By ALEXANDRA SACCONE
Published June 5, 2023
When June in Buffalo, the annual, world-renowned new music festival and conference dedicated to emerging composers, begins its 2023 run this week at various locations on the North Campus, it will be under the leadership of a new artistic director. Cellist-composer Jonathan Golove, UB associate professor of music, has stepped into the role following the retirement this spring of SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus David Felder, who had served as artistic director since 1985.
A UB faculty member since 2002, Golove served as department chair for the past six years, and specializes in the performance of both new and traditional works, as well as of improvised music.
Golove’s definition of “cellist” has expanded to include both the electric and theremin cellos, along with a plethora of means of modifying the sounds they produce. He has performed as a soloist and chamber musician throughout North America and Europe at venues including Weill Recital Hall (Carnegie Hall), Zipper Concert Hall in Los Angeles and London’s Southbank Centre. His summer appearances include numerous festivals devoted to new works, including the Holland Festival (Amsterdam), Festival d’Automne (Paris), Lincoln Center Festival and the Festival del Centro Histórico (Mexico City).
Golove has taken part in June in Buffalo since 1994 — as a performer, participant composer, senior composer, soloist and as a member of both the Slee Sinfonietta and Baird Trio. He has also served as a member of the artist faculty for the June in Buffalo Performance Institute.
Golove says he’s excited to welcome an inspiring group of participant composers to this year’s festival and is looking forward to working with performer colleagues from previous ensembles to present a trio of his original works spanning several decades.
UBNow talked with Golove about his new role and plans for June in Buffalo, as well as for the future.
I had participated in a variety of roles at June in Buffalo over the years, including the ones mentioned above. I was also a member of several of JiB’s resident ensembles, including the Slee Sinfonietta, Baird Trio, etc., and an artist faculty member at the June in Buffalo Performance Institute, which ran concurrently with the composition workshop/festival for two years. But I will admit that all of these roles only prepared me so much for taking on the whole measure of oversight, and there I’m especially grateful to my predecessor, David Felder, and also to the Center for 21st Century Music’s most recent managing director, Rob Phillips. Sadly, Rob passed away in February, completely unexpectedly, and I’ve been taking on all aspects of the organization of the festival since that time.
My goal, on one hand, is to maintain the quality and reputation of June in Buffalo, which has set a standard for composers’ workshops that is much emulated around the country, and which has served for decades as a magnet for composers and performers of classical “new music” — since the 1970s. I think the mission — to present new music at the highest level and bring important figures in contemporary composition to share information, insight and experience with the next generations of composers — is sacrosanct. On the other hand, however, June in Buffalo can’t rest on its laurels, and it has to be nimble enough to respond to the needs and demands of the field of composition/classical new music as they evolve with time. I think the festival has managed that ably, and I hope I’ll have the vision to guide it forward over a period of years.
Festival attendees, which is to say participants and auditors, have very full days, beginning in the morning at 10 with a lecture by a senior composer — a different one each day, Tuesday through Saturday. After lunch, they take part in a composition masterclass led by one of those senior composers, and we place them in groups of five or six, so that they may present their own work for feedback, again with a different senior composer each day. Then afterward at 4 p.m. are our daily workshop concerts, in which one of our resident performing ensembles presents a program of pieces by our participating composers. Finally, in the evening at 7:30, we have a series of concerts by those same resident groups, generally featuring works by our senior composers.
This year, our fabulous lineup of resident ensembles includes the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, which plays the first evening program on Tuesday night in the Center for the Arts Mainstage Theatre, as well as the Slee Sinfonietta, Talujon Percussion, [Switch~ Ensemble] and Arditti Quartet, whose members are legendary advocates for contemporary composers and longtime partners of June in Buffalo. Attendees of the festival who wish to take in concerts or lectures are welcome. The events in the evenings and on Sunday afternoon — note the 2 p.m. start time in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall — are ticketed ($10 general admission or free with a UB student ID), but the others are free and open.
Every year is unique, in my experience, but if we’re successful, the changes this year will be subtle and unnoticeable. Two of our five senior composers, Ann Cleare and Melinda Wagner, are new members of the June in Buffalo faculty, while the other three, Mathew Rosenblum, Robert HP Platz and myself, have all served as a senior composer at least once before. We’ve posted a good deal of information about each of our senior composers, and also our resident ensembles, on the Center for 21st Century Music’s “Edge of the Center” blog. And the majority of the participating composers will be here for the first time, though we do have several repeating at the festival, which is always a great sign!
But it will be the first festival since David Felder’s retirement, and I’m delighted to say that we have programmed two major works of his, to be performed by the BPO on June 6 in the Center for the Arts, and by the Arditti Quartet at 7:30 p.m. June 10 in Lippes Concert Hall, so he will absolutely be present in the music-making! We will also hear music by Rob Phillips, who will be sorely missed at June in Buffalo, performed jointly by [Switch~ Ensemble] and members of the Buffalo/Rochester-based Wooden Cities.