As a new year begins, so does a new music series at The Juilliard School.
It’s actually called the New Series, and it’s the brainchild of David Serkin Ludwig, dean and director of Juilliard’s music division. “This is a way for us as a school to bring together our divisions and highlight the music division’s efforts in new music,” Ludwig explains. “Our mantra is to play new music like it’s old and old music like it’s new, and that is our focus when it comes to contemporary music.”
The first edition of the New Series comprises four performances in various Juilliard venues—one each month, from January to April— and will include supplemental events such as preconcert talks and artist Q&As so that performers and audiences will have constructive dialogues about the works being presented.
The series opens on January 19 at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater, as Juilliard’s director of conducting studies, David Robertson, leads a pairing of pieces composed for the same septet of instruments: Stravinsky’s L’histoire du soldat (1918) with a complementary work composed in 1998, A Fiddler’s Tale, by Wynton Marsalis, director of Juilliard Jazz. For this performance of mirrored morality plays in which a good man is tempted by the devil in some form, students from the school’s dance and drama divisions will also appear. “That we are having collaborations with our drama and dance divisions is appropriate, since this first concert has the entire school coming together,” Ludwig says.
Collaboration is also the linchpin of the February 6 performance, as students from both of Juilliard’s campuses—in New York City and Tianjin, China—will together play In C, Terry Riley’s groundbreaking minimalist work, composed in 1964. In addition, Juilliard dance students will be improvising movements to the music, and the school’s Center for Innovation in the Arts is creating the technology and video projection needed to ensure that the musicians, 7,000 miles apart, will be able to perform this challenging work in real time. As Ludwig describes it, “Audiences who attend the live performance will see a screen with the Tianjin students (it will be the next morning in China) as the New York students play onstage."
On March 30, in the intimate confines of Studio 543, vocal and chamber music by Juilliard alumna Reena Esmail will be performed, including a new work, Who makes a clearing, for soprano, violin, and cello. As Ludwig notes, Esmail’s distinctive sounds come from her bridging Western classical and Hindustani musical traditions. “Those influences on Reena’s music allow for collaborations with others in our school community where Hindustani has also been part of their practice,” he says.
The final event in the inaugural season of Juilliard’s New Series is based on composition faculty member Amy Beth Kirsten’s Théâtre Études class, which combines theatrical elements, movement, music, voice, and multimedia to create a new performance practice. The students in the class—comprising not just composers but also dance and drama students—will present a culminating performance on April 13.
“Amy’s class has a collaborative element that highlights what makes Juilliard so special,” Ludwig says. “Even though the class is music- centric, it is really about the ideation of a work. As the music is created, there is movement, lighting, staging, all brought together. As a composer myself, I can tell you that, very often, we write a piece and hand it over to the performers: Once it’s written, it’s written. So what’s interesting about this performance is we will see the result of a true collaboration, how a work is brought into being.”
Although it’s called the New Series, as Ludwig notes, what will be on display on Juilliard’s stages this winter and spring is anything but new—it’s part of a long continuum of creative exploration among the school’s music, dance, and drama divisions: “There’s always a dialogue going on among our students, and that collaboration leads to something equally important: community building.”
Kevin Filipski is Juilliard’s program editor.
For more information about Juilliard’s New Series concerts— including programming and artist updates—visit juilliard.com/calendar.