Local Composers to Perform Original Scores
Aiken, SC (01/04/2019) — The Aiken Composers Guild will present its first concert Jan. 14, at 7:30 p.m., in the Etherredge Center. The concert is free and open to the public.
The event promises to be rather interactive. After a traditional concert in the Etherredge Center Main Stage, the concert goes outdoors and includes a stroll to the USC Aiken Bridge, led by Dr. Mark Hollingsworth on the bagpipes. At the bridge, patrons will experience a dynamic walk across the USC Aiken Bridge. The concert culminates with a piano burning, while the score by the same name is played.
"Yes, we are going to burn a piano," says Hollingsworth, dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.
The bonfire will take place near the USC Aiken Convocation Center. During the event, a local pianist will perform Piano Burning by New York composer Annea Lockwood. Similar events have taken place all over the world, including the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States.
Lockwood appreciates new approaches to the experience but insists that the piano used for the performance is one that cannot be repaired. A music student at USC Aiken heard about the event and wanted to replicate it here, so he teamed up with the Aiken Composers Guild and found a non-functioning piano that's been sitting unused in a garage for years.
The flaming finale comes at the end of what Hollingsworth says will be a unique experience throughout the concert. Local musicians will perform original scores written by ACG members, which includes students, USC Aiken current and former professors and community members.
"We are very excited about this; it's a throwback to the 60s and 70s and is very avant-garde," said guild founder Dr. Richard Maltz, distinguished professor of music emeritus who retired last spring.
The concert will include works composed by Maltz, Hollingsworth, adjunct professors, students and community members. Each composer is responsible for arranging for the performers for their original scores. For instance, USC Aiken guitar professor, Steve Sloan, who just released a CD, will perform a piece composed by Maltz, which is also featured on the CD.
"We play each other's work and share our performing talents," Hollingsworth said.
"For composers, we just want to get our music out there, performed for audiences."
While Maltz formed the Aiken Composers Guild last fall, just months after he retired, Hollingsworth serves as the campus liaison for the group, which meets once a month in an effort to create and preserve new music.
Maltz said the inspiration for the formation of the guild was the fact that he missed working with students, particularly those in his composition classes.
"Only one month into retirement, I decided why couldn't I continue meeting with these students on a regular basis and help them with their own works?"
Through the ACG, he continues to present seminars for local composers. Planning performances is part of his responsibility because he wants to ensure the music is shared.
During the upcoming recital, audience members will enjoy a variety of composition styles - and events.
"We have some traditional works, pieces that include electronics, and modern approaches to music," Maltz said.
"There's a whole palate of works that feature different musical concepts. It's very eclectic."
He invites concert goers to any part of the recital. Some may choose only to attend the performance in the Etherredge Center, while others may want to enjoy every selection, including the interactive pieces.
After the theater-style performance, Hollingsworth will play an original score on the bagpipes, leading guests from the Etherredge Center to the USC Aiken Bridge. While crossing the pedestrian bridge, audience members will experience Sonic Bridge, a selection that features electronic sounds created by a music education major and a USC Aiken professor. As patrons walk across the bridge, they will hear a symphony of electronic music.
Once on the other side of the bridge, guild members will light a piano on fire. Lockwood's Piano Burning serves as the finale for the unique concert.
"Originally, the score called for the piano to be played until it gets too hot, but in the interest of safety, the audience will remain several feet away and will hear different sounds as strings pop and the fire crackles," said Hollingsworth.
"Each time this is done, it's a different musical experience."
The concert concludes when the metal frame of the inoperable, burning piano crashes to the ground.
"It's a special experience," said Hollingsworth.
Both he and Maltz witnessed a similar event at the University of North Texas many years ago, and they are excited to bring it to Aiken.
"It's a very social event and puts people in touch with each other," said Maltz.
"It's not just about the sound enjoyed but the environment created from it."
The Aiken Composers Guild's unique inaugural concert takes place on Jan. 14, at 7:30 p.m. The free concert, which is open to the public, begins in the USC Aiken Etherredge Center.