Columbia University’s Music Performance Program presents:


Thursday, March 26, 2009, 8:00 PM

A Music Performance Program Special Event — Free and Open to the Public

Columbia University, 301 Philosophy Hall
near Amsterdam Ave & 116th St.

New York City

The Music Performance Program at Columbia University, and the New York-based percussion/piano ensemble Yarn/Wire, are presenting the music of Benjamin Carson in an innovative concert at Philosophy Hall on March 26th. Guests include Dr. Rhonda Taylor, a saxophonist specializing in complex rhythms and extended techniques, CORE Ensemble’s Katie Schlaikjer on cello, American/Spanish contrabassist/critic Christopher Williams, and trumpeter Glen Whitehead of the University of Colorado. Composer Benjamin Carson, who teaches composition and the psychology of music at the University of California at Santa Cruz, writes an experimental music informed by studies in the perception of rhythm and form. His music makes use of traditional tonality, a wide-ranging rhythmic language, and an unusual dynamic range that sometimes blurs the boundary between intentional musical sounds and incidental environmental noises.

Yarn/Wire is the only active contemporary music ensemble in the U.S. dedicated to expanding the body of works written for two pianists and two percussionists. The sonic possibilities afforded by this unique instrumentation leads to a rich body of work. Since its inception in 2005, the ensemble has presented concerts throughout the country, championing a wide range of literature, including early and recent, acoustic and electro-acoustic; its members’ interests range from the standard classical repertory to experimental popular music. The ensemble, (Ian Antonio, Russell Greenberg, Laura Barger and Jacob Rhodebeck) are veterans of New York City and San Francisco Bay Area experimental ensembles, including Zs, Hunter/Gatherer, and Hi Red Center. They have performed nationally and internationally at the Lucerne and Tanglewood music festivals.

Carson’s unusual work draws on the familiarity of traditional tonal harmony, while making use of experimental approaches to rhythmic identity, voice, and formal development. Anahistoric (2004), for cello, percussion, piano, and consumer-model electronic keyboards, makes use of extremely quiet sounds, extremely difficult rhythms, and ambiguous movement between musical parts. The result is often akin to illusion, with one perception being traded for another: chaos and randomness yielding to the unexpected impression that direction and purpose has been present all along. Writing in The Open Space Magazine (2003), Christopher Williams has shown that Carson’s music makes a paradox of keys and tonal resolutions, and of the traditional relationships between polyphonic voices. As keys change and overlap, and as pairs of voices oppose one another, “each element in the false dichotomy defines and becomes the other” so that “we have the opportunity and responsibility to navigate our [own] uniquely useful paths.”

Carson’s work is supported by a variety of research in perception studies, critical science studies, and mathematics. His review essay “What are Musical Paradox and Illusion?” sheds new musical light on the experiments and discoveries of psychologist Diana Deutsch (American Journal of Psychology, 2005); he also reports his own experimental findings on the perception of “simple timespan ratios” in the Journal of New Music Research (2007). Carson’s research has earned the support of grants from the French Ministry of Culture and the University of California, and his music has been presented at conferences and festivals at Sydney Conservatory, New England Conservatory, and the Aspen Summer Music Festival. His work Detaler won first prize in chamber music at the British and International Bass Festival in 2001.

For more information, and to listen to the music, please visit:



Benjamin Carson,, 831-419-0981
Harley Spiller,, 917-553-4831
Columbia Music Performance Program,, (212) 854-1257