classical music and opera

Outside the Box: SIU’s Eleventh Annual New Music Festival

Who: SIU School of Music and guest artists
What: Outside the Box New Music Festival
When: 2017-04-03 - 2017-04-08
Pictured: Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra.
Craig Wilson
Video Comentary

SIU’s Outside the Box concert series is now in its eleventh year. International composers and performers will once again join forces with musicians from Southern Illinois between April 4 and April 8 to present a weeklong festival of contemporary concert music. Numerous daytime seminars, composition classes, and workshops will precede nightly performances; all events are free of charge and open to the public.

Outside the Box is multidisciplinary, often featuring classical and electro-acoustic instruments alongside electronic music, sound/radio art, film, dance, and visual artworks. The sounds can at times be experimental in nature and may present a challenge to standard conceptions of music. It gives local audiences rare opportunities to not only hear internationally renowned composers and musicians, but to meet and speak with them.

This year’s featured artists and composers are the Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra, Shih-Hui-Chen, Kurt Stallman, Steve Duke, Karl Blench, and Paul Carey. Southern Illinois musicians will take part in every concert.

The festival will commence Tuesday, April 4 at 10 a.m. at the Old Baptist Foundation Recital Hall with SIU School of Music students Convocation; opening night at Shryock Auditorium will feature the SIU Concert Choir, Wind Ensemble, and Percussion Ensemble performing works by Blench, Carey, and Arvo Part with a reception to follow.

Among the other artists, clarinetist and composer Eric Mandat will present an evening of improvisation with the SIU Improvisational Unit Wednesday, April 5 as well as an interactive electro-acoustic improvisation Saturday, April 8. Mandat, an SIU music professor, said that his presentation on Saturday will involve interactive electronics and infrared technology that will modify his live sound. The Altgeld Chamber Players will close the proceedings on the evening of Saturday, April 8.

See <> for the full schedule and additional details.

Nightlife inquired further about the festival with SIU professor of music theory and composition Christopher Walczak, who is himself taking part in a special guest ensemble along with Shih-Hui-Chen, Kurt Stallman, Robert McClure, and Shane Monds.

Can you fill me in on the history of Outside the Box?

Each year, I try to invite composers, performers, and multimedia artists who are innovative, engaging, and have a track record of world-class creative achievements. But it doesn’t end there— I only invite artists who I am certain will engage with our community and the university, who will let us into their creative worlds, and leave us with something that makes us better. New music has a stigma, and it’s not so far off— it can be very experimental and unlike anything you’re bound to hear unless you come to these concerts. Yet the works are masterful, composed and performed by people who are at the top of their respective fields. We encourage the community to open their ears and embrace this music as an adventure.

What are some of the highlights for this year?

Our featured guest ensemble, Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra, resides in Taiwan, but tours the world performing new-music compositions and world premieres of commissioned works that combine western orchestral instruments with traditional Chinese/Taiwanese instruments. They create their own unique sonic universe through this fusion.

I understand you also participate.

Yes, I do. I am the composer here at SIU, so typically a piece or two of mine is performed during Outside the Box so that I might contribute as well. The SIU School of Music faculty donate great energy toward the festival, and we view it as a responsibility to showcase our talents and offer the community something they can really enjoy. I think it’s going to be a good one.

who: SIU School of Music

what: Outside the Box New Music Festival

where: various locations


when: Monday through Saturday, April 3 through April 8

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