MANITOGA (2014) is composed for a unique brass ensemble of the mutantrumpet and an ensemble of four players using conceptual artist Carol Szymanski’s brass sculptures/ musical instruments which she calls phonemophones. Each phonemophone forms a letter of the alphabet in a font of her design and producing a unique range of tones. The eight phonemophones used in the piece spell the word MANITOGA. Commissioned in 2014 by Manitoga, The Russel Wright Design Center, MANITOGA was created for the unique setting of Wright’s home and landscape in Garrison, NY, and with his ideas on the harmony between design and nature in mind. Wright, an influential modernist designer, chose the name “Manitoga” for his home, a Native American term that means “place of great spirit.” In addition to Wright’s ideas, Neill took other cues from the site, incorporating Revolutionary war bugle calls from the Hudson Valley’s history and the distant sound of Taps as heard from across the river at West Point. Through his electro-acoustic mutantrumpet, Neill engages in musical dialogues with Szymanski’s natural horns, digitally shaping the overtone-based textures in real time. MANITOGA explores spatial relationships between acoustic and electronic sounds, and is being adapted to the dramatic architectural space of the Winter Garden to create a richly dynamic sonic experience. MANITOGA was originally commissioned with funding from the New York State Council on the Arts Individual Artists program.

Composer Ben Neill and conceptual artist Carol Szymanski began collaborating in 1991 through their mutual exploration of the relationship of music, language, and visual elements in striking new ways. Their work has been presented as installation and performance in a wide variety of settings including galleries, museums, and concert halls.