Speed of Sound

UVA Music @100


UVA Percussion Ensemble

I-Jen Fang, Director


Innova 025



1:         Judith Shatin: Khamsa (2015) 6:25

            Nathaniel Hara, Julianna Lee, Ryan Lerner, Vivian McCoy, and Mark Panetti


2:         Sophia Shen: Rite of the Elves (2015) 4:32

            Aliyah Cotton, Julianna Lee, Mark Panetti, Crystal Triplett, and Tyler James Walsh


3:         Kristina Warren: Choose (2014) 9:05

            Brandon Burton, Gregory Lewis, Shaun Spisak, and Laura Tracy


4:         Mark Panetti: To Live To Be Free (2016) 9:10

            I-Jen Fang, Julianna Lee, and Mark Panetti


            Kevin Davis: Two PFR-3 Poems by Jackson Mac Low (2017)

5:         From “From ‘David’” 4:40

6:         From “From ‘The’” 7:00

            Brandon Burton, Gregory Lewis, Shaun Spisak, and Laura Tracy


7:         Jon Bellona: #Ferguson (2014) 5:19

            I-Jen Fang


8:         Maxwell Tfirn: Gentle Rain on Delicate Wings (2017) 7:25

            Cameron Church, Daniel Kiracofe, Julianna Lee, Ryan Lerner, and Mark Panetti


9:         Matthew Burtner: Speed of Sound In An Ice Rain (2015) 9:28

            Aliyah Cotton, Julianna Lee, Mark Panetti, Crystal Triplett, and Tyler James Walsh


            — 63:06 —


With the University of Virginia (UVA) celebrating its Bicentennial and the Music Department marking its 100th Anniversary, the UVA Percussion Ensemble and I have recorded works (newly commissioned or never previously recorded) composed by faculty, students, and alumni of the UVA Composition and Computer Technologies program. Speed of Sound: [email protected] is the fruit of a collaboration across different groups (undergraduate, graduate, Faculty) and disciplines (composition, performance) within the Music Department at UVA. Thanks to the Mead Endowment for giving the seed money to begin the project, the McIntire Department of Music, and the Vice Provost for the Arts for the Arts Enhancement fund. Also, thanks to all the students, faculty, and staff who are involved in this project. Finally, thanks to my husband, Ben, and sons, Kenry and Zander, for their unconditional support and understanding for me to chase my dream. This is a team effort, and without any single element, this wouldn’t have been possible. To me this is not just a celebration for the Centennial, it’s also a celebration of relationships fostered across all levels. — I-Jen Fang


Khamsa (2015) by Judith Shatin

The title, Khamsa, which means ‘five’ in Arabic, refers to an ancient palm-shaped amulet that has been used as a sign of protection against the ‘evil eye.’ It has meaning in all three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, though it predated any of them. During this current time of increased turmoil in the Mideast and beyond, I chose this title, and designed a structure based on the five digits, as a way of expressing hope for better times ahead and for protection for all people against intolerance based on religious creed and ethnicity. Each of the five members of the quintet represents the fingers of the open palm. At times they work in concert, at times there are animated interchanges among them. Khamsa was commissioned by the UVA Percussion Ensemble and its director I-Jen Fang on the occasion of their tenth anniversary, and is dedicated to them. — Judith Shatin


JUDITH SHATIN (judithshatin.com) is known for both her acoustic and electroacoustic music. Called “highly inventive on every level” by the Washington Post, her music fuses timbral imagination with dynamic narrative design, informed by ongoing collaborations with musicians, artists and community groups. Shatin’s music has been commissioned by organizations including the Barlow Endowment, Fromm Foundation, Carnegie Hall, the Library of Congress, the Kronos and Cassatt Quartets and the Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Arts Partners Program. It has been featured at festivals including Aspen, BAM Next Wave, Grand Teton, Spring in Havana, Moscow Autumn, Seal Bay, Soundways (St. Petersburg) and West Cork, while orchestras that have presented her music include the National, Houston, Illinois, Knoxville, Minnesota and Richmond Symphonies, as well as the American Composers Orchestra. Shatin has held residencies at Bellagio (Italy), Brahmshaus (Germany), La Cité des Arts (France), Mishkan Omanim (Israel) and in the US at MacDowell, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Yaddo. Judith Shatin is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor Emerita at the University of Virginia, where she founded the Virginia Center for Computer Music.


Rite of the Elves (2015) by Sophia Shen

Rite of the Elves is a piece for percussion ensemble. It is a short fantasy that portrays a group of elves dancing in the distant dark forest. A musical fairytale, its concept is similar to a tone poem. The piece is highly rhythmic with irregular time signatures, thus it sometimes conveys a sense of disorientation. — Sophia Shen


Born in Zhangzhou, a small city in southeast China, SOPHIA SHEN is a composer, sound artist, pipa performer and improviser. Her background in western classical music, traditional Chinese music and electronic music enables her to bridge the divide between cultures. She incorporates her main instrument, pipa, in many of her compositions, improvisations and performances, both acoustically and electronically, as a means to realize a new form of cultural synthesis sonically and aesthetically. Her original compositions have been performed at major music festivals such as San Francisco Tape Music Festival, EcoSono Environmental Music and Sound Art Festival, SEAMUS (Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States), Third Practice Festival and VU Symposium. Sophia is currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She holds an MFA in Electronic Music and Recording Media from Mills College where she also studied composition and improvisation. She received a BA degree in Music with High Distinction and a BA degree in German from the University of Virginia.


Choose (2014) by Kristina Warren

Originally commissioned and premiered by So Percussion, Choose (2014) employs a system of graphic, color-based notation to encourage performers to create various loops out of given rhythmic material. The piece aims to be a structure for musical improvisation, which can be very different or very similar each time it is performed. Choose drifts fluidly among various stylistic referents and forms of group cohesion. The present performance reflects a unique vitality – foreground and background ever shifting – in the translation of graphic score material into thoughtful sonic gestures. — Kristina Warren


KRISTINA WARREN (kmwarren.org) is a composer, improviser, and critical maker based in Providence, Rhode Island [US]. Her practice – including composing for/with chamber ensembles, building/playing unique instruments, and writing about gender in electronic music – centers listening and noise, instrumentality and access. Warren has presented work around the world, including at the Guthman Musical Instrument Competition [US], Espace des arts sans frontières [FR], ICMC [GR, NL], Interfaces [CY], Mise-En Music Festival [US], NIME [US], Spektrum [DE], and TENOR [CA, ES]. Her music has been performed by ensembles such as Chartreuse, Dither, Ekmeles, JACK Quartet, Loadbang, So Percussion, and Yarn/Wire. She has been selected as a PEO Scholar Award recipient (2016), an Associate Artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts (2016), and a finalist in the American Composers Forum National Composition Contest (2014). Warren performs in various configurations, including the solo project Petra. Recent collaborators include Amy Brandon, Kwaku Kwaakye Martin Obeng, Rachel Devorah, and Theresa Wong. Currently a Visiting Assistant Professor teaching Electronic Music & Multimedia in Brown University’s MEME Program, Warren holds a PhD in Composition & Computer Technologies from University of Virginia (2017) and a BA in Music Composition from Duke University (2011).


To Live To Be Free (2016) by Mark Panetti

To Live To Be Free was composed during my second year as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia. My instrument choice of marimba and temple blocks is designed to produce a warm melody complemented by rhythmic percussion. I was partly inspired by Canadian rock group Rush, famous for their epic instrumental passages that combine traditional melodic instruments with orchestral percussion. — Mark Panetti


MARK PANETTI graduated from the University of Virginia in 2018 with a double major in math and computer science. He recorded and performed with the UVA Percussion Ensemble while completing his undergraduate degree. He has been playing percussion for about ten years, and started composing when he was in high school. His musical influences include progressive rock, djent, and concert percussion.


Two PFR-3 Poems by Jackson Mac Low (2017) by Kevin Davis:

From “From ‘David’”

From “From ‘The’”

These pieces are based on some of the earliest computer generated poetry. These poems were composed at Information International, Inc. with the aid of a programmable film reader connected to a DEC PDP-9 computer and peripherals in 1969. There are a number of algorithmic processes involved in their composition, but the actual text supplied by Mac Low consists of single or double lines or “messages” of less than 48 characters. Since Mac Low both studied with John Cage and was known to derive poetry from music, it seemed an interesting project to return the favor. Of the three poems I selected, I utilized a variety of mappings based mostly on letters, but also elements like stanza position and indentation. The poems are very straightforwardly mapped onto some musical parameters—like pitch, duration, and dynamics—and less straightforwardly mapped onto others, such as gesture or movement. The result is a simulacrum of not only language, but an odd sort of mis-representation of the experience of reading an odd sort of poem. — Kevin Davis


KEVIN DAVIS has degrees in music composition from the University of Memphis (BMus), the Centre for Advanced Musical Study (MIAM) in Istanbul (MA), and University of Virginia (MA, PhD). His doctoral dissertation concerns experimental forms of instrumentality and their effect on the shifting meaning of music composition. His current musical work reflects this research through works that embrace the mistranslation of formal structures — like poems, texts, or paintings — through the inexact media of movement, notation, and instrument. He is currently an Instructor at the University of Virginia, teaching courses in composition, music theory, and music technology.


#Ferguson (2014) by Jon Bellona

#Ferguson is based upon live tweets surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO on Aug. 9, 2014. Michael Brown was shot and killed by officer Darren Wilson, which sparked riots and civilian unrest. Demonstrations were met with militaristic police response and curfews. The event underscored racial disparities of the justice system and received national media attention. In August and September of 2014, #ferguson and related hashtags pushed past 100,000 tweets per day. Using Twitter’s API to map Twitter data to musical events, the piece explores the violence, silence and outrage surrounding the events in Ferguson. The drums replay Michael Brown’s tragic encounter and connote the social media responses to his death. — Jon Bellona


JON BELLONA is a sound artist who specializes in digital technologies. His music and media explore environmental sustainability, data-body interactivity, digital musical instruments, site-specific sound, and choreographic composition. He is a co-director of Harmonic Laboratory, an interdisciplinary arts collective focused on art and technology collaborations. Jon’s work has been shown in concerts, festivals, and galleries across North America and Europe, including Kyma International Sound Symposium (KISS); New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME); Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS); International Computer Music Conference (ICMC); with special performances at the Casa da Musica (Porto, Portugal) and CCRMA (Palo Alto, CA). Jon has received awards through the Mozilla Community Gigabit Fund, the Oregon Community Foundation Creative Heights Grant, the Jefferson Trust, and has served as a University of Virginia Presidential Fellow in Data Science, an Environmental Resilience and Sustainability Fellow, and an Art & Environmental Action Scholar. Jon studied composition with Samuel F. Pellman, Matthew Burtner, Ted Coffey, Jeffrey Stolet, and Judith Shatin, earning degrees at University of Virginia (Ph.D., M.A.), University of Oregon (M.Mus.), Hamilton College (B.A.) and Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences (Dip.). Jon is an instructor of Audio Production at the University of Oregon.





Gentle Rain on Delicate Wings (2017) by Maxwell Tfirn

Gentle Rain on Delicate Wings is a composition written for the University of Virginia Percussion Ensemble. The composition takes its inspiration from a gentle storm and the image of a butterfly trying to fly through the rain. During the composition, there are melodic passages derived from an algorithm, that, when plotted, create the shape of a butterfly. The melodic passages get broken and interrupted by auxiliary percussion which simulate the other factors of a storm. Throughout the composition there are moments of freedom where the score is spatial and the performers have to follow one another. These sections build atmosphere and change the density and texture of the composition akin to when it momentarily stops raining. — Maxwell Tfirn


MAXWELL TFIRN is composer and performer based in Newport News, Virginia, where he holds the position Director of Composition and Creative Studies at Christopher Newport University. He holds a Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of Virginia, an MA in Music Composition from Wesleyan University, and a BM in Music Education as well as a performance certificate in percussion from the University of Florida. He also performs live improvised noise music using digital and analog electronics. Outside of his music, Maxwell creates digital glitch photography that uses audio concepts and synthesis as a means of image manipulation in Supercollider. Maxwell has had works performed at ICMC, SEAMUS, Electro Acoustic Barn Dance, Society of Composers, FEAST Festival, Technosonics, N_SEME, and Subtropics Music festival, and was a featured composer for Share and more. His music has also been performed by Jack Quartet, Loadbang, MehanPerkins, Dither, Ekmeles, The New Thread Quartet, percussionists I-Jen Fang, pianist Seung-Hye Kim and Kenneth Broadway. He has studied with Judith Shatin, Anthony Braxton, Ted Coffey, Matthew Burtner, Paula Matthusen, James Sain and Ronald Kuivila.


Speed of Sound In An Ice Rain (2015) by Matthew Burtner

I listened to the sound of an ice rain crackle on the leaves of a magnolia tree, and wondered how the changing density, temperature and humidity of the air affect the speed and quality of the sound it carries. Sound should travel more quickly through precipitation. What would the ice rain sound like on a hot, dry day? Does all that ice in the air scatter and dampen the sound? In this piece, we hear the unaltered recording of the ice rain on the leaves of the tree, and we hear the percussion depiction of the changing speed of sound. — Matthew Burtner


MATTHEW BURTNER (matthewburtner.com) is an Alaskan-born composer, sound artist and eco-acoustician whose music and research explores embodiment, ecology, polytemporality and noise. First Prize Winner of the Musica Nova International Electroacoustic Music Competition (Czech Republic), a 2011 IDEA Award Winner, and a recipient of the Howard Brown Foundation Fellowship, Burtner’s music has also received honors and awards from Bourges (France), Gaudeamus (Netherlands), Darmstadt (Germany) and The Russolo (Italy) international competitions. He is Professor of Composition and Computer Technologies (CCT) at the University of Virginia, and Director of the environmental arts non-profit organization, EcoSono (ecosono.org).


The UVA Percussion Ensemble was re-established in 2005 by director, I-Jen Fang. The Percussion Ensemble is a chamber group that performs literature from classical transcriptions to contemporary music. The ensemble draws upon a large family of pitched and non-pitched percussion instruments such as the xylophone (pitched) and bass drum (non-pitched). The ensemble also uses non-traditional instruments such as kitchen mixing bowls, car brake drums, and PVC pipes. The ensemble has performed with many renowned musicians, including Gordon Stout, Ed Smith, Fernando Rocha (Brazil), Peter Martin (Third Coast Percussion), Greg Howard (Chapman Stick), John D’earth (Jazz Trumpet) and Robert Jospé.


Described as an “intrepid percussionist” by Fanfare Magazine, I-JEN FANG has a career as a solo performer, chamber musician, orchestral player, and teacher. She joined the faculty of the McIntire Department of Music at the University of Virginia in 2005 and as the Principal Timpanist and Percussionist of the Charlottesville Symphony. She received her B.F.A. from Carnegie Mellon University, M.M. from Northwestern University and Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of North Texas. I-Jen has performed or recorded with artists such as Keiko Abe, William Cahn, Christopher Deane, Mark Ford, Mike Mainieri, Ed Smith, Michael Spiro, Nanik Wenton, Nyoman Wenton, Attacca Percussion Group, EcoSono Ensemble, and Da Capo Chamber Players. She has performed as marimba soloist in Taiwan, U.S., Austria, France, Hungary, Romania, and South Africa. She has also appeared as a featured performer at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, PAS Day of Percussion, Staunton Music Festival, and Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival. I-Jen Fang is an Innovative Percussion Artist.


Producer: I-Jen Fang

Recording Engineer: Travis Thatcher

Mixing Engineer: Composers, tracks 3, 7, 8, 9 ; Travis Thatcher, tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 6

Recorded in the Old Cabell Hall Auditorium at the University of Virginia, Fall 2016 to Spring 2018


innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.

Philip Blackburn, director, design

Chris Campbell, operations director

Tim Igel, publicist