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Illustrated image of a piano surrounded by color and abstract, futuristic shapes

The department is delighted to host Ex Machina, the 2024 Festival on the Hill, this week! This festival is curated by Associate Professor Dr. Clara Yang, Area Head of Piano, and examines the complicated relationship humans have with technology through music and visual media.

Beginning Wednesday, audiences can explore these themes alongside scholars and artists from across the university and the world. The festival will host three events over three days: Symposium (an academic panel and Q&A, chaired by music professor Dr. Mark Katz and Dr. Andrea Bohlman) on Wednesday, March 20 at 5:00 pm; The Making of Ex Machina (an artists talk with Dr. Yang and her collaborators) on Thursday, March 21 at 5:30 pm; and Ex Machina, the performance, on Friday, March 22 at 7:30 pm.

I’m really excited to share more about Ex Machina festival at UNC.This is a visually immersive show in collaboration with the incredible new media artist Xuan. I’m grateful to all of my wonderful collaborators who are commissioned composers and artists: Lee Weisert, Allen Anderson, Stephen Anderson, Phil Young, Peter Askim, and Yili Fan.

This program features two cross-genre works: very thankful for my amazing cousin the rock guitarist Yvette Young and the acclaimed hip hop artist Suzi Analogue for writing new songs with me. The show also includes compositions by Reena Esmail, Christopher Cerrone, and a composition of my own.

−Dr. Clara Yang

We caught up with Dr. Yang to learn more about what inspired her to curate this exciting festival and what she hopes audiences will carry with them after the festival’s conclusion.

Collage of Clara Yang and her festival collaborators
Dr. Clara Yang, center, and her Ex Machina collaborators.

UNC Music: What inspired you to curate this Festival on the Hill?
Dr. Clara Yang: This festival is centered on my commissioning project Ex Machina. Technology is in every aspect of our lives, and it has changed the way we experience art and music. I’m particularly interested in the emotional and psychological impact technology has in our society.

UNC Music: What are you most looking forward to about the festival?
Dr. Yang: There are many firsts here:

  1. This is the first time I’ve created a visually immersive show with the amazing new media artist Xuan.
  2. This is the first time I collaboratively composed songs with non-classical musicians – I’m very honored to be able to create new songs with my amazing cousin, the renowned rock guitarist Yvette Young and the acclaimed hip hop artist Suzi Analogue. I have learned so much from this experience!
  3. This is the first time I’m actively involved in the compositional process in a project. In addition, I’m performing a piece written by my uncle Phil Young, who is a well-known composer from the San Francisco Bay Area. This piece will be accompanied by the movement artist Yili Fan.

UNC Music: What do you hope audiences will take away from the festival?
Dr. Yang: One of the goals of the project is to reach diverse audiences. The pieces in this show are so different in terms of styles and genres, and I hope the audience will keep an open mind while listening to these world premieres. I hope to evoke many emotions through this visual-aural experience!

Preview the festival performances

Watch more videos and see more behind-the-scenes from the making of Ex Machina on Clara Yang’s website.



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