Berkeley’s Eco Ensemble to perform at Venice Music Biennale

The Eco Ensemble, a new-music group in residence at UC Berkeley, is heading to the prestigious Venice Music Biennale in Italy to perform two concerts on Sept. 20 and Sept. 21.

“Eco will be performing new works by UC Berkeley music-composition faculty and alumni at one of the most visible and important sites for new music today,” said Edmund Campion, composer, Berkeley music professor and Eco Ensemble founder.

Members of the Eco Ensemble in action.  (Photo by Peg Skorpinksi.)

Members of the Eco Ensemble in action (UC Berkeley photo by Peg Skorpinski)

Described by the New York Times as “a dream team of local musicians who embody a new high point in the Bay Area’s vibrant contemporary music scene,” the ensemble is comprised of San Francisco Bay Area music virtuosos and is supported by UC Berkeley’s Cal Performances, the Department of Music and the Center for New Music and Audio Technology (CNMAT), a program focused on music and technology that is co-managed by Campion and David Wessel, a Berkeley music professor who also conducts research in computer science and psychology. The ensemble also performs as part of the music department’s Berkeley New Music Project.

Cindy Cox, chair of the music department as well as a composer, said the Venice performances showcase UC Berkeley as a leader in new-music creation and research.

Many pieces in the group’s repertoire reflect the Eco Ensemble’s experimentation and exploration of science and music via its connection with CNMAT.

The ensemble’s research into new instruments, new modes of musical expression and new applications of technology for composition and performance “reflects the musical thinking of today,” said Richard Andrews, Eco Ensemble’s executive director.

The group came together in 2011, largely the brainchild of composition faculty in the music department. Eco has been supported by Matias Tarnopolsky, who has given new music greater visibility on campus since becoming director of Cal Performances five years ago. Its name reflects the group’s connection with the artistic ecology of the Bay Area and beyond.

Many of the more than 20 Eco Ensemble members have strong ties to the campus, including musicians who teach in the music department. Eco Ensemble conductor David Milnes, a Berkeley music professor, directs the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra. Composers in the ensemble’s upcoming Venice concerts include Campion, Cox, Berkeley music professor Franck Bedrossian, as well as Aaron Einbond and John MacCallum, two alumni from the music department’s Ph.D. program in composition.

“After my studies at Berkeley with professors Campion and Milnes, I am excited to take the work I have been doing since graduation and perform with these wonderful musicians.” MacCallum said. “Under David Milnes’ baton, Eco has established itself as one of the premiere ensembles for the presentation of new music in the world, and is an invaluable resource to UC Berkeley community.”

Graduate students from the Berkeley New Music Project will have their own original works performed by Eco Ensemble at Hertz Hall on campus on Dec. 15.