Apocalyptic scenarios. The scraping of piano strings. The Virgin Mary. While these topics may have little in common, they will be brought to life musically on Friday when guest pianist Kari Johnson performs an electroacoustic music concert in Kimbrough Concert Hall.
The free concert, part of WSU’s Festival of Contemporary Art Music, will take place at 3 p.m. and is open to the public.
Johnson, a faculty member of Avila University in Kansas City, Miss. has performed at music festivals across the country. She was also a featured performer at the 2011 Thailand International Composition Festival as part of former chamber group Quadrivium.
Her first CD, a recording of WSU music instructor Scott Blasco’s “Queen of Heaven,” was released Tuesday under the Kansas City record label Irritable Hedgehog. Johnson said electroacoustic music is hard to describe because it can be many different things.
“It can be something similar to what you might hear in a Radiohead concert,” said Johnson. “It could be avant-garde performance art, or even something stranger.”
Friday's concert will encompass a wide range of electronic music and electroacoustic sound, she said.
Blasco, an instructor of music theory, composition and electronic music at WSU, will run the electronic sound portion of the concert. He said electroacoustic music has a reputation of being more about technology and computers than music. Blasco said in this concert, however, the music is what’s primary.
Johnson will perform four pieces: “Lush Intrinsic” by Dan VanHassel, “The End of Histories” by Christopher Biggs, “Scrap Metal” by Jason Bolte and Blasco’s composition, “Queen of Heaven.”
Johnson said he and Blasco chose the music because they thought it would be a good fit for concert’s time frame and audience.
Of the four compositions, Blasco said VanHassel’s piece draws on a musical vocabulary that resembles trance or electronica, featuring the pianist interacting with electronic sounds.
“The End of Histories” deals with various end-of-the-world situations and includes a video made by the composer. Bolte’s “Scrap Metal” is filled with sounds from the interior of a piano, Blasco said.
“You strum inside of the piano and make really harsh, metallic kinds of sounds,” Johnson said of Bolte’s composition. “Some of my audience members in the past have found [it] to be a bit terrifying.”
Blasco’s “Queen of Heaven” is a five-movement piece about the Virgin Mary. Each movement has its own sound, but all are intended to be immersive and meditative, Blasco said.
According to the Web site for The Festival of Contemporary Art Music, the event was founded in 1989 by WSU music professor Charles Argersinger.
The festival’s aim is to provide a forum for recently composed music, Blasco said.
Johnson said she has been playing music written in the last decade by living composers on a nearly exclusive basis during the last year.
It is her symbiotic relationship with the composers and their work, she said, that allows her to travel and perform as often as she does, usually about two to three times a semester. Johnson will travel to Montana State University on Feb. 5 for another performance.
In addition to the electroacoustic concert, the festival features a student composer concert, faculty composer concert, and guest concert for a prominent American composer.
This year’s guest composer is Lowell Liebermann, who will be premiering a new work written for a pair of WSU piano faculty during his concert on Saturday, Blasco said. Liebermann will also host a lecture at 11 a.m. on Friday in Kimbrough Hall Room K346.