Department of Music

Program Notes: Ensemble Dal Niente - 03/07-08/2023

Program information for Ensemble Dal Niente's March 7-8, 2023 concerts presented in Martinos Auditorium at the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts.

Ensemble Dal Niente

Emma Hospelhorn, flute
Zachary Good, clarinet
Matthew Oliphant, horn
Ben Melsky, harp
Kyle Flens, percussion
Theo Ramsey, violin
Juan Horie, cello
Adeliia Faizullina, soprano (*guest performer)
Michael Lewanski, conductor

Ensemble Dal Niente’s residency and concerts are made possible through the Visiting Artist Fund, Marshall Woods Lectureships Foundation of Fine Arts, and Sara & Robert A. Reichley Concert Fund.


This concert is being performed without intermission and will last approximately one hour.

Nicole Mitchell
Cult of Electromagnetic Connectivity for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and percussion

Igor Santos
anima for harp and percussion

Roscoe Mitchell
Cards for ensemble

Dai Fujikura
poyopoyo for horn

Yi-Ting Lu
Half decorations for prepared harp

Works by Brown University composers

Nick Bentz
in drops of dew will i sink down and mingle with the dust* (2023) for septet and electronics

Adeliia Faizullina
Soo Anaso (“Mermaid”) (2016) for soprano, flute, cello, and percussion

Will Johnson
Temporal Dysgraphia* (2023) for septet 

––short break––

Lulu West and Maya Polsky
Touch the Moon* (2023) for septet

Bonnie Jones
Echoic Memory (2022) for any number of improvisers

Inga Chinilina
Pagan Peal* (2023) for septet

*world premiere

About the Musicians

Ensemble Dal Niente performs new and experimental chamber music with dedication, virtuosity, and an exploratory spirit. Flexible and adaptable, Dal Niente’s roster of 26 musicians presents an uncommonly broad range of contemporary music, guiding listeners towards music that transforms existing ideas and subverts convention. Audiences coming to Dal Niente shows can expect distinctive productions—from fully staged operas to multimedia spectacles to intimate solo performances—that are curated to pique curiosity and connect art, culture, and people.

Now in its second decade, Ensemble Dal Niente has performed concerts across Europe and the Americas, including appearances at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC; The Foro Internacional de Música Nueva in Mexico City; Radialsystem Berlin, MusicArte Festival in Panama City; The Library of Congress and the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.; the Art Institute of Chicago and the Hyde Park Jazz Festival; Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles; The Americas Society; and the Darmstadt Summer Courses in Germany. Dal Niente is the recipient of the 2019 Fromm Music Foundation prize, and was the first-ever ensemble to win the Kranichstein prize for interpretation in 2012. The group has recordings available on the New World, New Amsterdam, New Focus, Navona, Parlour Tapes+, and Carrier labels; has held residencies at The University of Chicago, Harvard University, Stanford University, Brown University, Brandeis University, and Northwestern University, among others; and collaborated with a wide range of composers, from Enno Poppe to George Lewis to Hilda Paredes to Roscoe Mitchell.

The ensemble’s name, Dal Niente (“from nothing” in Italian), is a tribute to Helmut Lachenmann’s Dal niente (Interieur III), a work that upended traditional conceptions of instrumental technique; and also a reference to the group’s humble beginnings.

Learn more about Ensemble Dal Niente at their website.

About the Works and Composers Featured on the March 8 Program

in drops of dew will I sink down and mingle with the dust is a line taken from the Hymns of the Night by the German Romantic poet, Novalis, which envisions night as the threshold between life and death. Novalis died far too soon, at the age of 28, and his work has been an important and guiding light in my own 28th year. I was immediately struck by the imagery of this line and wanted to translate the motion of absorption between water and dust into the sonic medium, a descending into the earth. A harmonic texture is set-up which becomes decentered in its development, forcing it to journey through uncomfortable and odd territories before it reaches a level of satiation.

Nick Bentz (b. 1994, Charleston, SC) is a composer and violinist whose art is drawn to the remote fringes and recesses of human experience. In his work he seeks to render intimately personal spaces imbued with an individual sense of storytelling and narrative. Finding inspiration in historical materials, Nick's work often explores the destructive relationship between sound artifacts and time. His art centers around the blurring, juxtaposition, and amalgamation of stylistic idioms into singular sonic statements. Nick holds a BM in composition and violin and an MM in violin from the Peabody Institute, and an MM in composition from the University of Southern California.

Soo Anaso is a mermaid, one of the characters of Tatar folklore. The piece reflects the image of this creature, who is singing and dancing. It portrays the scene of the forest, the lake, and the woods at night. The first section of the piece is meditative, as we enter the woods and hear Soo Anaso’s voice... The voice sings in an improvisatory style with some ornaments from Tatar folk music.

The middle section is the dance. The syllables of the text (at-ta-ti, da-ra di-ta-ti-ra) are the syllables that Tatar people would use when they dance, to create rhythm when there are no instruments to play. The voice is accompanied here by triangle and percussive playing on the cello.

The third section is also meditative, but this time it shows the lake: how it’s still and shining, with the reflection of the stars in the water. The vibraphone creates the lake, this shining, silver thing — there is breath, maybe, as we listen to the surrounding environment with all the sounds of the wind, lake, and rustling leaves.

Adeliia Faizullina (b.1988) is an Uzbekistan-born Tatar composer, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and quray player. As a composer, she explores cutting-edge vocal colors and paints delicate and vibrant atmospheres inspired by the music and poetry of Tatar folklore. The Washington Post has praised her compositions as "vast and varied, encompassing memory and imagination." Her recent commissions include works for Jennifer Koh, the Tesla Quartet, and Johnny Gandelsman. Her works have also been performed by the Minnesota Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, and the Kronos Quartet.  

Adeliia received her BM in Voice in Kazan, Russia, and BM in Music Composition at Gnessins Russian Academy of Music. She holds an MM in Music Composition from the University of Texas at Austin, and is currently pursuing her PhD in Music & Multimedia Composition at Brown University.

Dysgraphia names an impossibility. As a set of conditions, dysgraphia is the state of being where being itself cannot be expressed through writing. As a result of this impossibility, dysgraphia also demands that we consider other modes of expression that depart from the predominance of the scripted word. Temporal Dysgraphia explores the concept of dysgraphia in relation to the writing of time that happens through sound (i.e. music composition). If dysgraphia names an impossibility, how might possibility be reimagined without writing?

Will Johnson is a composer-performer from New York City. Themes from his past work include the elasticity of black digital memory, phantom archives and the latent poetics of critical theory. Past awards for his work include the Jerome Foundation Fellowship for Sound Art/Composition and the McKnight Foundation’s Fellowship for Musicians. His commercial work includes licensed sound and original composition for Acura, GAP, Beats Electronics, HBO and vocal contributions to 2016 Grammy-winning best electronic album Skin. Live performances by Johnson have been commissioned by Lincoln Center, the Kitchen, 92Y, Mass MoCA. Recent collaborative work includes Meta-Simulacrum, an immersive audiovisual performance performed by the Cincinnati Symphony and ongoing work with choreographer Okwui Okpokwasili for MoMA’s debut artist-in-residence initiative. His multichannel audio and sound installation work has been featured in artist Hebru Brantley’s Nevermore Park and as part of the University of Johannesburg’s 2022 Black Sonic exhibition.

On nights when the moon hung big and low in the sky, we thought if we swam out far enough, we might be able to touch it. This piece is about that feeling: space and time stretch on in ways we don’t expect. They extend forever, until they collapse. 

In the Touch the Moon score, musical time comes in two formats: boxed and unboxed. Boxed time is liquid, stretchy, free-flowing. In boxed sections, the ensemble operates as one large texture. Unboxed time, on the other hand, trods forward, often propelled by 16th note figures in the harp and marimba, which are decorated by the winds and strings.

This piece, like all of our pieces, started as a duo guitar improvisation before growing into what you’ll hear today. Thank you so much to our mentor Anthony Cheung for his endless support, to Ensemble Dal Niente for bringing our notes to life, and to all of you for listening!

Lulu West (she/her) is a sound and performance artist based in NYC. Currently she is focused on an audiovisual project that explores how trans and gender non-conforming artists situate their work in rural areas of the mountain west (where she is from). She also has  a electro-acoustic vocal and electric bass/prepared guitar solo practice merging folk and pop songs with free improvisation. Lulu’s main collaborative projects at the moment consist of a folk/classical guitar duo project entitled Polsky West with collaborator Maya Polsky, a noise rock trio called Duchess, a movement and theater based practice with  movement artist Mack Lawrence, and a free-improv trio with fellow sound artists astrid hubbard-flynn and Deven Carmichael.

Lulu’s contemporary compositional works have been performed by ensembles and individuals such as, The New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Yo-Yo Ma, The Akropolis Reed Quintet, Kinan Azmeh, Quartetto Indaco, The Playground Ensemble, Russell Greenberg, The Neave Trio and others. 

Very importantly, Lulu’s main mentors and teachers in her sound related endeavors have been Meredith Monk, Wendy Eisenberg, Jon Deak, Anthony Cheung, Lu Wang, Erik DeLuca, Kristina Warren, Conrad Kehn and Eric Nathan.

Lots of love from Lulu! 

Inspired by listening to classic rock on long car rides, Maya Polsky picked up the guitar at five and quickly fell in love with the instrument. In high school, she studied jazz at Manhattan School of Music and went on to have her musicianship recognized by organizations including YoungArts, the Grammy Foundation, and Jazz at Lincoln Center. At Brown, Maya scored numerous films, performed in bands, and produced and engineered recording projects. With collaborator Lulu West, Maya writes and plays a blend of folk and classical music under Polsky West; last spring, the two premiered Play Space, a collection for duo guitars and chamber ensembles. Maya’s undergraduate work culminated in Mile of String, a thesis album of original songs that merged her jazz guitar training with more modern songwriting and production techniques. Since graduating in December, Maya has moved back to New York where she works as a producer, composer, and session guitarist.

Echoic Memory is a score created from personal archival materials documenting transitions and translations. It is a work that connects the intimate with the geopolitical through sounds that mark the present and the past simultaneously – our shared, entangled, histories.


For any number of improvisers

Players should have at least one sound that can be sustained indefinitely. A radio, recording, or automated instrument, for example.

There are four sections, each should have noticeable pauses in between. Durations to be determined in 

Start by quietly reading the score, play a sustained sound if you like.

Then improvise.

In performance, the score should be made available for the audience to view as a printed program, projected slideshow, or other means.

Image #1 of Bonnie Jones' score
One: head of household
If each mark is a memory, these are the layers of sonic grain.
Image #2 of Bonnie Jones' score
Two: description of bearer
Remember a sound you loved as a child. Hold this sensation, melodically.
Image #3 of Bonnie Jones' score
Three: transmitted under separate cover
Perform in between the marks, lines, and numbers.
Image #4 of Bonnie Jones' score
Four: full, true, and correct
Follow a line to the past. Return to a place in this score.


Bonnie Jones is a Korean-American improvising musician, poet, and performer working with electronic sound and text. She performs solo and in numerous collaborative music, film, and visual art projects. Bonnie was a founding member of the Transmodern Festival and CHELA Gallery and is currently a member of the High Zero Festival collective. In 2010, along with Suzanne Thorpe she co-founded TECHNE, an organization that develops anti-racist, feminist workshops that center on technology-focused art making, improvisation, and community collaboration. She has received commissions from the London ICA and Walters Art Museum and has presented her work extensively at institutions in the US, Mexico, Europe and Asia. Bonnie was a 2018 recipient of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award. Born in South Korea she was raised on a dairy farm in New Jersey, and currently resides in Baltimore, Maryland and Providence RI on the lands of the Susquehannock, Piscataway, Algonquian, and Narrangansett.

Learn more about Bonnie Jones at her website.

Pagan Peal is the first in a series of pieces for different instrumentation inspired by rituals and nature. When composing I started with bell timbres that I transcribed into harmonies. During the process, I listened to pre-existing bell recordings, and I made several of my own. In conducting my research on bell timbre, I’ve visited bell towers on both coasts. 

Rather than adhere to a linear narrative, the piece is rather a kaleidoscope of images, places, and mythological creatures, for example, as birds with female faces (Sirin, Alkonost, and Gamayun). All participants are invoking the awakening of what in Slav mythology we refer to as Mother Moist Earth — humans’ cradler and nurturer.  

I am adding several images that I find relevant to the piece. Images (top down, left to right): Alkonost, unknown author, 18-19th century; Prokudin-Gorsky, Lilies (1909); Prokudin-Gorsky, Girl with Strawberries (1909); Sirin, unknown author, 18-19th century; Bells at the Trinity Cathedral in San-Francisco, personal archive.

Images relevant to Pagan Peal

Inga C is a composer and pianist based in Providence, Rhode Island. Ensembles that have performed Inga C’s music include: Either/Or, The Empyrean, Jack Quartet, ICE Ensemble, Line Upon Line Percussion Trio, Loadbang, Longleash Trio, Lydian String Quartet, Neave Trio, No Exit New Music Ensemble, MCME (Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble), Sound Icon, Russia State Academic Russian Folk Ensemble, Splice, Talea, and Yarn/Wire.

Inga’s work has been performed at Zeitströme Tage für aktuelle Musik (Darmstadt, Germany), Taproot New Music Festival (UC Davis CA), The International Festival of Contemporary Music Moscow Autumn (Moscow, Russia) Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts (Waltham, USA), and Open Space International Composers Laboratory (Moscow, Russia). In 2019, Inga was a resident composer at the Documentary Choreography Laboratory in Moscow, Russia. Inga also participated in Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt, IRCAM's CataRT Workshop, Yarn/Wire International Institute, The Loretto Project with Longleash Trio, Line Upon Line Winter Composer Festival, and Arts, Letters, and Numbers’ program.

Inga is currently pursuing her PhD in “Music and Multimedia Composition” at Brown University. She holds a BM in Composition and Performance from Berklee College of Music and an MFA in Theory and Composition from Brandeis University.