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Southern Exposure New Music Series finishes the season with two large-scale classics

“Music and Society” takes on topics relating music, society and politics with masterful music

USC’s Southern Exposure New Music Series presents Music and Society: Stephen Hartke’s Sons of Noah and Louis Andriessen’s De Staat on Friday, March 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the Johnson Performance Hall (Darla Moore School of Business, Level 1, 1014 Greene Street).

Southern Exposure’s 2014-15 season finishes with two monumental works: Grammy- and Rome-prize-winning composer Stephen Hartke’s biting, dramatic Sons of Noah and Dutch post-minimalist icon Louis Andriessen’s rarely-heard masterpiece De Staat.

The free concert features University of South Carolina’s top students and world-class faculty – soprano Tina Milhorn Stallard, Rebecca Schalk Nagel, oboe; J.D. Shaw, horn; Jennifer Parker-Harley, flute; and Michael Harley, bassoon, conducted by Scott Weiss.

These works take on topics relating music, society and politics with masterful, mesmerizing music. Sons of Noah (1996), featuring Tina Milhorn Stallard and three highly unusual quartets of instruments – classical guitars, flutes and bassoons – sets to music a short story written during the Crimean War, the first modern conflict between the Islamic world and Europe: a satirical imagining of three missing chapters of the Bible. Hartke’s music has echoes of old and new styles, from the Middle Ages and Renaissance to Igor Stravinsky, and strikes a powerful emotional chord. While composed in an entirely different style than Sons of Noah, Andriessen’s De Staat (1972-76) for four women’s voices and large ensemble, also owes something to the rhythmic legacy of Stravinsky and sets texts from Plato’s Republic to music. The composer wrote:  

"I wrote De Staat (The Republic) as a contribution to the debate about the relation of music to politics. Many composers view the act of composing as, somehow, above social conditioning. I contest that. How you arrange your musical material, the techniques you use and the instruments you score for, are largely determined by your own social circumstances and listening experience, and the availability of financial support … (T)he moment musical material is ordered it becomes culture and hence a social entity.

I have used passages from Plato to illustrate these points. His text is politically controversial, if not downright negative: everyone can see the absurdity of Plato's statement that the mixolydian mode should be banned as it would have a damaging influence on the development of character. My second reason for writing De Staat is a direct contradiction of the first: I deplore the fact that Plato was wrong. If only it were true that musical innovation could change the laws of the State!"  (L.A., 1994

This concert will feature a related display of artwork by Frol Boundin, instructor of printmaking at USC’s School of Visual Art and Design.

Learn more about the Southern Exposure New Music Series.