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Mimesis Art Imitates Life Organ Performance

A performance by the Iowa State University Organ Studio of Dr. Miriam Zach took place on Saturday, 13 April 2024 at 1:30pm in Martha-Ellen Tye Recital Hall in the Music building on the campus of Iowa State University.

About the Composers and the Compositions

Dr. Geoffrey Wilcken (USA) is a composer, organist, and conductor currently in the Kansas City area. He graduated from Iowa State University with a Bachelor of Music degree in composition during the mid 1990’s after studying composition with Dr. Jeffrey Prater. He completed his Master of Music in choral conducting, and D.M.A. (2018) at the University of Kansas. Presently, he is a staff pianist at the Kansas City Kansas Community College. Wilcken wrote Leviathan in 2010 for the Southminster Presbyterian Church Casavant Organ which he plays on occasion, and revised it in 2012. The piece draws inspiration from Psalm 104 which states: “There is the sea, vast and spacious…and the Leviathan, which You formed to frolic there.” A leviathan is a large oceanic creature, most likely akin to a whale. In a Biblical sense, it is a bringer of chaos on the seas and threat to ships. The opening of Wilcken’s piece paints a serene picture of a still ocean, deep below the surface. Soon we hear the sonar-like call of the leviathan, then the piece begins to slowly build until we see/hear the leviathan in all of its glory.

Barbara Heller (Germany) has made significant contributions as a classical composer and pianist. With a life dedicated to music, Heller’s journey included studying in Mannheim and Munich, self-taught composition efforts, and further education under notable mentors. She was an active performer until 1990 and has since been involved in various collaborative projects, enriching the tapestry of contemporary classical music with her compositions, which span across piano, harpsichord, orchestra, chamber ensembles, and film scores. Miriam Zach imagines a Doppler effect of sound and light, selects three flue stops namely the Oakgedackt 8’, Holpijp 8’, and Gedackt 8’ on three manuals of the Brombaugh pipe organ, adds quiet sustained low pedal tones for the hum of a large urban environment, and uses terraced dynamics and varying octaves from dark (low pitches) and bright (high pitches) to depict visual layering of minarets in photos of Alexandria, Egypt, the home of Italian poet Ungaretti who inspired Heller. The Doppler effect in physics is the increase (or decrease) in frequency of sound or light as the source and observer move toward or away from each other.

Click below for a PDF of the program: