Nief-Norf is a multi-tiered contemporary music ensemble devoted to the performance, scholarship, and commissioning of adventurous musical works.
As performers, educators, and curators, Nief-Norf delights in championing works from the established and emerging experimental tradition since their inception in 2005. Their flexible roster allows the collective to share their passion for adventurous programming concepts and interdisciplinary collaboration whether as featured soloists, chamber musicians, or with larger ensembles. Immersive listening experiences like Michael Pisaro's A Wave and Waves, a work for 100 musicians spearheaded by Nief-Norf for Big Ears Festival 2017, have been a cornerstone of Nief-Norf’s vision for contemporary chamber music in the United States.
With percussionists at its nucleus, the ensemble seeks opportunities to challenge and expand their ideas about what contemporary classical music is and can be in the 21st Century. Nief-Norf fosters collaboration and communication through its annual Summer Festival, Research Summit, and Call for Scores. Since its inception in the summer of 2011, the Summer Festival’s performance and composition seminars have attracted undergraduates, graduates, and professionals from institutions across the United States and abroad. Creating opportunities for discourse and collaboration between scholars, performers, and composers is at the very core of Nief-Norf’s purpose.
New initiatives include the Knoxville Concert Series, made possible in part by a grant by the Paul R. Judy Center for Innovation and Research at the Eastman School of Music. The Knoxville Concert Series expands Nief-Norf’s performance opportunities in and around Knoxville, TN throughout the calendar year. The Knoxville Concert Series includes community music-making events such as Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night, premieres of new works by imaginative composers, and interdisciplinary work such as Jordan Munson’s “Heartless Fools” which showcases his passion for combining sound with video art and light into a singular immersive experience.
Andrew Bliss and Kerry O’Brien took the ensemble's name from a descriptor of strange sounds: some say "bleep-blop," they prefer "nief-norf." This onomatopoetic neologism came to stand for any new music that was experimental or unusual. Through its members' combined backgrounds in performance, scholarship, and technology, they bring a unique blend of knowledge and enthusiasm for this music. In essence, through active performance they celebrate open-mindedness in classical music by specializing in all things “norf.”