Bates College Orchestra and pioneering American composer to perform in weekend concerts

In a big weekend for music, the Bates College music department offers a concert by the college orchestra and one by pioneering American composer Pauline Oliveros.

In a youth-oriented program of music by Britten, Ravel and Beethoven, lecturer in music Philip Carlsen conducts the Bates College Orchestra at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 6.

Acclaimed since the 1960s as an experimental composer and pioneer in meditative music, Oliveros appears at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7.

Both concerts are open to the public at no cost and take place in the Olin Arts Center Concert Hall, 75 Russell St. For more information, please call 207-786-6135.

Youthful abandon, joy and innocence are the themes for the Bates College Orchestra concert. The program features works by Britten and Ravel related directly to childhood, as well as an early Beethoven work, the Symphony No. 1 in C major (Op. 21).

At age 20, English composer Benjamin Britten paid an affectionate visit to his own past in “Simple Symphony,” a string-orchestra piece based on themes from songs and solo piano works he had written between ages 9 and 12. The alliterative titles of the four movements suggest the music’s character: “Boisterous Bouree,” “Playful Pizzicato,” “Sentimental Saraband” and “Frolicsome Finale.”

“Mother Goose Suite” by French composer Maurice Ravel offers five short musical vignettes for children, including the “Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty,” the sparkling Asian-influenced sounds of “Laideronette, Empress of the Pagodas” and “Conversations of Beauty and the Beast,” in which the beast’s words are expressed by the contrabassoon — “a rare visitor to the Olin Arts Center stage,” says conductor Carlsen.

Beethoven was 30 when he wrote his first symphony, but it also has a bright, youthful quality, expressed in exuberant themes, quick tempos and touches of humor.

From her early years as the first director of the Tape Music Center at Mills College to her 14 years as professor of music at the University of California, San Diego, the compositions, performances and innovations of Pauline Oliveros have defined her place in music history. Through her improvisation and electronic music, as well as her teaching and explorations of myth, ritual and meditation, Oliveros’ influence on American music has been profound.

Through “Deep Listening Pieces” and the earlier “Sonic Meditations,” Oliveros introduced the concept of incorporating all environmental sounds into performance. To make a pleasurable experience of this requires intense concentration, skilled musicianship and strong improvisational ability.

In performance Oliveros uses an accordion retuned in two different systems of “just intonation” and equipped with electronics that alter the instrument’s sound and exploit the individual characteristics of each room.

Oliveros has composed under commissions from Lincoln Center and Boston choreographer Paula Josa Jones, a frequent participant in the Bates Dance Festival. She has performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and in concert halls worldwide. In 1985 she founded The Pauline Oliveros Foundation, Inc., to support all aspects of the creative process for a worldwide community of artists.

Oliveros serves as Distinguished Research Professor of Music at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Darius Milhaud Composer in Residence at Mills College.

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