Former Grand Valley State University music composition students Adam Cuthbért (2010), Matthew Finch (2015), and Daniel Rhodé (2012) brought their talents back to campus by creating classical music compositions for “Return,” the fourth album recorded by campus group New Music Ensemble.
Bill Ryan, director of New Music Ensemble and a professor of music composition at GVSU, said it’s always been a dream of his to create a “100 percent homegrown project.”
“This recording represents everything I envisioned when I started the New Music Ensemble, an entire album composed by three outstanding creative thinkers who came through our program, enthusiastically performed and recorded by current students,” said Ryan. “The result is a strikingly beautiful 78-minute journey that has been the most gratifying experience of my career.”
Ryan, who was hired by GVSU in 2005, created New Music Ensemble as a class for music composition students. “The focus of this group is to perform recently composed music in the classical field,” he said.
For its previous three CDs, the group recorded recently composed classical music, but Ryan said what makes this album different is that all of the pieces are compositions created by former New Music Ensemble members.
Ryan said “Return” also focused on the seamless combination of acoustic and electronic sound so that listeners can’t always tell the difference between what they are hearing.
“The concept was to create a hybrid world between acoustic and electronic music, where the listener may not recognize the styles they are hearing.”
He said the result “pulls listeners in” through the sense of “intrigue” the sound creates.
“What is interesting to me is when there is that mystery,” Ryan said. “Acoustic instruments are so integrated we might not recognize them as opposed to some instruments performing with some electronic noise behind it. I’m interested in where they join sonically, become one and form this new thing.”
Members of the New Music Ensemble will celebrate the release of “Return” on Friday, Oct. 27 with a performance at 7:30 p.m. at the Louis Armstrong Theatre, located in the Haas Center for Performing Arts on GVSU’s Allendale Campus. This event is free and open to the public.
The composers will also be in attendance, and Cuthbért (who is receiving the Distinguished Alumni Award earlier in the day) is going to open the show with a special performance.
After the concert, there will be an opportunity to meet with all the performers and composers and pick up the CD for a special discounted price. “Return” is also available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.
Since the ensemble formed in 2006, the group has released three other critically acclaimed recordings, which have appeared on “best release lists” by The New York Times, Washington Post, LA Weekly and Time Out Chicago.
Some of the ensemble’s recordings have appeared in film and television shows on MTV, Showtime, as well as at more than 75 film festivals around the world.
The ensemble has completed four tours, including its most recent tour across four U.S. national parks in 2016. The group has also performed at the Bang On a Can Marathon in New York City, the College Music Society National Conference in Atlanta and at Carnegie Hall.
*All photos courtesy of GVSU