A Symphony of Musical Cars? UWM Student Uses Unique Technology for New Compositions

Apr 5, 2013

Twentieth century composers, like John Cage, experimented with different objects in order to create new sounds and new music. Sebastian Valenzuela, a second year music composition and technology student at UW-Milwaukee, is following along those lines to create fresh music in the new millennium.

Sebastian Valenzuela, native of Chile and second year music composition and technology student at UWM.
Credit Valeria Lopez

“Contemporary classical music, I feel, is suffering some of the same setbacks as what we consider to be great classical music,” Valenzuela says.

So his goal is to create music that “surprises” him and his audience. For example, a potential project that Valenzuela is trying to conduct is a piece where musicians are playing in cars. He likes the idea of experimenting with different sounds mixed with physics, especially with the Doppler Effect.

Valenzuela says he'll often start a composition by writing ideas down on paper in words and scribbles.

“I feel much more satisfied when I create something that has a bigger backdrop, a bigger meaning, than just to satisfy musical math,” Valenzuela says.

Valenzuela, a native of Chile, found that he had talent for composition when he was at Loyola University in New Orleans. He went onto attend the UWM Peck School of the Arts. There he founded an organization called MOSAIC (Milwaukee Organized Sound and Instrument Collective) that encourages composition students to bring their composition projects to try out on other composers and performers.

Sebastian Valenzuela
Credit Valeria Lopez

Valenzuela felt there needed to be a way for musicians to get out of the practice rooms and to network with each other, give each other ideas, and to jam out. The organization is also working on a concert to perform what they have created in the past year.

Valenzuela has a piece for string quartet, A Fire, Under Way, premiering this Saturday at the Unruly Music Festival. The concert series, started by his mentor, Chris Burns, features compositions by UWM composition students as well as pieces that are well-known. Looks can be deceiving, however; the string quartet will not sound like the average string quartet.

“When audiences go and listen to new music, it’s quite a challenge. We expect a lot more from the listener than your average everyday background music,” Valenzuela says.

The Unruly Music Festival is happening this weekend at the Marcus Center for the Arts from April 4-6. All concerts start at 7:30.

MOSAIC can be found on Facebook and on Youtube.