

Cornell ReSounds aims to establish Cornell as a center for the design and creation of new musical instruments and a hub for Cornell’s creative artists – a dialogue between the future of instrument-building and collaborative artistic creation. Looking at tradition and past inventions as a way forward, Cornell’s technologists, engineers, and instrument builders are working alongside performers and composers to create a body of site-specific work for these instruments. ReSounds is funded by a New Frontier Grant awarded by the College of Arts and Sciences, the Cornell Council for the Arts, as well as a Humanities Impact Grant, funded by the office for the Vice President for Research and Innovation. 

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