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Symposium showcases Post-Soviet composers

By Emily Ketterer
On February 25, 2013

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, "Music is the universal language of mankind." This weekend, a conference and concert on "Music and Power" will be presented at Miami University through combined international and university talents.

Rebecca Mitchell, postdoctoral fellow at the Havinghurst Center for Russian and Post Soviet Studies, has been preparing this symposium since September 2011.

"We are looking at the ways that various power structures and musical creativity have interacted over time," Mitchell said. "We are looking specifically at the regions of Russia, eastern Europe and Eurasia."

The first aspect of the symposium is a conference in which Mitchell received a global pool of over seventy paper applicants. From that pool, two keynote speakers were selected as well as 13 conference presenters on a number of topics.

"We are interested in the role of politics and state censorship and how music has either been repressed or used as a form of propaganda," Mitchell said. "But we are also interested in other sorts of power structure such as gender, ethnic identity and how those have either been brought into question or have been supported through musical creativity."

While Mitchell organized the conference, Ricardo Averbach, director of Orchestral Studies, formed the Gala Concert component of the symposium.

"We chose music which examines the various ways in which music can influence power and be influenced by the power," Averbach said.

Opening the concert will be a piece by Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich performed by Miami student Molly Jones who recently won the Concerto Competition and Havinghurst Center Special Award.

"Shostakovich lived in deep turmoil in Soviet Union Russia, that persecuted people who wanted to have their own individual voice," Averbach said. "Composers would have to follow the rules or they would have to find ways to go around the system and disguise a type of protest in their music. This is basically what Shostakovich did."

Averbach said the second piece will be The Butterfly Lovers Concerto, which is often called the Chinese Romeo and Juliet.

"It is the most performed piece in the world but never performed here," Averbach said. "It was prohibited during the cultural revolution in China and the students who composed it were imprisoned for crimes worse than murder."

World-renowned violinist Bin Huang will be coming from China to perform this with the Miami University Symphony Orchestra. Caitlyn Lana, a sophomore music education major who will be performing the Butterfly concerto alongside Huang, says that the student orchestra has been preparing for this performance for a while.

"We have been rehearsing since start of the semester," Lana said. "It has been a great way to prepare us for the type of music we will be playing as professional musicians. This is also a fantastic experience for all of us to be able to perform with Bin Huang."

Finally, the famous 30-minute battle sequence of 'Cantata Alexander Nevsky' by Sergei Prokofiev will be performed with the combined efforts of Miami's Chamber Singers, the Collegiate Choral, and the symphony orchestra.

The Gala Concert will be held 8 p.m. Friday, March 1 in Hall Auditorium. There will be a pre-concert lecture by Bruce Murray, chair and professor of music, at 7:15 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adult and are available at the Shriver Box Office.

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