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String quartets, symphony orchestras, choirs or wind bands have a standardized group of instruments and musicians to write for.While there are still plenty of string quartets running around, there has been an explosion of new music chamber ensembles that feature historically unusual collections of instruments.

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Instead of two violins, a viola and a cello, a chamber group might have a piano, trumpet, flute and a few strings.

Those groups provide new possibilities for composers, and in turn those groups are hungry for new repertoire they can play since they don’t have the luxury of a vast library to choose from.

In the often fragmented and specialized sphere of new music, relationships are everything. Musicians talk about ensembles they’re playing with and extended, avant-garde techniques they enjoy. But as Frederickson promised, just three minutes later participants are told time is up thanks to a piano in the corner playing a musical cue that sounds like it might signal an oncoming train in a 1920s silent film.

And these composers and performers are here to see if they might be able to make those connections through an exercise that might seem better suited for the singles’ bar than contemporary classical music. Composers pull out scores or give the musician earbuds to listen to a recording of a piece and then wait patiently as they study the musicians’ expressions for any hint of affirmation or displeasure. The musicians then move one chair to their left, and the process starts all over again.

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Last modified 30-May-2014 00:46