Modern classical


The Magnetic South series, a joint project of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and the College of Charleston’s School of the Arts, begins its second season with a concert featuring the music of composers who have ties to South Carolina.

The series was established last school year by Edward Hart and Yiorgos Vassilandonakis, both composers and professors of music at the college.

Magnetic South is a showcase of contemporary classical music and meant to challenge the perception that modern classical music is inaccessible or esoteric.

The concert planned for 8 p.m. Oct. 25 at the Simons Center Recital Hall is titled “The Carolina Connection I.”

It will feature works by three living composers with ties to the Lowcountry. A pre-concert talk is planned for 7:30 p.m.

Vassilandonakis will conduct a chamber orchestra of CSO players, soprano Deanna McBroom and trumpet soloist Michael Smith. Two works will receive their world premieres.

Richard Moryl, who will likely attend the concert, will hear two of his pieces performed, “Das Lied” (written in 1976) and “Salmos” (1969) for solo trumpet.

Vassilandonakis called Moryl a significant composer.

“It is important to recognize him,” he said.

In this day and age, though, music publishers have gone the way of cassette tapes and independent book shops.

So Vassilandonakis, with Moryl’s help, had to do a little digging.

They uncovered the original score (which might be projected on a screen during the performance so the audience can follow along) and transported the big “captain’s bell” sitting in Moryl’s backyard to the Simons Center.

That bell, no common instrument, is a part of “Das Lied.”

The piece uses the same Chinese poetry by Li Bai that Gustav Mahler employed in his “Das Lied von der Erde.”

Soprano Deanna McBroom will perform the vocal part.

Also on the program are two specially commissioned works, “Passages” by John Kennedy, familiar to Charleston audiences as the resident conductor and director of orchestral activities of Spoleto Festival USA, and “MRI,” a work by Richard Maltz, professor of music at the University of South Carolina-Aiken.

“Passages” is aleatoric, which means some of it is left to chance, Vassilandonakis said. It’s based on repetitive, rhythmic pulse, with moments of loud bursts. Musical strands are recycled and spun through the texture. “It’s a very colorful piece,” Vassilandonakis said.

“MRI” is based on sounds Maltz endured while encompassed by a machine by the same name. It’s a Minimalist piece that uses the overtone series and controlled repetition.

“It should sound very familiar and organized to people’s ears,” Vassilandonakis said.

One function of the Magnetic South concerts is to inspire young composers, he said.

“Students can make connection between what they’re doing and where they can be in the future,” he said.

Vassilandonakis already has planned for the several upcoming concerts. He is now about three years ahead, he said. He decides on a theme, then seeks to create a mix of musical aesthetics.

The series will continue in the spring with a March 21 concert of more premieres.

Tickets are $25, $10 for students, and available via the Charleston Symphony Orchestra by visiting Click on “Concerts & Tickets” then scroll down to the event.

Reach Adam Parker at 937-5902. Follow him at