SoundOn Festival will bring ‘the newest of the new’ in chamber music to La Jolla

The Noise ensemble will perform at the 2023 SoundOn Festival in La Jolla.
(San Diego New Music)

Artists participating in the three days of concerts next month will bring the ancient architectural concept of ‘spolia’ into the musical realm by using bits and inspirations from musical pieces of the past in new compositions.


In ancient architecture, the term “spolia” (Latin for “spoils”) is the practice of using repurposed building stone for new construction or decorative sculpture in new monuments.

Bringing that concept into the musical realm, the artists participating in the upcoming SoundOn chamber music festival in La Jolla are taking fragments, moments and inspirational notes from musical pieces of the past and bringing them into the present with new compositions.

The 15th annual SoundOn Festival Jan. 5-7 at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, presented by the Athenaeum and San Diego New Music, will feature cutting-edge contemporary music from around the world, including rising international voices Yu Kuwabara (Japan), Adrian Demoč (Slovakia), Alyssa Aska (Austria) and D. Edward Davis (United States).

It also will prominently feature Southern California- and Arizona-based composers, including Christopher Adler, Katherine Balch, Adam Borecki, Franklin Cox, Adam Greene, Kay He, Texu Kim and Philippe Manoury.

According to organizers, this edition of the festival is inspired by Balch’s “Musica Spolia,” and the theme threads through the participating artists.

For Adler, that means bringing in another artist’s influence. “In a way, it is like being honest with the process of inspiration,” he said. “We can be honest about using the things from the past. Sometimes it’s an homage, sometimes a critique. But it’s all about building.”

One of Adler’s pieces for the 2023 show is inspired by Japanese anime with elements of “groove and other kinds of music.”

Adler said the participating musicians took the idea and applied it to their respective styles. “We try to represent a broad swath of the concert music realm; it’s not one kind of music,” he said. “The theme is ‘new,’ but the style is wildly different from piece to piece. Some have improv elements or electronics, some have solos, some are groovy, some are complicated, some emphasize timber and soundscapes.”

Performers include Noise ensemble members Adler (piano), Lisa Cella (flute), Cox (cello), Morris Palter (percussion) and Robert Zelickman (clarinet and conductor). Guest artists are Borecki (guitar and composer), Myra Hinrichs (violin), Eric Starr (trombone), Grace Talaski (clarinet) and Mark Menzies (violin via a remote link).

The Noise ensemble will perform chosen works of "spolia" at next month's SoundOn Festival.
(San Diego New Music)

In compiling the pieces to be performed, “we ask composers what they do and who they are inspired by,” Adler said. “A lot of pieces in the show have fragments from the past turned into new context.”

Many pieces are world premieres — “the newest of the new,” Adler said. “We want to showcase younger composers and those that are just emerging on the national scene,” he said. “These are people you are not going to see on the chamber concert circuit.”

SoundOn Festival

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Jan. 5-7

Where: Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, 1008 Wall St., La Jolla

Cost: $30 general admission, $25 for Athenaeum members, $12 for students