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Olly Wilson Collaborating with The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players

Award: $35,000 Performing Arts Grant awarded 2000

Premiered: April 2003

Two distinguished artists who had long been colleagues on the University of California at Berkeley campus–composer Olly Wilson and painter Mary Lovelace O’Neal–collaborated with one another and with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players to create a new work for chamber ensemble and a triptych of new paintings. Both the chamber work and paintings were introduced to the public at three concerts in April 2003: at the Mondavi Center on the University of California at Davis campus, at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, and in Hertz Hall at the University of California at Berkeley campus. Wilson conducted nine musicians of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players in performing the work’s premiere.

The artists used the theme of “call and response” both to structure their collaboration and as a theme within the finished works. They began their process with Olly Wilson’s composing work in response to several paintings by O’Neal. After Wilson wrote his piece, the artists turned the tables. O’Neal visited rehearsals of Wilson’s piece and responded to it with a major new three-panel painting. The premiere performances featured slides of the paintings that had influenced Wilson’s work and a showing–both through slide projections and “live” presentation–of O’Neal’s new work. Dr. Wilson noted that the project was “…both a continuation of the exploration of ideas that have informed my recent work and, simultaneously, the beginning of a new way of engaging the creative process.”

The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players was entering its thirtieth year at the time the Creative Work Fund grant was awarded. Considered a leader among ensembles in the United States dedicated to contemporary chamber music, the group has received the prestigious national ASCAP/Chamber Music America Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music many times and has performed more that 1,000 new works.