The music that emanates from Rockwell Hall’s third-floor studio on Monday and Wednesday afternoons defies easy categorization. With a psychedelic, “jazz fusion” feel, it’s colorful, loud, and magnetic.
The eight musicians creating the sounds are members of SUNY Buffalo State’s year-old Digital Music Ensemble. Performing contemporary pieces with titles like “Trance-figuration,” the ensemble members put their heart, soul, and affinity for technology into the music.
Under the direction of Tomás Henriques, assistant professor of music, they perform on unusual instruments such as fingerboards, percussion controllers, and Moog synthesizers. They also use game controllers, smartphones, and iPads to make and control the music in real time.
The ensemble members are just a handful of the students who have declared digital music production as a minor. The popular interdisciplinary program, which teaches students how to use hardware and software tools for electronic music composition, performance, and sound recording, has reached capacity.
Digital music doesn’t just attract music majors, Henriques said, but also students from disciplines as varied as anthropology, history, and psychology. Junior Joey Daconto is an arts and letters major who plays the drums in a more traditional band. He said he joined the Digital Music Ensemble to combine his love of percussion and sound recording.
Senior Matt Lester is a music education major who plays an electronic wind instrument (EWI) similar to the saxophone, the instrument he plays in his other music courses. Lester purchased his own EWI to play with the ensemble.
“I’m pretty invested in it,” he said with a smile.
This investment and passion is encouraging to Henriques, who hopes to eventually make the digital music production minor into a major. He also arranges for the ensemble to appear in public schools and other community venues.
There are two upcoming opportunities to hear this unique ensemble perform on campus. On Friday, March 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center at Rockwell Hall, the group will perform “Albedo 0.39” by Vangelis, the composer who created the musical scores for Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner. This performance is part of a larger “Space” event that also includes discussions by Kevin Williams, associate professor of earth sciences and science education, and two professors from the University at Buffalo.
On Thursday, April 18, at 7:30 p.m. in the Louis P. Ciminelli Recital Hall, the ensemble will perform the music of Vangelis, Herbie Hancock, as well as some improvisational pieces.
Both performances are free and open to the public. (716) 878-6401.