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Goal of Canyonlands ensemble is rich assortment of new music

Composer Morris Rosenzweig has some advice for people who might be reluctant to attend a concert of new music. "I tell people to try it and find out what it is all about," because only by experiencing it first-hand can you begin to formulate ideas and opinions about the music of today and from the recent past.

Rosenzweig is the founder and director of Canyonlands New Music Ensemble, and the group will give a concert on Friday of works by some of today's most significant composers. Featured will be Milton Babbitt's "Soli e Duettini," Pierre Boulez's Sonatine, Lou Harrison's Concerto for Flute and Percussion and Gyrgy Kurtg's "Scenes from a Novel."

Rosenzweig said that Canyonlands tries to program a wide variety of music in its concerts. "We use several criteria in choosing works. We're driven by aesthetic variety. A lot of new music groups are landlocked and only interested in pursuing one certain style. But we're one of a few outfits doing new music, and we have to cover a lot of ground. And that's something we both want to do and feel that we should do."

There will also be a piece by local composer Miguel Chuaqui, "En Santiago de Nuevo," on Friday's concert. "This is an important work to him," Rosenzweig said. "Miguel is Chilean, and the piece deals with his parents and how they were affected by the nasty business with the Pinochet takeover. In it, he lets his feelings finally come out." Rosenzweig added that it's a much more political work than most of what Chuaqui has written so far.

Almost every work Canyonlands performs is a premiere, Rosenzweig noted. "Virtually everything we do is either a regional, national or international premiere. We bring these works to the listener."

Rosenzweig, who is the chairman of the department of music's theory/composition area at the University of Utah, said that nearly all of the performers at these concerts are former U. students. "Almost everyone in Canyonlands started out as students at the U. They've retained their interests in new music, and we're doing something that these people want to do. It's become a cause for them."

Unlike previous concerts by Canyonlands, Friday's concert will be free. "There are two reasons we're doing this for free," said Rosenzweig. "One is to make the situation more friendly for the audience, and second, because we could afford to do so — we've made some great progress in our fund-raising." But Rosenzweig realizes there is a stigma attached to free concerts. "Even though it's free, this is still a high-quality concert."

Rosenzweig said that today's composers are often denounced for existing only in their own world. "We're accused of being in an ivory tower. And parts of these accusations can be true. But if this were really the case, then none of us would be doing this concert. We wouldn't care. We wouldn't be engaged in multiple rehearsals, and we wouldn't do it for nothing."

If you go . . .

What: Canyonlands New Music Ensemble

Where: Dumke Recital Hall in David Gardner Hall at the U.

When: 7:30 p.m., Friday

How much: Free