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Vassar College to Celebrate the Arts with 8th Annual Modfest
Stringendo © Vassar College/ Gabriel Schuster '11.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY.- The eighth annual Modfest, a celebration of new music, dance, drama, film, literature, poetry, and the visual arts at Vassar College, will feature 30 events at various locations across the Poughkeepsie campus from January 21 through February 7, 2010. Programs and events will be open to the public without charge.

“The events this year have been devised to explore all aspects of the creative process,” noted Modfest founders and directors Richard Wilson and Adene Wilson ’69. This year’s events will span creative ages – throughout the arts – with the opening program featuring area high school students and the closing program featuring Vassar alumnae/i. The Modfest performers will include Vassar student vocal and instrumental ensembles, dancers, poets, filmmakers; Vassar faculty and guest artists; as well as high school student artists, poets, and musicians from the Poughkeepsie community.

Among the many highlights this year will be a concert featuring music by Milton Babbitt who, at age 93, is one of the pivotal figures in American classical music of the 20th century. Babbitt’s many compositions include six string quartets, two piano concertos, and works combining voice with synthesized sound and instruments. “A pioneer in the field of electronic music, Milton is equally innovative in his extensions of the twelve-tone technique to non-pitch aspects of music,” noted Modfest director Richard Wilson. A public conversation with composers Babbitt and Wilson will precede the concert.

The avant-garde jazz virtuoso and a Poughkeepsie resident since his childhood, Joe McPhee will have an evening devoted to his artistry. In demand across Europe and America, he has for 37 years, and on more than 60 recordings, made exciting, expressive, and explosive sounds on sax, trumpet, pocket trumpet, valve trombone, piano, and electronics. Electronics virtuoso Richard Teitelbaum and percussionist Thurman Barker will join McPhee in a concert "Six Improvisation 1-23-10," that will feature dedications to Anthony Braxton, Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, Nikola Tesla, Conlon Nancarrow, and Alton Pickens, among others.

A mini film festival will be held throughout Modfest with screenings of foreign films with commentary by representatives from the foreign language departments and programs at the college. In addition, films by two recent graduates from the class of 2009 will be screened, with commentary by Vassar professor James Steerman.

There will be several events at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center – including special concerts offered during the Late Night at the Lehman Loeb program, an informal luncheon lecture in the galleries, and the first Art Center and Modfest Poetry Invitational. Some of the events will be held in conjunction with the installation Harry Roseman: Hole in the Wall, including recitals by violist and composer Adrienne Elisha of her new work Circle Voices.

The Department of Music will present faculty and student ensemble concerts – as well as those by guest artists McPhee; the Biava Quartet, an exciting young ensemble performing the premiere of Richard Wilson’s String Quartet No. 5; and the Argento Ensemble, who will perform works by Babbitt and Vassar composers Harold Meltzer and Jonathan Chenette.

New choreography will be featured in the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre’s performance of selections from Stephen Rooks’ The Griot Dance. This extended dance work, informed by the culture and music of Africa, will feature music by Vassar adjunct artist Howard Kilik. A new dramatic work (title to be announced) will be performed by the student-run Woodshed Ensemble.

Several authors will read from and discuss their recent works, including Vassar alumna Dorothy Lamb Crawford ’54 whose A Windfall of Musicians: Hitler's Émigrés and Exiles in Southern California is an “engaging study, based in the main on survivor interviews and documentary archives.” Norman Lebrecht in his Wall Street Journal review of the book went on to say that Crawford “brings a physical familiarity to her narrative and a keen eye for poignant detail, the shock of the new.”

The final program will spotlight the work of Vassar alumnae/i from the fields of fiction, poetry, painting, sculpture, film, music composition who are W. K. Rose Fellows, and will mark the beginning of an annual series of events at Modfest. The W. K. Rose Fellowship has been awarded each year since 1970 to a creative artist — now numbering 47 recipients. Each year during Modfest, selected past fellowship recipients will discuss and present their work, through exhibitions, readings, and recitals.

“Our goal in establishing Modfest was to highlight and celebrate the modern and contemporary arts,” noted the Wilsons. “Each year, we’ve been able to add to the programs and participation across the campus. We are quite pleased to have so many alumnae/i returning this year to the annual celebration. Our goal has been to offer the campus and the greater Hudson Valley community a chance to sample a variety of programs and performers each year.”

Vassar College | 8th Annual Modfest | Richard Wilson | Adene Wilson |

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