Sounds Modern aims to give classical music a twist – North Texas Daily
UNT College of Music professors Elizabeth McNutt and Andrew May created the Sounds Modern series over 10 years ago. Dedicated to a different approach to music, the site offers two concerts per year. In 2018, they uploaded an additional performance to celebrate their 10th anniversary. Players from the Dallas-Fort Worth area perform for Sounds Modern at the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth in conjunction with special exhibitions. Performers include UNT professors, local musicians, and UNT students.
“The more my students get better, which they do every year, I’ve had some wonderful ones and a lot of them end up playing on the show,” McNutt said.
McNutt and May’s ten-year-old project focuses on modernity and they pride themselves on bringing newer music to audiences.
“I’m not saying ‘This piece is too old to be in this concert’, but I was really happy with the [Laurie Simmons concert] we did it last month, ”McNutt said. “[I’m proud] that the oldest piece was from 2006. All the pieces were after the 2000s.
Éva Polgár, assistant professor at the College of Music, started performing with Sounds Modern three years ago and continues to play piano for the project. Polgár said their recent performance tried to approach music in an unorthodox way.
“[During] the last gig, which was the weirdest I ever did, [we used] vibrators in a non-sexual way to improvise with inside the piano, ”Polgár said. “I turned them on and they started to echo. When you place them inside the piano, the strings of the piano take on the resonance of these objects. It creates beautiful harmonics.
Laurie Simmons’ art exhibition included photographs of models with closed and painted eyelids and other images with deliberately placed flaws.
“All [is], in one way or another, [in] seemingly familiar spaces or situations where something is wrong with them, ”May said. “They [are] very moving, often in a very shocking way to me.
May said the idea for the exhibition came from female psychology only, using female composers to bridge that connection to art.
“There was a notion that the artwork was in different ways on the thoughts of women who are alone in rooms,” May said. “We weren’t thinking exclusively of women composers, [there were] just composers whose pieces somehow fit that idea.
Sounds Modern tries to include different art forms whenever it can. For example, the Laurie Simmons exhibition included a new spoken word organization that debuted in England.
“It was the group improvisation that was so electrifying,” Polgár said. “It created something new on stage. We were able to respond spontaneously. This spontaneous element that I was afraid of suddenly transformed into a very comfortable environment.
Sounds Modern has exhibited various genres over the years. Launched in 2013, “Neighbor Notes” is a concert featuring exclusively composers from Mexico.
“[Finding composers] ended up being kind of detective work that I benefited from so much, ”McNutt said. “I have known a composer. He is perhaps the most famous living composer in Mexico. Finally, I discover three composers from Mexico whom I have never known before.
While performances of Sounds Modern are typically held in Fort Worth, shows have been recorded in other cities as well, such as Marfa, Texas.
“My genre of music is not tourist music,” McNutt said. “[Marfa’s residents] wanted entertainment music. Only there, because it is in a way this magical paradise of modern art.
Sounds Modern’s goal of combining art and music hopes to expose new audiences to music they might not otherwise find.
“I really hope to persuade art lovers that our music is interesting, instead of seeing classical music as being [only] for people who love classical music, ”McNutt said.
Although it took over a decade, McNutt said she still remembers visiting the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art for the first time.
“I fell in love with the building and was really excited about the collection,” McNutt said. “At once, [I] was like, ‘Wow, that would be great to do something here.’ I kept that in mind. [During another visit], they had an artist there and I thought, “Oh, that would be a good deal with that composer.” I contacted the artist at that time. This is kind of how it happened.
The selected image: University of North Texas music flute professor Elizabeth McNutt plays the flute in her UNT office on Friday, February 15, 2019. Image by: Emilie Olkkola.