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New Sounds from OSSIA at Eastman

Feb 24, 2019

Noah Kahrs preparing for an OSSIA new music concert

A group of students at the Eastman School of Music wants to expand the range of sounds in your life: they're the student-run new music ensemble, OSSIA.

Noah Kahrs is a composer in the last semester of a master’s degree program at Eastman and technical director for OSSIA.

Kahrs says one of the more memorable pieces he worked on with OSSIA was Xerox Rock, by Celeste Oram.

"The score of the piece is a video, compiled from YouTube videos of people performing instruments, and the performers are asked to replicate those motions," Kahrs explained. "My job consisted of recording every rehearsal, and creating a backing track, so when you were hearing the piece, you were hearing every previous rehearsal of the piece at the same time."

During its next concert, OSSIA will play a piece that Kahrs wrote called "Arithmetics." It draws on his experiences combining math and music.

"My piece is focused on a few different ways of adding and subtracting note content," he descirbed. "One of them is that if you play two notes together extremely loudly – a third note will just sort of be created in your ear drum. It's there in your head, but it isn't really there in the air."

Guitarist Erik Gibelyou

One of the performers who plays for Ossia is guitarist Erik Gibelyou, a doctoral student in classical guitar. Playing to imitate Youtube videos is only one of the unusual things he’s experienced playing in the group.

"I had never been to a school where there were ensembles quite like this," Gibelyou explained. "Eventually an opportunity came up last year when I was asked to play on a piece called "Vermillion" by Rebecca Saunders, which was really really cool and very, very strange. It was much different from anything I had played before, and the score - It called for all sorts of extended techniques – including rubbing metal bottle necks up and down a guitar, while tapping it with a second bottle neck. All of this was carefully orchestrated with the other two instruments in the ensemble, a cello and a clarinet, and I just really really enjoyed that experience."

They're now taking that experience off campus in interesting ways. Earlier this year, OSSIA performed a new music open mic at The Spirit Room, and they're planning upcoming shows at the Memorial Art Gallery and Small World Books.

Gibelyou says that this music works well in different spaces, because of its style. "New music has something punk about it, a little rebellious," Gibelyou explained. "Certainly there are styles that are rebelling against the establishment of classical music, and there's something appealing about that too, as a performer and as a listener. I think I sense that in the audience that comes to these kind of shows, they're looking for something that's a little anti-establishment."

You can hear OSSIA in concert at Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music Tuesday at 7:30pm; and follow their projects on Facebook and Instagram.