The 21st Century Ensemble


The 21st Century Ensemble was founded by Dr. Forrest Tobey to create a new style of performance based around the interaction between computer music technology and human expression.

Dr. Tobey was the virtual orchestra soloist during the Times Square 2000 Millennium celebrations in New York City where he was featured nationwide on ABC news. Dr. Tobey is a conductor, composer and keyboardist who has gained a reputation for innovative work in the field of interactive computer music. Performing with the infrared wands of the Buchla Lightning and using HECTOR, original gesture-tracking software developed by Dr. Tobey, he evokes out of thin air a virtual ensemble of expressive musical instruments, all controlled through spatial gesture alone.

The 21st Century Ensemble brings to the general public what has so far been only an academic undercurrent in contemporary music û the interactive dynamic between live musicians and computer music technology. The goal of the 21st Century Ensemble is to enhance the orchestral repertoire by adding an entirely new genre in which electronic sounds are artistically mingled with those of the traditional orchestra. Dr. Tobey seeks to pave new ground in orchestral performance by bringing to the concert stage fresh compositions that employ the computer as a responsive music-making instrument. These works are presented along with more familiar pieces, in order to foster an appreciation for this new music among traditional classical music audiences.

The Windmill Hill Chorale is now being formed as an offshoot of the Mt. Vernon Unitarian Church Choir. The Chorale is comprised of singers from the Mt. Vernon and Alexandria areas and performs twice yearly with the 21st Century Ensemble.

Carol of the Bells - M. Leontovich
arranged for HECTOR conducting system and Buchla Lightning

Fantasia on a theme by Dvorak - F. Tobey
for string quartet and conducted electronics

Magnificat - D. Buxtehude

Magnificat pro Mundo* - F. Tobey
for choir, string quartet and conducted electronics

1. The God and the Goddess (Hindu text)
2. Magnificat anima mea (Biblical text)
3. Gaia, Mother of All (text from ancient Greece)
4. Fecit potentiam (Biblical text)
5. Let me walk in beauty (Native American text)

Carols for the season from the Oxford Book of Carols
*World premiere
The 21st Century Ensemble String Quartet:

Margaret Soper, Violin 1
Eva Cappelletti: Violin 2
Catherine Amoury: Viola
Douglas Poplin: Cello
Forrest Tobey, Music Director

Carol of the Bells brings a much-loved carol into the 21st Century.Arranged for computer and synthesizer, all the multi-layered phrases ofthe original piece are performed in realtime; nothing is taped orpre-recorded. The virtual orchestra for this little gem is conjured outof thin air by the movements of the wands themselves.

Fantasia on a Theme by Dvorak. received its premiere in April of thisyear. Just as the theme from the Ode to Joy is synonymous with Beethoven, the Largo theme from DvorakÆs New World Symphony is familiarto all. This electronic fantasy begins with a direct quotation from theSymphony, with the Buchla Lightning performing the original English hornmelody, a tune reminiscent of both the American Spiritual and the Czechfolk song (Dvorak wrote this tune in emulation of the spirituals heheard during his stay in America). The musical material that follows isall derived from various five-note scales extracted or implied by themain theme. The string quartet plays a series of variations while theelectronics, performed live with the Buchla Lightning, provide soniccommentary on the string quartetÆs performance.

Dietrich Buxtehude lived a generation before J.S. Bach and had a stronginfluence on BachÆs early life and creative work. This setting of MaryÆsSong of Praise is a beautiful example of his sacred choral writing. Ofspecial note are the lyrical passages for the bass section, which mimicthe kind of florid bass line that Buxtehude would give to the pedalsduring an extended work for organ. We perform this work in keeping withthe aesthetic of the 21st Century Ensemble - to perform traditionalrepertoire alongside works for the Ensemble plus electronics.

Magnificat pro Mundo is receiving its premiere today on the MillenniumStage. This work is the second in a series of pieces for choir, stringquartet and conducted electronics. A "Magnificat for the World," thefive movements interweave sections from MaryÆs Song of Praise (found inMatthew) with texts from other ancient traditions: a Hindu song,praising the unity of the male and female aspects of Divinity, anancient Greek hymn to the Earth, and a traditional Native Americanprayer.
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