Ukrainian Contemporary Music Festival returns to New York City

Ukrainian Contemporary Music Festival (UCMF) returns to New York and will take place in its new permanent home at the Kaufman Music Center. The 2022 festival is organized around the theme of Landscape. This sets the tone for the whole musical agenda: the concerts will journey through the ancient Ukrainian landscapes, mythologies of nature and centuries of agrarian life back to the modern city. The festival will last three days, highlighting human interaction with nature in the music from and covering three kinds of landscapes — forest, field and the city.

Day one: Forest Song

Named after Lesia Ukrainka‘s poetic play, the concert reveals contemporary composers’ preoccupation with the natural world and the myths that have grown from the mysterious settings of Ukrainian forests in the North. The first half of the concert presents varied realizations of life in the woodlands from Zoltan Almashi, Ivan Nebesnyy, Ostap Manulyak and Anastasia Belitska. The concert culminates with a sonic journey through the Polissya region, a site of feral, mystical lands, increasingly depleted since the Chornobyl nuclear disaster of 1986, featuring Iryna Klymenko and Serhiy Okhrimchuk of the famous Ukrainian folk ensemble Drevo mixing instruments and voices with electronics by Alla Zahaykevych.

Day two: In the Field

Ukraine has always had a rich agricultural tradition, reflected in its music. Many Ukrainian folk songs describing facets of agrarian life begin with the phrase “In the field…” (“Oy, u poli…”). The second day of the festival will feature works influenced by the Carpathian region and the traditions of the Hutsuls – an ethnographic group of Ukrainian pastoral highlanders. These works are juxtaposed with the music of duo SAS, who completely change the way we perceive the folk soundscape. By reimagining the sounds of traditional instruments, their program will include composed pieces in microtonal and even temperament for Kharkiv-style bandura and flute, with the use of extended techniques, synthesized and electronically processed sounds.

Day three: Anthropocene

The final concert interrogates the destructive consequences of human exploitation of the Earth, moving from the land as a site of magic and abundance to one of damage and devastation. Alexey Shmurak’s piano piece Greenland sheds a reflective light on the erosion of the Arctic, demonstrating its beauty but also the impact of human occupation. Music theater whiz kids Roman Grygoriv and Illia Razumeiko steer clear of traditional techniques and literally turn instrumental music upside down. They will present their Chornobyldorf Partita, transforming traditional instruments into the sounds of a post-apocalyptic world.

“After the revolution of 2014, I started paying attention to the changing musical landscape in Ukraine. I found that Ukrainian contemporary music turned out to be more progressive and excitingly experimental than a lot of what ones can find in New York City. The goal of the festival is to introduce the achievements of Ukrainian music to the world and make Ukraine a part of a global cultural landscape, where it belongs,” comments Leah Batstone, founder and artistic director of UCMF.

The full program of the festival is available on the UCMF’s site.

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