New Music Collective aims to shock, entertain

Pamela Carmasine

Two years ago, three music composition majors founded a new group on campus with the goal of redesigning the traditional “play, bow, clap, repeat” format of most music performances.

The New Music Collective performs all-original compositions that co-founder Gaspard Le Dem said are an “alternative to what Bienen kids listen to.”

In addition to vocalists, group members play the guitar, French horn, saxophone, drum set, piano, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet and violin.

“‘New music’ is a kind of intentionally vague term that refers to anything we, as a group, deem interesting and fresh,” Collective co-founder Lucas Segall said.

During standard concerts, “the audience sits in a dark auditorium in reverential silence while they are entertained,” said Segall, a Bienen junior. “It’s really uncomfortable.”

In contrast, group members said their performances aim to share their excitement about the music with the audience.

“There is no conductor or concertmasters, and the performers are not ‘celebrities,'” said Le Dem, a Bienen junior. “(Our performances are) more about the energy and a distinct sound.”

On the basis that forced elevation creates a division between musicians and their audience, the group eliminates stages from their performances. Concerts also include improvisation and experimental techniques.

The accepted mantra of the group is “no music by dead people,” Segall said.

Yet not everyone agrees with the Collective’s take on the existing NU music scene.

“The concert hall should not be avoided,” said Bienen freshman Michael San Gabino. “Today, more than ever, the classical world is open to new and innovative works.”

All musicians should hold “some appreciation and respect for the art form,” said Gabino, a saxophone performance major and member of several music ensembles on campus.

Drew Edward Davies, a musicology professor, said he was confident in the quality of musical education offered by each department within the school.

“The whole campus would benefit if the Bienen school had more world music/non-Western performance opportunities, both from official and student-run avenues,” he said. “Many students are looking to participate or listen to non-Western musics, and I see that as an opportunity for growth.”

Founders said they hope in the future to collaborate with other campus performing groups such as the Graffiti Dancers. The group’s organization also differs from the standard format. All decisions are made by consensus, and the members come in with a variety of music backgrounds.

While in high school, Le Dem said he taught himself music theory and played in a progressive rock band. In contrast Segall said he was trained and participated in classical ensembles.

“Our goal is more to shock than impress,” Le Dem said.

While group members shy away from performing music written by others, they admit it influences what they create.

“The stuff on the radio has been influenced by people,” Le Dem said. “We are not influenced by the Top 40; we are influenced by the people who influenced the Top 40.”

The premiere New Music Collective concert of the year will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 25 at 7:30 p.m. in the Pick-Staiger Rehearsal Room.

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