Contemporary Saxophonist Performs at Mt. A

Nicole Strum inspires Brunton audience

Classes are back, and so are performances. The music department kicked off the new semester with its first performance last Wednesday evening in Brunton Auditorium. The featured performer was Nicole Strum, a part-time lecturer at Mount Allison. Strum performed contemporary saxophone arrangements featuring works from several masters of the genre.

In addition to lecturing at Mt. A this year, Strum is currently an instructor of saxophone at the University of Prince Edward Island and has taught at several other schools. Her main interest is the interpretation of contemporary music. Strum was accompanied by Mt. A music department professor David Rogosin and Tristan De Borba, a saxophone instructor from Acadia University who frequently accompanies Strum.

Strum commanded the stage throughout the performance, performing some pieces collaboratively with Rogosin and De Borba and others solo.

“The way the pieces were structured conveyed the idea of a centre.… The atonality presented gave off an interesting timbre,” said Sam Cormier, a second-year music student. “The words that come to mind after this performance are ‘mathematically structured,’ ‘precise’ and ‘extremely difficult.’ ” Cormier described the performance as “an amazing experience that you will not find anywhere else.”

What the composer is saying with each piece is “very much up for interpretation,” said Cormier. “Some people interpret the music differently than others.” Music in contemporary style is heavily interpretive. Performers must instil meaning into their performances themselves, just as audience members must do the same. The minimalist nature of these pieces allow for this type of interpretation to take place, working the same as some visual arts where lack of reference stimulates the brain into instilling its own meaning.

Strum explained that Sequenza VIIb by Luciano Berio, the penultimate piece of the performance, is “centred around one tone – a home base.” This piece is played alongside a single tone. The saxophonist plays notes that are complementary or dissonant with the tone. “Your ear may have a tough time knowing what to listen for,” warned Strum.

Strum performed a variety of contemporary saxophone Arrangements. Chaoyi Liang/Argosy

“It was the type of music that none of us are used to hearing.… [Strum] used many varieties of techniques,” said Brianna Lee Green, a first-year music student. “It’s a skill that every musician aspires to. She’s at the point in her career where she does not have to play the typical stuff. She can really do whatever she wants.”

Mt. A’s music faculty is known for bringing in a myriad of events and concerts for their students, from well-known mainstream music to obscure pieces that haven’t been heard in centuries. “The music program has been amazing at pulling in different artists. They bring a wide variety of music together to present to the students,” said Cormier. “Seeing our professors perform is a big inspiration to us.” This was the first of many exciting performances this year, and a fantastic kickoff to what is truly an exciting semester for the music department. If you did not make it out to this event, make sure to keep an ear open for future performances. Most Mt. A-sponsored events are completely free to students from all departments, and are a good idea for anyone even slightly interested in the represented field.

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