The Spontaneous Combustion New Music Festival is lighting up stages around Seattle this month with performances by the likes of Ashley Bathgate, Sandbox Percussion, The City of Tomorrow, and more.
Founded this year by composer Scott Anthony Shell, the festival begins in Seattle with a string of performances spanning from January 19 through February 1, with festival artists also touring through Portland and Eugene, Oregon, and cellist Ashley Bathgate continuing on down the California coast.
“I want this festival to be a performer-centric model rather than composer-centric, in that the performers can program their own repertoire and showcase music they are most comfortable performing,” Shell said. “I also wanted a wide range of genres to be represented within the field of contemporary classical music.”
The festival lineup features Delgani String Quartet, Orlando Cela, Hub New Music, Iktus Duo, Sandbox Percussion, the City of Tomorrow, and Ashley Bathgate. Many of the featured artists are prominent players from New York and the broader East Coast new music scene, and musically they span the gamut from contemporary classical to experimental and avant-garde.
“There are plenty of East Coast transplants and open-minded people on the West Coast so I think there is a receptive audience for new music, even by those unfamiliar with it,” Shell said.
This year’s event features composers ranging from 20th century greats like Lou Harrison, György Ligeti, and Alan Hovhaness to some of the 21st century’s top composers like Andy Akiho, Laura Kaminsky, Steve Reich, and Andrew Norman. And this year is only just the beginning.
“I want the festival to contribute towards the awareness and appreciation of this amazing art form through live performances of these incredible musicians,” Shell said. “I hope it can be an annual event where I would be able to also incorporate other educational tools with a focus on community outreach and community building.”
Let’s meet this year’s performers:
*Please note, dates listed below are for Seattle performances. Click here to explore dates for other cities on the festival tour.
Delgani String Quartet
Friday, Jan. 19, 8pm | Good Shepherd Chapel
This Northwest quartet performs a new work by Benjamin Krause inspired by the Oregon Cascade Range, from the ghostly lava fields to the glorious trees, craters, and crevices. Works by Alan Hovhaness and György Ligeti round out the program.
Sunday, Jan. 21, 3pm | Youngstown Cultural Arts Center
Orlando Cela is a Boston-based, Venezuelan-born flutist specializing in contemporary and experimental flute repertoire. For this performance, he explores every timbre and extended technique of the instrument through a virtuosic program featuring music by Roger Briggs, Bryan Ferneyhough, Jean-Patrick Besingrand, Mac Waters, and Robert Dick—plus, one of his own original improvisations using Indian Classical music form.
Hub New Music
Monday, Jan. 22, 7:30pm | 18th & Union
With a unique instrumentation of flute, clarinet, violin, and cello, this Boston-based ensemble makes its Seattle debut at Spontaneous Combustion. Their program features a world premiere performance of Robert Honstein’s Soul Horse, along with Laura Kaminsky’s The Full Range of Blue, a visceral work written in response to the aftermath of 9/11. The program finishes with David Drexler’s Forgotten At Dawn, a winner of the Spontaneous Combustion International Call for Scores.
Thursday, Jan. 25, 8pm | Good Shepherd Chapel
Flutist Hristina Blagoeva and percussionist Chris Graham team up for a dynamic program exploring an eclectic mix of styles within the contemporary classical genre, from the Eastern-inspired works of Lou Harrison to the wide-ranging musical musings of Joseph Pereira, Adam Vidiksis, James Romig, and Washington-based composer Bruce Hamilton.
Saturday, Jan. 27, 7pm | Music Center of the Northwest
A leading proponent of contemporary percussion music, Sandbox Percussion performs pivotal 20th century works and experimental 21st century works alike. For this performance, they lend their mallets to music by Steve Reich, Andy Akiho, Victor Caccese, Jonny Allen, Elliot Cooper Cole, and Thomas Kotcheff.
The City of Tomorrow
Tuesday, Jan. 30, 7:30pm | The Royal Room
The City of Tomorrow is an avant-garde wind quintet that performs contemporary classical and experimental music rooted in environmentalism and humanism. This particular performance explores spatial relationships through music, featuring custom lighting design by Alex Deahl and a graphic score by Seattle-based composer John Teske that is based on topographical maps, which the quintet will use as a basis for improvisation and movement.
Thursday, Feb. 1, 8pm | Rainier Arts Center
Perhaps best known as the cellist of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Ashley Bathgate is also an extraordinary soloist in her own right, constantly pushing the boundaries of traditional cello repertoire with her performances of contemporary, avant-garde, and experimental works. For this performance she plays works with and without electronics by Steve Reich, Andrew Norman, and many more. For a sneak preview of her playing, check out our in-studio video below of Bathgate performing Michael Gordon’s Light is Calling for cello and audio playback.
The Spontaneous Combustion New Music Festival is in venues across Seattle January 19 through February 1. Click here for tickets and more information on other festival dates and locations down the West Coast.