On the Map

Curto-Circuito de Musicà Contemporànea do Brasil/Canada

Curto-Circuito began about three years ago when, after much collaboration with the composer André Mestre, I thought it would be great if I could go to Brazil and perform his works.

André Mestre is a Brazilian-born composer. He completed his Master’s degree in composition at the University of Alberta in 2013 and we worked together often throughout his program. In composition classes at the U of A, students are assigned to write for specific instruments, often for saxophone. I meet with the students to show them some of the less traditional parameters of the instrument, they compose, and then I read-through and perform their works in a workshop setting, culminating in a final concert.

This is a typical format, common at the U of A and elsewhere, but not often in Brazil. We decided to take this workshop format to Brazil as Curto-Circuito. Last year’s Curto-Circuito was entirely solo saxophone works, but this year with generous support from the University of Alberta and the Edmonton Arts Council, we are so pleased to add U of A piano instructor Roger Admiral.

Roger Admiral in a workshop with Escola Música students in São Paolo, Brazil. August, 2015.

Roger Admiral in a workshop with Escola Música students in São Paolo, Brazil. August, 2015.

August 15:

Yesterday pianist Roger Admiral and I arrived in São Paulo and were introduced to the participants of Curto-Circuito 2015 (Short-Circuit 2015).  In a bilingual group discussion moderated by composers André Mestre,  André Ribeiro and Valeria Bonofé we talked with the five students about the big questions and challenges composers face:

How to avoid cliché?

For whom are we writing: the performer, the audience, ourselves?

What are the global elements of composition that unite us today?

What attracts us to contemporary music?

For whom do the performers perform?

It was a very rich discussion and a great way to kick off this portion of Curto-Circuito. For weeks already the students at the Escola Música São Paolo have been composing works for piano and/or saxophone and have been meeting in groups led by Mestre and Ribeiro to share their ideas, study scores, listen to older pieces for references, and help each other.

Today Roger and I will perform eight student works in a public workshop, playing and discussing the writing, the notational challenges, and the ideas in their works. There will be some minor changes to make, perhaps, but the final polished concert will take place tomorrow, the world premiere of eight new pieces of music!


The impetus for this project was to give composers in São Paulo access to performers who specialize in contemporary music and would perform their works in a professional context. This is quite rare in Brazil, as it certainly is in varying degrees around the world. After all, the performer and the composer need each other for this art form to function.

Another cultural experience that I will undoubtedly relish experiencing is Brazilian food. In that spirit, I’ll end each with a quick reporting of my findings: Brazilians are at least as serious about their steak as Albertans are. They also know how to roast a mean chicken.

Allison Balcetis
Internationally recognized as an ambitious new-generation saxophonist, Allison Balcetis has studied and collaborated with artists from around the world. While earning her Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Alberta under the direction of Dr. William Street, Allison produced her first solo recording, Zeniths and Nadirs. She also holds degrees from Bowling Green State University where she studied with Dr. John Sampen and is the first – and only – saxophonist to earn a joint degree from the Université de Bordeaux and the Conservatoire National de Région de Bordeaux where she studied with Marie-Bernadette Charrier. Since 2003 Allison has maintained an international performance career with concerts in Italy, France, Thailand, Slovenia, Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Since 2007 she has performed as a founding member of Anubis Quartet, a Chicago-based ensemble with more than 30 commissions and premieres of provocative new music. During her undergraduate degree, Allison won first place in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition in 2005 and also won the University of Alberta Concerto Competition and the Edmonton Composers' Concert Society Concerto Competition, both in 2008. Amongst notable collaborations are composers Georges Aperghis, Marcos Balter, André Mestre, Colin Labadie, Thierry Alla, and Henri Pousseur. In Edmonton, Alberta Allison helps develop the new music community as past Executive Member and current Production Manager of New Music Edmonton, and board member of the Borealis Electro Acoustic Music Society. As a faculty member of the University of Alberta since 2009, Allison trains the next generation of thoughtful, artistic musicians.

Leave a Reply