ConTemplum is a student organization that allows both graduate and undergraduate students to write and perform their own contemporary classical music.
It has been an official organization for approximately four years now, but it existed several years before that, conTemplum president and third-year doctoral student Ryan Olivier said.
The main goal conTemplum strives to achieve is “anything we can do to promote new music,” Olivier said. “We try to facilitate whatever [members] want to do.”
Essentially, if someone comes to conTemplum with a composition in mind, it is the group’s job to acquire the funds, the venue and the appropriate performers to bring the composer’s vision to fruition.
ConTemplum has also done collaborations in the past with the film department, Tyler School of Art and the Boyer College of Music and Dance.
With a fairly even split between graduates and undergraduates in the group, conTemplum holds a concert for undergraduate pieces in the fall and graduate pieces in the spring.
The undergraduate concert was held Nov. 1 at Rock Hall. The entire Temple Composers Orchestra performed four orchestral pieces, as well as five pieces of chamber music.
The concert started with “Nereids” composed by Erin Busch. “Nereids” refers to friendly sea nymphs from Greek mythology, according to the program notes. It was an intricate piece that seemed appropriate as the backdrop for a hero on some sort of great quest, showcasing gracefully coordinated string instruments and a rising and falling of action akin to that of an epic tale.
Then followed “build.break” by Andrew Taylor, which teetered on the more avant-garde side of the spectrum. It featured an eerie key and an exponentially increasing level of suspense that kept audience members on the edge of their seats. The program noted, “much of [Taylor’s] music is focused on articulation of queer and transgender narratives and navigation of normative structures.”
“Janvier” by Alexander Goodhart was a more somber piece dedicated to his mother, Lida.
The performances with the full orchestra reached a close with “Excalibur” by Julian Mykytiuch, which was a reference to the sword used by King Arthur. The piece had a medieval, powerful effect — paired with the legendary story it derives its name from.
And so began the chamber music, starting off with “Andante and Allegro Energico” by Alex Kruchoski, a piece using the viola and piano.
“The themes for this piece came to me, as most do, while I was supposed to be working diligently on another piece,” Kruchoski said. “My pursuit was the development of feisty motives and angular harmonic language. As a violist, I also wanted to add something fun to the repertoire: a new piece that rests well on the fingers, the bow arm and the C string.”
“Desert Island Suite” by Kenneth Glendon Brown was performed solely on piano by the composer himself. Divided into five movements, Brown said the piece should take the listener on a very intimate and dynamic journey through the emotions of the composer.
“The story is told in reverse chronological order. Thus, the Broken Nocturne happened first, followed by a period of ‘Courtly Dances,’ after which the ‘Swan Song’ necessitated the ‘Elegy for Acquaintances.’ Last is the ‘Prelude for the Rest of My Life,’ representing my present,” Brown said.
Then, there was the “Two Pieces for Solo Clarinet” by Anthony Ciesielka, divided into two pieces that demonstrated the capabilities and personalities of clarinet in different ways. The first piece alternated long strings of notes with bursts of flourishing sound, while the second was continuous in nature.
“Duet for Violin and Piano in E-flat Minor” by Eric Crossen had the two instruments contrasting each other in a pleasing manor.
“I have spent the better part of a month constructing it and making changes to fit the need of the music. I started with a simple idea, I wanted a soothing melody over top a percussive rhythmic background, and really built off of that,” Crossen said.
The final piece of conTemplum’s concert was “Sonata for Violin and Piano” by Daniel Fox, which had three movements. The piece started with “grand gestures followed by short outbursts,” but ended with “the music [finding] peace and [ending] quietly,” Fox said.
With a creative outlet outside of the classroom that these musicians and composers require, one of the most notable aspects of conTemplum is that people dom’t need to be a composition major to have your music reviewed and performed.
Sam Stough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.