Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Brave New Works is a vibrant performing ensemble of ten musicians dedicated to performing and promoting new music. The mission of Brave New Works is to engage, enrich and educate through contemporary music. A not-for-profit organization since 2003, Brave New Works was nurtured by the rich artistic landscape of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and formed in 1997 by three students at the University of Michigan: percussionists Chris Froh and Eli Shapiro, and conductor Chris Younghoon Kim. The concept was simple; to make great music, discover new sounds and ideas, and perform with kindred spirits.
The first concerts took place on the campus of the University of Michigan wherever space was available. The music was as diverse as the musicians who came together to perform it. Programs featured the gypsy duo Verderos, electronic music composer and trumpet player Mark Kirschenmann, and works by Cage, Berio, Stravinsky and Ginastera. The first season found its culmination in a performance of Terry Riley's "In C," for open instrumentation, which fittingly took place in the art gallery of the School of Engineering's Media Union, the university's newest building.
In its infancy, Brave New Works was as much a concept as it was an organization. Its three founders continually invented projects and, through the collaboration of a surprisingly large cast of characters, saw them to fruition. One such example was 1998's "By and For the Persecuted," a program of music composed entirely by prisoners interred at the Nazi concentration camp Terezin, in former Czechoslovakia. Chris Younghoon Kim conducted a chamber orchestra of student recruits in a program that included the music of Pavel Haas and Gideon Klein among others.
Whether chamber orchestra, massed cello choir -as in the January 2001 concert entitled, "Celloholics,"- or soloist, Brave New Works came to embody the spirit of adventure in music. No project seemed too intimate or too grand. February 1999 marked one of Brave New Works' major successes: the "Five Dances" project in conjunction with a residency by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. The program featured George Crumb's "Madrigals: Books I-IV" and the premier of five original dance compositions. Five composers worked with five choreographers, and together with Brave New Works, presented five experimental pieces. The inspiration came from the legendary collaboration between composer John Cage and Merce Cunningham. Brave New Works worked with Cage specialist Laura Kuhn on this important project. With success around the university and greater Ann Arbor communities, Brave New Works found an identity, and a growing audience.
By the fall of 2001, Brave New Works had outgrown the profile of a student ensemble. The group reorganized, and recruited a board of directors. Chris Younghoon Kim became sole music director, and Brave New Works for the first time defined its instrumentation as an ensemble of ten core musicians. With these changes came the potential for mobility; Brave New Works began the transition from a local phenomenon to a nationally recognized organization.
In addition to exploring and encouraging the growing modern repertoire, Brave New Works began to make contributions in the area of education. The ensemble developed its College Residency Program in which Brave New Works musicians work with student composers and instrumentalists conducting open rehearsals, instrumental master classes, and readings of student compositions. The first of these took place in the fall of 2002 at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Subsequent residencies have taken Brave New Works to Bowling Green, Ohio, and to an ongoing partnership with Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.
Today, many of the musicians of Brave New Works hold teaching positions at prestigious colleges and universities around the country, and all maintain individual performing careers. Brave New Works strives to uphold the values out of which it was formed and remains true to its first simple concept: to make great music, discover new sounds and ideas, and perform with kindred spirits.