Composer Joshua Fineberg presents a lecture on his works and ideas influenced by the so-called "spectral" school, using his works for piano—performed by Marilyn Nonken—as keystones to the evolution of his musical thinking. Nonken recently recorded Fineberg's complete solo piano works for Métier. Fineberg and Nonken appear at NEC as guests of the music theory department. Nonken also appears here later this week as part of NEC's Piano Seminar.
Joshua Fineberg, who teaches at Boston University and is Director of the Center for New Music and the Electronic Music Studio at BU, is a leader of the second generation of composers influenced by the so-called "spectral" school associated with Gerard Grisey and Tristan Murail.
He will discuss his use of research in acoustics and psycho-acoustics (the study of sonic perception) to craft a musical language sensitive to the innate biases of our hearing. Fineberg’s music draws on a vast range of influences: nearly all of his compositions are based on models, ranging from physics and biochemistry to Tibetan rituals and Japanese formal gardens and to the double-bass and human speech. He considers the use of models fundamental to his entire compositional approach. They may be poetic models as well as concrete technical ones—indeed the two may be directly related to each other, resulting in a music in which the relationship between acoustical models and the resultant music is elusive and sophisticated.
In the last decade, he has been trying to get past many of the old arguments about form or content, affect or structure, and find a perceptual framework that allows one to have it both ways: focusing on creating the sense within a piece of music that the work is not just a concrete acoustic/perceptual object, but is a kind of sonic fiction: That is to say, the work is an acoustic perceptual object that is overtly and constantly being shaped and manipulated by authorial and interpretive voices in order to produce specific affects.
Marilyn Nonken, Director of Piano Studies at New York University's Steinhardt School, is one of the most celebrated champions of the modern repertoire of her generation, known for performances that explore transcendent virtuosity and extremes of musical expression.She has written extensively on the perception and performance practice of contemporary music and is currently completing a monograph for Cambridge University Press, The Spectral Piano: From Liszt, Scriabin, and Debussy to the Digital Age.