…and the reassertion of the SF Bay Area as an international new music hub

Photo by Maarit Kytöharju

Photo by Maarit Kytöharju

For the second time in three years, the UC Berkeley Department of Music will be hosting a high-profile and widely admired composer. Beginning this month, Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho will be in residence at UC Berkeley, together with her husband, the French composer Jean-Baptiste Barrière. Our San Francisco Bay Area new music community will be taking full advantage.

  • The Fall 2015 run of Saariaho events in the Bay Area (all of which she has committed to attend) begins with Berkeley Symphony on October 14, featuring Laterna Magica, the composer’s 2008 work inspired by Ingmar Bergman.
  • The following Friday, October 23, Cal Performances presents the UC Berkeley Music Department’s eco ensemble performing three of her works; the centerpiece is a chamber adaptation of Saariaho’s cello concerto Notes on Light (2006), featuring her close collaborator, cellist Anssi Karttunen.
  • At the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco the following evening, October 24, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players offers works for solo instruments and video by both Saariaho and Barrière, including Artistic Director Steven Schick performing the complex and polyrhythmic Six Japanese Gardens (1994), composed in memory of Toru Takemitsu.
  • The Left Coast Chamber Ensemble program “With You In Mind” concludes this two-week flurry of events: their chamber music set includes Miroirs and Sept Papillons, in Mill Valley on Sunday, October 25, and San Francisco on Monday, October 26.
  • Finally, the UC Berkeley Department of Music will host five Bloch Lectures on campus, from Monday, October 12 through Friday, November 6.

Two years ago, our community welcomed composer-performer-educator George Lewis with a similar outburst of events. Lewis spearheaded a symposium on improvisation that featured workshops, presentations, discussions, and performances over the course of three days. The events were all highly collaborative within academic circles: our concert here at the Center for New Music, titled “People are Machines, Too,” integrated improvisers from the faculties and student bodies of UC Berkeley and Mills College.

Despite annual hand-wringing in the classical world over “graying” and “declining” audiences, the Bay Area’s community of enthusiasts for new, experimental, creative music has long been supercharged by a steady influx of artists from across the musical spectrum. That human resource—of committed and creative artists—and its inherent potential was a major motivating force behind the founding of the Center for New Music, and the launch of our facility in San Francisco.

Now, a transformation is underway. We believe the result will be the SF Bay Area’s reaffirmation as an international new music hub.

Where commercial music scenes make their reputation on a singular aesthetic (Bronx hip-hop, Oakland punk, Seattle grunge), new music thrives in the Bay Area thanks to its diversity of artists, organizations, and institutions. Saariaho’s artistic genesis through Paris’s IRCAM does make her a logical choice for UC Berkeley’s Department of Music, whose recent history is heavily weighted towards composers with similar ties. But for that reason, the eagerness of the community to present a dozen concerts and lectures related to her music demonstrates just how much power and potential has been latent here.

This fall will prove that leading figures from opposing ends of the contemporary music spectrum can be welcomed with fervor in the Bay Area. Our scene is no longer solely a home for post-minimalists, for instrument builders, or for electronic music innovators. Thanks to the kind of mutual support and collaboration that is fostered by the Center for New Music, and growing amongst others, the Bay Area is fast becoming a home for the world’s leading musicians in multiple, diverse, and often opposing idioms.


Buy 1, get 25% off the rest! All presenters of the events mentioned above have agreed to provide a 25% discount for anyone who has purchased a full-price ticket to one Saariaho concert. You’ll receive a code at checkout for any of the above events; if you’ve already purchased tickets, contact the presenter for the discount code.