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Alia Musica presents New Music with a young, local focus 


Pittsburgh's New Music scene is mainly dominated by the interests of baby boomers -- university professors at music departments who have been successful at getting their pieces performed around the country and released on CD. Whether they realize it or not, the stalwarts at Music on the Edge, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble and the U3 Festival (which combines faculties of Pitt, CMU and Duquesne) are part of a fairly small and compact establishment.

Yet the city's New Music scene also consists of plenty of up-and-coming younger musicians and composers -- current students or recent grads who have decided to remain in Pittsburgh. Last year, a group of these individuals formed Alia Musica.

According to Alia Musica's Federico Garcia, who moved here from Bogotá, Colombia, the composers mostly center on Pitt's music school, for one simple reason. "In Pittsburgh, a Ph.D. in composition is only offered at Pitt, though CMU has a master's [program]," Garcia explains. "Which means that if you're going to find composers that are young on the one hand, but also have some level of advancement, the likelihood is they will be at Pitt."

But between networking outreach and recruiting players from other schools (Garcia himself now teaches at Chatham), Alia Musica hopes to break the Pitt "curse" and open up the organization to New Music creators from around the region. The group's inaugural season took place in March, and now it's back for a fall series. The second concert of that series takes place at 7:30 p.m., Thu., Oct 18, at Chatham's Eddy Theatre featuring a diverse lineup of all-local compositions.

The program includes the spatially arranged Choral and Hyperdance, by CMU grad Mark Fromm ("winds go on one side of the stage and strings on the other, so there's interplay and movement in space, with piano and vibraphone in the middle like a connector"). There's also a luminous and somber three-movement work called Re-, by composer-in-residence Burkhart Reiter, and flutist Kerrith Livengood's Enchanted Days (previously done by another area New Music sprout, the Ion Sound Project).

But there's no competition between Alia Musica and other New Music groups, emphasizes Garcia, only a chance to offer more opportunities for composers' works to shine. MOTE brings in out-of-town artists, and the PNME employs out-of-town musicians and experienced composers, while Alia Music is clearly the new kid on the block. "When we did our inaugural concert, one of the most interesting things was that young composers quickly contacted us. We read that as testimony that there aren't enough outlets for young composers here, and that there is a flood of interest which we are happy to fulfill."

For tickets and information, call 412-361-0194.

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