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Ohio State Wind Symphony to showcase new compositions in ‘Premieres’

Courtesy of Nicholas Enz

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“My Brother’s Brain” is not a common title for a musical piece, said conductor Russel Mikkelson, and it’s also not something an Ohio State audience has heard before.

“My Brother’s Brain: A Symphony for Winds,” which was composed by Carter Pann, guest composer-in-residence, is set to be featured after intermission for the entire second half of the OSU Wind Symphony’s performance of “Premieres.”

Mikkelson, director of university bands at OSU, is set to conduct “Premieres” Wednesday at 8 p.m. in Weigel Hall Auditorium. 

Pann is an American composer known for his “subtle and unabashed humor, and haunted melodic writing,” according to his website. His music has been performed around the world, and his “Piano Concerto” was nominated for a Grammy in 2001 for Best Classical Composition of the Year.

“My Brother’s Brain” is composed of three sections. The first, “The Inventions,” is a musical description of Pann’s brother’s affinity for puzzles and “tearing things apart,” Mikkelson said. The second section, “Demonsphere,” is meant to be more sentimental, as it portrays Pann reacting to his brother’s suffering from nightmares and mental illness. “The Hymn of Forgiving” is the third section, and it is Pann’s “musical apology” for treating his younger brother the way he did as a child.

Mikkelson said this is the first time the audience will hear “My Brother’s Brain” as a consortium.

A consortium is when a piece is commissioned as a group.

The first time the symphony chose to play Pann’s music it had such a positive experience that its members wanted to do it again.

“This is our second time (with Pann’s music),” Mikkelson said. “The first time we played ‘Concerto Logic,’ and we were contacted again. This piece is like his baby. Pann is a unique composer of very profound music that is very attractive to first hearing.”

Doctoral student in music Nicholas Enz is set to guest conduct part of the first half and said he thinks the audience can look forward to a different form of music.

“I am only guest conducting one piece (‘Radiant Joy’ by Steven Bryant), the very first work on the concert, and a lot of the works on the performance are going to be premieres, brand new works,” Enz said. “I hope (the audience) leaves excited, and all the music is very uplifting.”

Joseph Sferra, a master’s student in composition at OSU, said he is grateful for one of his compositions to be played by the OSU Wind Symphony for the first time.
His piece, “Get That Stuff Going,” is listed as “Untitled” on the program, and it is one of two pieces that are world premieres for the audience.

“What’s different about this performance is we’re doing two premieres, one is my piece, and the other is by Carter Pann,” Sferra said. “It’s not the first time (Pann’s) piece has been played, but because the band commissioned it, we’re part of (premiering) it. That’s a really cool opportunity for us to play new music. Any time that the Wind Symphony is willing to give me a performance I’m more than grateful for it.”

Sferra said the Wind Symphony performance could serve as something a bit new and different than a regular symphony orchestra show.

“Well, for my piece you’re going to hear some stuff that you’re not usually expecting to hear in a concert,” he said. “You’re also going to hear with the other two pieces the cool, wild sounds. The Wind Symphony, as opposed to a symphony orchestra, attracts a lot of new music, and we get a lot of exciting cool sounds that people who don’t go to concerts might not expect to hear.”

Mikkelson said that with any performance, he wants the audience to “feel something.”

“I want them to walk out of that concert thinking, ‘I love this particular piece’ or ‘This particular piece I didn’t care for but I’m not sure why,'” he said. “Going to a band concert should not be a spectator sport. You should really be engaged in the music making and the energy that happens when you’re doing new music, especially when the composer of the symphony is playing the piano onstage with us. I want the audience to react in some emotional way to what we’re doing in terms of the art we’re creating.”

Tickets are $10 and are available through the OSU Theatre box office at the Drake Performance Center.

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