Alia Musica's chamber concert offers new compositions for two and three instruments | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Alia Musica's chamber concert offers new compositions for two and three instruments

click to enlarge Piano men: Matthew Gillespie and Federico Garcia
Piano men: Matthew Gillespie and Federico Garcia

Running low on money while also planning for an ambitious future is par for the course for New Music ensemble Alia Musica. "Our seasons include three big concerts with a full ensemble, and then two or three chamber concerts with trios and quartets," explains director Federico Garcia. "The big ones depend on grants, and we've been going so fast that we've run through Sprout, Partners in the Arts and Pittsburgh Foundation, and now we're applying to the Small Arts Initiative."

With smaller concerts, though, like the group's Sun., Jan. 25 show at the University of Pittsburgh, ticket sales and performance fees can cover the events. Alia Musica is one of two nascent New Music ensembles (the other being Pitt's IonSound) which formed to fill a vacuum for young composers who want their works performed in Pittsburgh. Alia Musica hasn't found a residency yet, so it searches for composer exchanges as far away as Toronto, or nearby in Erie or West Virginia.

For its upcoming concert, the group has planned a program of six small-group works, one of the highlights being Garcia's own "Bajo el Hechizo" for marimba, guitar and piano.

"It's based on a piece that impressed me by Argentinean composer Carlos Mastropietro," recalls Garcia. "I saw a Colombian guitarist play it in 2007, and was interested in how he used different ways of playing the guitar -- plucking them, hitting them, creating harmonics. The idea lends itself naturally to doing the same with the piano, like playing inside it or using a mallet, and with the marimba."

Since the members already had to schlep a heavy marimba around, they figured they'd do another piece with it, incorporating "Negative Space" by Pitt composer Alec Summers into the program. The other guest composer the ensemble invited is CMU's Christian Kriegeskotte, whose "A Bubble in Cygnus" is written for the possibly unique combination of harp, bassoon and double-bass.

"Usually with chamber concerts, we are able to do the more exploratory stuff, and with these nonstandard trio combinations, the concert is going to be interesting," adds Garcia. "Our chamber concerts have been successful because it's a more intimate setting -- the audience is closer to the performers -- and the [auditorium's] acoustics are perfect for that."


Alia Musica. 7 p.m. Sun., Jan. 25. Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, University of Pittsburgh campus, Oakland. $12 ($10 for students/seniors). 412-361-0194 or

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