Labels aren’t a priority for the creative directors behind the College of Music’s Pendulum New Music series.
The live performance/forum for new works, which will officially change its name from Pendulum to CU Boulder SoundWorks in January 2023, doesn’t place the same emphasis on formal categorization that obsesses many music fans and scholars alike. According to Egemen Kesikli, Pendulum/SoundWorks’ newly appointed artistic director, the focus of the concert series is more about inclusion, exploration and innovation than it is about classification.
“We value a broad aesthetic range of sound-based art that is inclusive of all genres and manners of music making, ranging from concert music to songwriting, electroacoustic to jazz, experimental and beyond,” says Kesikli, a composer, performer and educator who earned a doctorate in composition from CU Boulder and a master’s from the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to his new role, Kesikli serves as instructor of music theory at Colorado State University. “In my position for CU Boulder Soundworks, I strive to promote diversity in contemporary music and decolonize the canon.”
On that note, the program’s new title will represent its all-encompassing mission. Kesikli’s own creative output represents an ambitious creative approach, one that includes orchestral works, concertos and chamber works that spotlight traditional Anatolian instruments as well as unorthodox ensemble arrangements. He wants to bring that same spirit to a concert series that’s pushed musical boundaries since its inception in 2001 by CU Boulder faculty Michael Theodore, Andrew May and Daniel Sher. The series kicked off thanks in part to a generous donation by Tom Higley.
“The Pendulum Committee and College of Music have thought long and hard about the mission of this wonderful series and decided that it’s time to rebrand, to better capture its spirit of innovation and inclusivity,” Kesikli says, pointing to the program’s recent achievements under the direction of Elizabeth McNutt, Hsing-ay Hsu, Clay Allen and Annika Socolofsky. “‘SoundWorks’ embraces all visions, creative processes, genres, theories and manners of music making.”
For the CU Boulder Soundworks’ 2022-23 season, that mission translates into a broad range of performers who represent a wide spectrum of backgrounds, musical styles and creative approaches—from two new string quartets by Keenan Powell and Spencer Stepanek, pieces written specifically for the College of Music’s Lírios Quartet; to three new saxophone quartets by Rain Michael, Isabel Goodwin and Ilan Blanck, written for ~Nois, one of the preeminent contemporary music ensembles and saxophone quartets in the country; to two new chamber works by graduate composers Abby Kellems and Jessie Lausé, written for the Boulder Altitude Directive (BAD).
These new works push the vision and accomplishments of the CU Boulder SoundWorks series, even as it honors the achievements of the past. Since its creation more than 20 years ago, the series has featured artists and innovators like Alarm Will Sound, Bang on a Can All Stars, Eighth Blackbird, HOCKET, loadbang, ~Nois and annual appearances by the BAD ensemble, directed by Carter Pann. The CU Boulder Wind Symphony, directed by Donald McKinney, and Renova—the college’s newly established choir founded by Jessie Flasschoen—have also been featured in the series.
For Kesikli, this lineup reflects the all-encompassing heart of CU Boulder SoundWorks, a performance series and format to celebrate new music, deconstruct preconceptions and open the world of composition to a whole new crowd of artists and audience members.
“SoundWorks is inclusive, and avoids a binary of artistic polarities and stylistic dichotomies such as ‘high and low,’ ‘tonal and atonal’ or ‘East and West,’” he concludes.