Jazz and instrumental ensembles put on first concert of the year, “Landscapes/Bitscapes.”


Photo taken by Anna Darling.

Anna Darling and Grace Bakeman

Beautiful Sounds on a Rainy Night: Landscapes/Bitscapes Recap

Despite the wind and rain, parents and students gathered in Blackwell Auditorium to hear the Department of Arts’ performance on Friday, September 30, 2022, at Randolph-Macon College. Walking in, the audience waited in anticipation as the Jazz Improvisation Laboratory warmed up. A few minutes after 7:00pm, the show began.

With each song, the pianists and other instrumentalists from the Jazz Lab rotated, taking turns on solos, giving each participant an opportunity to show off their skills. After each solo, the audience cheered. Additionally, the Music Director Brian Coffill introduced the soloists at the end of each song.

After this, the Large Instrumental Ensemble presented several songs. Coffill explained having to split up his ensemble into two groups based on availability. After the first group performed, the second group followed in an equally impressive collection of music. To conclude the show, both groups joined together to perform the final two songs.

Even Student Assistant Conductor and Senior Holden Trimmer conducted a song. Throughout his time at R-MC, Trimmer has worked to gain pedagogical experience in preparation for his future career in music education. Coffill gave a kind introduction to Trimmer and the audience cheered for him with great enthusiasm. Senior Izzie Aisenberg also joined the ensemble as a guest vocalist, eliciting a similar reaction from the crowd.

After the performance, students, parents, faculty, and staff made their way to the lobby for dessert, stomachs nearly full from the feast of music.


Sounds from the Ensemble

In the night’s first segment, students from the Jazz Improv Lab performed a series of jazz compositions that allowed each musician to demonstrate their instrument’s range and improvisation skills in rotating solo displays. Through three jazz improvisations, instrumentalists effortlessly transitioned between showcasing their own performance skills and smoothly blending into the supporting ensemble.

Throughout the Jazz Improv Lab performance, students played through a set of three jazz standards, featuring both new and returning musicians that have participated during the student-led ensemble rehearsals thus far. To finish off the jazz section, musicians new to the ensemble made their debut with support from the returning jazz instrumentalists and each musician had an opportunity to demonstrate their improvisation skills.

The first segment’s musicians participated in this semester’s student-led ensemble rehearsals to prepare for the Landscapes/Bitscapes performance. The group consists of returning students as well as many new students. The new musicians made their debut during their last song, demonstrating their improvisational skills with support from the returning instrumentalists.

After a brief intermission, the first section of the Large Instrumental Ensemble took the stage to play through a set of three songs, beginning with a contemporary and more experimental composition, Sonic Meditations, “Teach Yourself to Fly” (Pauline Oliveros, 1971).

Unlike more traditional compositions, Oliveros’ Sonic Meditations series features an exploration of instrumentation, challenging musicians to be aware of themselves and their surroundings as they express themselves freely, taking inspiration from Oliveros’ written prompts. Rather than relying on traditional notation, Oliveros challenges instrumentalists to observe their own breath, then that of those around them, translating their breath and surroundings into sounds for the audience to observe and interpret.

Following Oliveros’ contemporary composition, the Large Instrumental Ensemble shifted to a more classically composed repertoire with Amy Beach’s Pastorale (arranged and transcribed by Dr. Coffill for a larger ensemble) and Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony no. 45 in F-sharp minor, “Farewell,” movement 1 before exiting the stage.

Next, the second section of the Large Instrumental Ensemble took the stage to perform Pauline Oliveros’ Sonic Meditations, “Tumbling Song.” Like the first selection, Oliveros’ Sonic Meditations challenges each instrumentalist to explore their own instrument. The selection showcases the choices of individual instrumentalists exploring their instruments in a series of descending musical expressions, truly “tumbling” through their capable ranges and showing a different side of orchestration to their audience.

After, they performed Sweet Time Suite (Kenneth Wheeler, 1990), a lush jazz composition featuring guest vocalist Izzie Aisenberg (Music and Chemistry Major, Class of 2023). This transitioned without interruption into Hambone (Libby Larson, 1999), a body percussion composition, exploring a more contemporary repertoire.

For the second section’s final selection, senior Holden Trimmer, a music education major, took the stage to conduct Cait Nishimura’s Autumn. Throughout his time at Randolph-Macon, Trimmer has worked to gain pedagogical experience in preparation for his future career in music education.

To begin closing the concert, the first and second sections of the Large Instrumental Ensemble joined to perform another element of Oliveros’ Sonic Meditation. The piece is filled with free improvisation that encourages the audience to imagine the music and calls the instrumentalists to produce Telepathic Improvisation from the audience’s ideas.

Finally, the combined Large Instrumental Ensemble, conducted again by Dr. Coffill, performed Jennifer Rose’s Bitscapes (2020), which is an immersive composition that blends samples of “BitPop” or “Chiptunes,” inspired by early video game systems, with orchestration demonstrating the fluidity of instrumentation and the cohesivity of different forms of music making.

To stay connected with Randolph-Macon Music and find out about future performances, check out rmc.edu/ensemble and follow the Music Department on Instagram and Facebook @musicmacon.



Jazz Improvisation Laboratory: 

Never Will I Marry – Frank Loesser

The Girl From Ipanema – Antônio Carlos Jobim

Blue Monk – Thelonious Monk


Large Instrumental Ensembles:

Sonic Meditations I. Teach Yourself To Fly – Pauline Oliveros

Pastorale – Amy Beach

Symphony No. 45, “Farewell” 1. Allegro assai – Franz Joseph Haydn

Sonic Meditations XIV. Tumbling – Pauline Oliveros

Sweet Time Suite I. Chorale – Kenneth Wheeler

Featuring Izzie Aisenberg ‘23

Hambone – Libby Larsen

Autumn – Cait Nishimura

Conducted by Holden Trimmer

Sonic Meditations III. Pacific Tell/Telepathic Improvisation – Pauline Oliveros

Bitscapes – Jennifer Rose