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 UW Modern Music Ensemble

Tuesday, March 5, 2024 - 7:30pm
$10 all tickets.
Modern Music Ensemble
Cristina Valdés leads the UW Modern Music Ensemble.

The UW Modern Music Ensemble (Cristina Valdés, director), performs works by Yiğit Kolat, Ania Vu, Evis Sammoutis, Chen Yi,  and George Crumb. Program includes the world premiere of Spomenik I, by UW faculty composer Yiğit Kolat and the West Coast premieres of Ania Vu's Tik-Tak, and Evis Sammoutis' Rotational Gravities. 


Spomenik I (2024): Yiğit Kolat (b. 1984)
Rachel Reyes, flute; Justin Zeitlinger, violin; Cole Henslee, tuba; Melissa Wang, percussion
World Premiere

Tik-Tak (2019): Ania Vu (b. 1994)
Cassidy Cheong, soprano; Rachel Reyes, flute; Brian Schappals, clarinet; Justin Zeitlinger, violin; Melissa Wang, percussion; Ryan Farris, conductor
West Coast Premiere

Rotational Gravities (2009): Evis Sammoutis (b. 1979)
Rachel Reyes, flute; Justin Zeitlinger, violin; Cole Henslee, tuba; Melissa Wang, percussion; Alex Fang, piano
West Coast Premiere

… as like a raging fire… (2002): Chen Yi (b. 1953)
Rachel Reyes, flute; Brian Schappals, clarinet; Justin Zeitlinger, violin; Sarah Rommel, cello; Alex Fang, piano

- Intermission -

Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale) (1971): George Crumb (1929-2022)
   Vocalise (…for the beginning of time) (1929-2022)
           Variations on Sea-Time
           Sea Theme
           Archeozoic (Var. I)
           Proterozoic (Var. II)
           Paleozoic (Var. III)
           Mesozoic (Var. IV)
           Cenozoic (Var. V)
   Sea Nocturne (…for the end of time)

Rachel Reyes, flute; Ryan Farris, cello; Alex Fang, piano

Program Notes

Spomenik I (2024, world premiere) by Yiğit Kolat (b. 1984)

“A concept is a brick. It can be used to build the courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window." —Brian Massumi, in Pleasures of Philosophy, a translator’s foreword to Deleuze & Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus

"I've learned love is like a brick, you can / build a house or sink a dead body” —Lady Gaga, “Judas”

Tik-Tak (2019, West Coast premiere) by Ania Vu (b. 1994)

Written for and premiered by the TAK Ensemble in March 2019, University of Pennsylvania.

From the composer:

“Time moves on mercilessly — independent of, and indifferent to any of our human events and interactions. Any meaningful moment that we would like to hold on to... vanishes irrevocably, as if nothing had happened. This line opens and closes the poem. Tik-Tak reminds us of the relentless flow of time with the incessant sounds of a ticking clock. I chose to write in Polish because the clock’s “tik-tak” contains the word “tak”, which has a number of meanings in this language — yes, such as, as if, as much — all of them being used in the poem. Finally, this word is also a bow to the ensemble it was written for: the TAK ensemble.”



Jak gdyby nic

Jak gdyby nigdy nic

Zegar tyka

Czas upływa

Nic nie wraca

Znów ucieka

Nie ogląda się za siebie

Goni cały czas

Ale dokąd? Dokąd on tak goni?

Czemu on nas goni,

...tak nietaktownie?

Teraz chwila ta

Czułe spojrzenia twe

I niesłychane mi dotąd wyznania


Tak o tak.

Za pięć tysięcy lat

Zegary ustąpią

A czas dalej będzie gonił



Tak, jak gdyby nigdy nic.



As if nothing

As if nothing had happened

Clock is ticking

Time is running

With no return

It’s running again,

It does not look back

It keeps rushing the whole time

But where to? Where is it rushing to?

Why is it rushing us, untactfully?

Now this very moment

Your tender gaze

And unheard-of confessions

Will vanish!

Just like that

In five thousand years

The clocks will cease ticking

But time will still be running



As if nothing had happened.

Rotational Gravities (2009, West Coast premiere) by Evis Sammoutis (b. 1979)

From the composer: 

“Rotational Gravities is my only work to date to be scored for open instrumentation and duration. The composition is organized in three main sections, with very specific pitch indications. The performers are given a set of possible rhythmic permutations, but the duration of these options is left entirely to them. The choice of form is also shaped by the performers, who select specific performance techniques from a technical list of options. Therefore, depending on the instrumentation for each performance, these would vary, for example a bass clarinetist can choose “slap tongues” to portray attacks, whereas a cellist might choose “snap pizzicatos”. The material is laid out in such a way, so as to give as much room for interpretation as possible. Consequently, the performers for each version become co-authors of the work and can choose different forms for each performance. They are encouraged to explore these possibilities in rehearsal; therefore, the piece becomes a metaphor for an imaginary laboratory of possibilities and structural explorations, serving both artistic and educational goals.”

… as like a raging fire… (2002) by Chen Yi (b. 1953)

From the composer:

“Commissioned and premiered by Network for New Music on February 24, 2002 in Philadelphia, conducted by Jennifer Higdon, …as like a raging fire… was composed for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano, with a commissioning grant from Meet The Composer’s Commissioning/USA program. In the music, I’ve expressed my impression of a raging fire, which is external but also internal — it’s in nature but also in the spirit.”

Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale) (1971) by George Crumb (1929-2022)

Inspired by 1960s tape recordings of the humpback whale, American avant-garde composer George Crumb wrote Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale) for electric flute, electric cello, and electric piano. Crumb instructs the performers to use techniques such as singing and playing on the flute to imitate the whale's song; cello harmonics to emulate a seagull's cry; Aeolian harp strumming and plucking; the placement of chisels, glass, and paper clips in the piano; and the use of shimmering crotales to reflect the sounds of a marine, otherworldly environment. To further transport the audience away from the concert stage, Crumb directs performers to wear black masks to symbolize non-human forces of nature and utilize deep blue stage lighting to create an ocean-like surrounding. The prologue, movements named after geological eras, and epilogue take listeners on a journey through time to explore the mysteries of the deep—a suspension in time that goes beyond the threshold of hearing. 

Vox Balaenae was premiered on March 17, 1972, at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. by the New York Camerata. From the composer:

“The form of Voice of the Whale is a simple three-part design, consisting of a prologue, a set of variations named after the geological eras, and an epilogue.

The opening vocalise, marked in the score, ‘Wildly fantastic, grotesque,’ is a kind of cadenza for the flutist, who simultaneously plays his or her instrument and sings into it. This combination of instrumental and vocal sound produces an eerie, surreal timbre, not unlike the sounds of the humpbacked whale. The conclusion of the cadenza is announced by a parody of the opening measures of Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra [also used in the film 2001]. The sea theme, marked in the score, ‘Solemn, with calm majesty,’ is presented by the cello in harmonics, accompanied by dark fateful chords of strummed piano strings.

The following sequence of variations begins with the haunting sea gull cries of the Archeozoic era, marked, ‘Timeless, inchoate,’ and, gradually increasing in intensity, reaches a strident climax in the Cenozoic era, marked, ‘Dramatic, with a feeling of destiny.’ The emergence of man in the Cenozoic era is symbolized by a restatement of the Zarathustra reference.

The concluding Sea Nocturne, marked, ‘Serene, pure, transfigured,’ is an elaboration of the sea theme. The piece is couched in the luminous tonality of B major, and there are shimmering sounds of antique cymbals played alternately by the cellist and flutist. In composing the Sea Nocturne I wanted to suggest a larger rhythm of nature and a sense of suspension in time. The concluding gesture of the work is a gradually dying series of repetitions of a ten-note figure. In concert performance the last figure is to be played in pantomime to suggest a diminuendo beyond the threshold of hearing.”

Composer Biographies

Yiğit Kolat

Yiğit Kolat’s music explores the liminal frontiers of musical activity and potentialities in processing extra-musical data as musical information. The complicated political and social environment of his native Turkey is a recurring theme in his diverse output, which includes acoustic, electro-acoustic, and electronic works written for orchestra, chamber ensembles, voice, and solo instruments.

His works, described as “touching and convincing...a multi-sensory universe,” (K. Saariaho) have been recognized by a prestigious array of international organizations, including the Bogliasco Foundation (2016 Edward T. Cone Bogliasco Fellow in Music), the Tōru Takemitsu Composition Award (1st Prize, 2015), the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium (Finalist, 2013), and the Concours International de Composition Henri Dutilleux (2nd Prize, 2012).

His music has been featured throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia by leading ensembles and soloists, among them the Tokyo Philharmonic and Ryoko Aoki (Japan); Solistes de L’Orchestre de Tours, Donatienne Michel-Dansac, and Pascal Gallois (France); The Nieuw Ensemble, The Black Pencil Ensemble, and the Duo Mares (The Netherlands); Eric Wubbels, Jonathan Shames, the Talea Ensemble, and the Argento New Music Project (USA); the Presidential Symphony Orchestra of Turkey; Peter Sheppard-Skaerved and Aaron Shorr (Great Britain). His music has been broadcast by the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) and Turkish Radio Television (TRT).

Ania Vu

Polish of Vietnamese descent composer and pianist, Ania Vu (née Vũ Đặng Minh Anh) writes music that explores the interplay between the sound properties of the words and their meanings, musical energy related to form, and varied notions of time. She also enjoys crafting her own text that serves as a sonic, formal, and expressive guiding reference in her musical writing process.

Her recent premiere of "small tenderness" at Tanglewood's Festival of Contemporary Music was described by the Boston Globe as an exhibition of "artful vocal writing [that] ranges from percussive whispers to glinting, pure-voiced lines that [...] blended elegantly into the roiling cauldron of strings." Ania has received recognition and fellowships from ASCAP, the American Opera Project, Copland House, Tanglewood, the Boston New Music Initiative, and the I-Park Foundation, and has been privileged to have worked with the New Fromm players, the Grossman Ensemble, DanceWorks Chicago, the Mannes American Composers Ensemble (MACE), the Daedalus and Mivos string quartets, Sō Percussion, the TAK Ensemble, and the International Contemporary Ensemble, among others.

Ania was the 2022-23 Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Chicago's Center for Contemporary Composition and a 2021-23 composer fellow with the Composers & the Voice. She was a lecturer in composition at the University of Texas at Austin and is currently a lecturer at the University of Chicago. Ania received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and her B.M. in composition and theory from the Eastman School of Music.

Together with pianist Eunmi Ko, they started an initiative called The Music She Writes, a series of four virtual concerts featuring 25 works by Asian female composers. This project aims to highlight the diversity and significance of music by a very large, yet underrepresented community.

Outside of music, Ania has a deep interest in languages, and speaks fluent English, Polish, French, and Vietnamese, in addition to having studied Latin, German, and Greek. She also enjoys traveling - having visited 30 countries so far -, wandering in all kinds of museums, and ballroom dancing.

Evis Sammoutis

Cyprus-born composer Evis Sammoutis (1979) is a multi-award-winning artist, who has received numerous accolades and distinctions and over 40 international compositional awards, prizes, and scholarships, such as the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society Award (England), and the Irino Prize (Japan). 

Sammoutis' works have been commissioned by festivals and organizations, such as the Venice Biennale, Klangspuren, Royaumont, Barlow Endowment, Ernst von Siemens Foundation, Chamber Music America and Internationaler Musikwettbewerb der ARD München (twice); performed at leading festivals and contemporary music series, such as Tanglewood, MusicNOW, Gaudeamus, Music of Today and ISCM, in more than 45 countries, and broadcast on several national radio stations, such as BBC Radio 3, SWR2, Radio France and RAI3. 

Performers include leading ensembles and specialists in new music such as the Ensemble Modern, Klangforum Wien, the Arditti Quartet, Les Percussions de Strasbourg; orchestras such as London Symphony Orchestra, Holland Symfonia, the Orchestra of Opera North; and soloists such as Peter Sheppard Skaerved, David Alberman, Alan Thomas, Rohan de Saram, Hélène Fauchère and Uli Fussenegger to name a few. Conductors include Christoph Poppen, Elgar Howarth, Kasper de Roo and Franck Ollu, among others.

Sammoutis' music predominantly explores the relationship between timbre and harmony, frequently using unorthodox methods of playing musical instruments to create unusual and highly virtuosic musical landscapes. Creating a context where extended instrumental and vocal techniques, as well as sounds traditionally associated as non-musical, are naturally fused with more traditional features of expression is central to his aesthetic.

Sammoutis often makes use of new technology to assist the compositional process by employing a variety of tools to analyze, categorize and structure sounds. Through his creative oeuvre, the composer aims to find common ground for the symbiosis of traditionally Western classical music features and non-traditional Western features that exist in the music of his home country, Cyprus.

Sammoutis is currently Associate Professor of Composition and Director of the Electronic Music Studios at Ithaca College, NY. He is the Co-founder and Artistic Director of the Pharos Arts Foundation International Contemporary Music Festival, established in 2009.

Evis Sammoutis graduated from the University of Hull with a first-class degree (BMus) in all disciplines and the Departmental Prize, and completed his PhD studies in Musical Composition at the University of York under the supervision of Dr Thomas Simaku in 2006. He has furthered his studies at world-renowned festivals, seminars and workshops, including Darmstadt, IRCAM, Royaumont and Tanglewood as a composition fellow, and worked with leading composers such as Brian Ferneyhough, Georges Aperghis and George Benjamin. 

Chen Yi

As a prolific composer who blends Chinese and Western traditions, transcending cultural and musical boundaries, Dr. Chen Yi is a recipient of the Ives Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2001. She has been Lorena Cravens/Millsap/Missouri Distinguished Professor at the Conservatory of Music and Dance in the University of Missouri-Kansas City since 1998. She was elected to American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2005, and the American Academy of Arts & Letters in 2019.

Born in China, Ms. Chen received bachelor and master degrees from the Central Conservatory in Beijing, and the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Columbia University in the City of New York. Her composition teachers included Profs. Wu Zu-qiang, Chou Wen-chung, and Mario Davidovsky. She has served as Composer-in-Residence for the Women’s Philharmonic, Chanticleer, and Aptos Creative Arts Center (1993–96) supported by Meet The Composer, and taught on the composition faculty at Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University (1996–98). She has also been Distinguished Visiting Professor in China since 2006.

Fellowships and commissioning awards were received from Guggenheim Foundation (1996), American Academy of Arts and Letters (1996), Fromm Foundation at Harvard University (1994), Koussevitzky Music Foundation at the Library of Congress (1997), and National Endowment for the Arts (1994). Honors include the first prizes from the Chinese National Composition Competition (1985, 2012), the Lili Boulanger Award (1993), the NYU Sorel Medal Award (1996), the CalArts/Alpert Award (1997), the UT Eddie Medora King Composition Prize (1999), the ASCAP Concert Music Award (2001), the Elise Stoeger Award (2002) from Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Friendship Ambassador Award from Edgar Snow Fund (2002), the UMKC Kauffman Award in Artistry/Scholarship and Faculty Service (2006, 2012, 2019), and Pulitzer Prize Finalist with Si Ji for orchestra (2006). Honorary Doctorates are from Lawrence University (2002), Baldwin-Wallace College (2008), University of Portland (2009), The New School University (2010), and University of Hartford (2016). She has received the Sterling Patron Award of Mu Phi Epsilon International Fraternity in 2011 and the Society for American Music Honorary Member Award in 2018.

Her music is published by Theodore Presser Company, performed world wide, and recorded in over 100 CDs, on Bis, New Albion, Teldec (w/Grammy Award for Colors of Love), New World (w/NPR Top 10 Classical Music Album Award for Sound of the Five), Albany, Naxos, BMOP/sound, XAS Records, Bridge, Centaur, Innova, Delos, Angel, Nimbus, Cala, Avant, Atma, Hugo, Koch International Classics, Eroica, Capstone, Quartz, and China Record Corporation since 1986. Chen Yi, An Accessible Guide to the Composer's Background and Her Works, by Leta E. Miller and J. Michele Edwards published by University of Illinois Press, 2020.

Recent world premieres of Chen Yi’s works have included Introduction, Andante, and Allegro by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra at Benaroya Hall in Seattle, and Fire for 12 players by Grossman Ensemble at Logan Center Performance Hall in the University of Chicago in 2019; Totem Poles for organ solo at AGO national conference in Kansas City, Pearle River Overture by Guangzhou Symphony in China, and Southern Scenes for flute, pipa and orchestra by the Hawaii Symphony in Honolulu in 2018; and piano concerto Four Spirits by China Philharmonic in Beijing and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2016. The 20/21 concert season started with European premiere of Tang Poems Cantata by MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir in Germany (9/27/20) and world premiere of Bamboo Song by pianist Zou Xiang at the China National Center for Performing Arts Concert Hall in China (10/5/20), followed by world premiere performances of two oboe solo works, Elegy by St Paul Chamber Orchestra’s oboe principal Cassie Pilgrim in MN (11/28/20), and Mountain Song by Fergus McCready at Royal Academy of Music in UK (6/8/21) to celebrate its 200th anniversary. 

George Crumb

George Crumb (1929-2022) is one of the most frequently performed composers in today's musical world. Crumb was the winner of Grammy and Pulitzer Prizes. Crumb's music often juxtaposes contrasting musical styles, ranging from music of the western art-music tradition, to hymns and folk music, to non-Western musics. Many of Crumb's works include programmatic, symbolic, mystical and theatrical elements, which are often reflected in his beautiful and meticulously notated scores.

A shy, yet warmly eloquent personality, Crumb retired from his teaching position at the University of Pennsylvania after more than 30 years of service. Honored by numerous institutions with honorary Doctorates, and the recipient of dozens of awards and prizes, Crumb made his home in Pennsylvania, in the same house where he and his wife of more than 60 years raised their three children. George Crumb's music is published by C.F. Peters and an ongoing series of "Complete Crumb" recordings, supervised by the composer, is being issued on Bridge Records.

Director Biography

Cristina Valdés, piano

Pianist Cristina Valdés presents innovative concerts of standard and experimental repertoire, and is known to “play a mean piano.” A fierce advocate for new music, she has premiered countless works, including many written for her. She has performed across four continents and in venues such as Lincoln Center, Le Poisson Rouge, Miller Theatre, Jordan Hall, and the Kennedy Center. Ms. Valdés has appeared both as a soloist and chamber musician at festivals worldwide including New Music in Miami, the Foro Internacional de Música Nueva in Mexico City, Brisbane Arts Festival, the Festival of Contemporary Music in El Salvador, Havana Contemporary Music Festival, and the Singapore Arts Festival. 

An avid chamber musician and collaborator, Ms. Valdés has toured extensively with the Bang On a Can “All Stars”, and has performed with the Seattle Chamber Players, the Mabou Mines Theater Company, the Parsons Dance Company, and Antares. Her performances on both the Seattle Symphony’s Chamber Series and [UNTITLED] concerts have garnered critical acclaim, including her “knockout” (Seattle Times) performance of Bartok’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, and her “arrestingly eloquent performance” of Dutilleux’s Trois Preludes (Bernard Jacobson/MusicWeb International).

Ms. Valdés has appeared as concerto soloist with the Seattle Symphony, Seattle Philharmonic, the Lake Union Civic Orchestra, Johns Hopkins Symphony Orchestra, the Binghamton Philharmonic, NOCCO, Philharmonia Northwest, the Eastman BroadBand, and the Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra, amongst others. In 2015 she performed the piano solo part of the Ives 4th Symphony with the Seattle Symphony under the direction of Ludovic Morlot, which was later released on CD to critical acclaim and made Gramophone’s list of Top 10 Ives Recordings. Other recent recordings include Orlando Garcia’s “From Darkness to Luminosity” with the Málaga Philharmonic on the Toccata Classics label, and the world premiere recording of Kotoka Suzuki’s “Shimmer, Tree | In Memoriam Jonathan Harvey”. She can also be heard on the Albany, Newport Classics, Urtext, and Ideologic Organ labels.

In recent seasons she gave performances of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3, the world-premiere performance of Carlos Sanchez-Guttierez’s “Short Stories” for piano and string orchestra with the Orquesta de Cámara de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, and the U.S. Premiere of “Under Construction” for solo piano and tape playback by Heiner Goebbels at Benaroya Hall. Last season she was the featured soloist with the Seattle Symphony on two of their “[untitled]” new music series concerts.

Ms. Valdés received a Bachelor of Music from the New England Conservatory of Music, and a Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts from SUNY Stony Brook. She currently lives in Seattle where she founded the SLAM Festival, a new music festival dedicated to the music of Latin-American composers, and performs regularly as a member of the Seattle Modern Orchestra. She is an Artist-in-Residence at the University of Washington, and is the Director of the UW Modern Music Ensemble.