l Capital University Journal
Music Festival Marks Milestone
An old new
music festival might seem like an oxymoron, but Sac States Festival
of New American Music (FENAM) is one of the longest running festivals
in the nation dedicated solely to the presentation of contemporary American
In November, its 25th anniversary was celebrated on campus and in the
community. Once again, it featured the finest of innovative new American
music with free concerts, workshops, master classes and more.
Throughout those 25 years the festivals producersformer and
current Sac State music professors Gene Savage, Dan Kennedy, Ernie Hills
and Steve Blumberghave presented a schedule packed with entertainment
and educational activities. Visiting artists, scholars and composers of
international stature work with Sac States faculty and students
to provide a program of the countrys best contemporary music to
the Sacramento community.
Since its inception in 1978, countless premiere performances have
been heard at the Festival, which has attracted audiences for all ages
and musical preferences, Kennedy says. The visiting composers,
soloists and ensembles featured are internationally recognized as leaders
in the field of contemporary American music.
Over the years, performers have included the Kronos String Quartet, Chanticleer,
the New York New Music Ensemble, the New Millennium Ensemble, guitarist
David Tanenbaum, vocalist Phyllis Bryn-Julson, and composers Phillip Glass
and Lou Harrison.
We try to incorporate all the colors of the musical spectrum at
the Festival, says music department chair Ernie Hills. FENAM
provides audiences in the Sacramento Region a fantastic opportunity to
hear the wonderful, fresh, exciting music being written today.
We strive to bring in outstanding artists who specialize in this
music and they have always lived up to the challenge by giving us dazzling
performances. If youre willing to try new things, willing to have
an open mind and open ears, the Festival is the place for you.
In the early years Hills remembers audiences needed some convincing that
this was important music. Today the festival holds national stature.
Among the trends in new compositions of American music is the inclusion
of many of the multicultural aspects of the country. This was demonstrated
in this past year with tangos for flute and Latin Tinge.
Also this past Festival, one of the presentations featured five composersincluding
Sac State alum John Villecwho are all members of a national organization
of electronic and computer music composers called the Society for Electro-Acoustic
Music in the U.S. (SEAMUS).
Each one is a card-carrying cutting-edge sonic sculptor, Blumberg
says. Theyre led by a man whose name is an advertisement for
his music, Allen Strange, one of the early pioneers of electronic music
who has moved straight into the digital age without missing a beat, continuing
to push the envelope in fascinating ways. Another uses multi-media works
that integrate computer graphic animation with electronic sounds, and
sometimes live performers.
The event was planned in conjunction with Villec, who has become an innovator
in this new audio/visual medium. Villec often creates both the soundtrack
and the graphics for works that end up on DVD.
Blumberg says another of the anniversary participants, Terry Riley, has
been enormously important in the history of American music. He is
one of the innovators of minimalismsome would say hes the
father of minimalism, Blumberg says. He was born in Colfax
and still lives up in the Gold Country. He is a real California treasure.