“Ezra Sims... has already contributed an outstanding body of works, many of which have explored with singular imagination, conviction — and success — the beautiful, but elusive world of microtonal music.”
– American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award Citation, 1985
Among contemporary American composers, Ezra Sims truly defies categorization. On the one hand, he composes with a 24-tone microtonal scale derived from a 72-tone division of the octave, a practice that puts him at the forefront of the avant-garde. On the other hand, Sims’s approach to composition is ultimately classical, with long, sinewy melodies, accessible motives, and formal clarity. This penchant for classicism is so strongly ingrained that Sims often refers to himself as a very old fashioned musician.
A staple of Boston’s thriving contemporary music scene through his long standing relationships with groups such as Dinosaur Annex and the Pro Arte Orchestra, it’s fitting that Pitt’s Music on the Edge series should honor Ezra Sims on his 80th birthday. Sims had a significant influence on MOTE codirector Mathew Rosenblum when Rosenblum was a student at New England Conservatory. Rosenblum went on to explore his own brand of microtonality, carving out a strong niche for himself in the world of contemporary music in the process.
The program will provide the rare opportunity to hear two pre-microtonal compositions: Cello Sonata and Sonatine for piano, works featured prominently in Sims’s 1959 New York debut. The early pieces will be juxtaposed with Sims’s more recent composition for mezzo and cello If I Told Him based on texts by Gertrude Stein. The Cello Sonata and Sonatine provide an excellent background for understanding his mature microtonal approach employed in If I Told Him. Music on the Edge codirector Eric Moe will serve both as piano soloist and accompanist to cellist Ted Mook and mezzo Mary Nessinger, performers who have been intimately involved with both Sims’s music and the Music on the Edge series over the years. Concert attendees will have a chance to talk with the composer over birthday cake and other refreshments immediately following the concert.
The Ezra Sims 80th Birthday Celebration Concert takes place on Tuesday, January 8 at 8 p.m. in Bellefield Hall Auditorium. Tickets purchased in advance through ProArts are $10 for general admission and $5 for students and seniors, Call 412-394-3353 or visit www.proartstickets.org. Service fees apply. Tickets at the door are $15 and $10. Pitt students are admitted free with ID.