My encounter with ‘new music,’ contemporary music, music of our time, whichever name one choose to use, came organically during my undergraduate studies. As an incoming freshman, I was rather clueless about music. Sure, I played the violin well enough to get into Peabody Conservatory, but my roommate gave me an exasperated look after he expressed his excitement at the prospects of performing Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in one of our first orchestra concerts, to which I professed to not even knowing how the piece goes. Thats the level of ‘musicianship’ I had as a college freshman.
In the first couple of years of undergraduate studies, we all had to take music history courses, split into 4 classes, each detailing a different era, and with the last one focusing on music of the 20th Century to the music of today. So while I was learning about the contrapuntal splendors of the last movement of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, I encountered at the same time everything from the hypnotic rhythms in Steve Reich’s Drumming to the reimagining of the song in George Crumb’s Madrigals. I realized then that music is not just a set of pieces, but rather a humanistic endeavor that continuously explore the intersection of sound and its affectations on our capacity to feel.
Playing in an ensemble like Loop38 for me is as musically necessary and satisfying as playing in a string quartet or in an orchestra. I would feel incomplete as a musician living in 2017 who somehow couldn’t perform masterpieces like the Chaconne by Bach or a quartet by Beethoven, just like how I would feel if I didn’t perform the latest works by a Haas or an Adés. To explore and discover are just as noble of a pursuit as to appreciate what we already possess. But the human desire to explore is intrinsic to our nature, this is perhaps most evident in the scientific fields. Whereas scientists explore and strive to answer the age-old question — What is the meaning of life? — with chemistry, math, biology, and physics, musicians and composers do the same with sounds. Loop38 is an ensemble that is dedicated to the forefront of such sonic discoveries, and I feel a strong sense of fulfillment to be part of this collection of esteemed musicians.