Review :: New Music and the UM rendition

University of Michigan’s own Contemporary Directions Ensemble, otherwise known as CDE, is a group dedicated to playing contemporary music. What the hell is that? Steve Reich, a highly-praised, NYC based composer said, “…the essential difference between ‘classical music’ and ‘popular music.’ And that essential difference is: one is notated, and the other is not notated.”

Contemporary music a.k.a “New music” is a genre of notated music that appeals to a modern aesthetic. Similar to the way in which Beethoven was a revolutionary of his time, composers alive today like Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Cage, Iannis Xenkis, David Lang, John Luther Adams, and a cast of others, are revolutionizing our ears and our minds. New concepts and definitions of sound and music are being realized almost daily. These composers have been classical trained but have moved so far past the archaic term, “classical” which no longer comes close to describing what they do.

Modern art – music meant for the art galleries and the coffee shops, the intimate venues and the outdoors, the art goers of today and the musicians of tomorrow. This is 21 century shit.


Conducted by Christopher James Lees, and made up of graduate students, CDE is a small group – about 20 large. This past Thursday night, their show entitled Fathers and Sons let them all rip it. They played driving music like the Son of Chambers Symphony, paired with the sound explorations of John Cage, paired with the 20 minute long bassoon solo, paired with the in-house piece by Kuster, dedicated to her father now past. Incredible textures, wild combinations, and innovative sounds. A buffet for the ears

The gorgeous program ~

Here, Leaving by Kristin Kuster, premier by U-M composition faculty member

How we got here (4th edition) by Luciano Berio, bassoon solo complete with circular breathing

But what about the noise of crumpling
paper which he used to do in order to
paint the series of “Papiers froisses” or
tearing up paper to make “Papiers
dechires?” Arp was stimulated by water
(sea, lake, and flowing waters like rivers

by John Cage. Yes, all one piece. Simply Beautiful

Son of Chambers Symphony by David T. Little

I would describe everything in detail but as a friend told me once, “it’s like when someone tells you a joke is funny before you hear it decide for yourself.” In light of that, I would love to hear your thoughts. Listen to a couple of these, Catch a John Cage concert it’s his 100 birthday this year (if he was still alive) and I’m nutty about it. If you don’t hear of any, just get in touch.

Hunter Chee