Musing About the Benefits of Running (again)

I just returned from the 50th annual Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC) in Indianapolis where I was fortunate enough to do so many of the things I love – perform for and talk to an attentive audience about composing for percussion as a percussionist, chat with hundreds of new friends and old at the C. Alan Publications booth while I attempt to sell them music, visit with my awesomely supportive sponsors (Yamaha and Vic Firth) and RUN! 

Every year at PASIC I realize how much I talk about (er… annoy people with my posts about) running on Facebook (and here I go again). One of the first things out of people's mouths when I haven't seen them for a year is "Man, you've been running a lot, huh?" It has become something that defines me and I'm okay with that. Let me tell you why though. A couple of years ago, I mused about Why I Think All Classical Musicians Are Pre-Programmed to Be Runners, talking about how similar the disciplines are, whether you are preparing for a marathon or a recital. Potayto, Potahto.  

While in Indianapolis this past weekend, more of the career & networking benefits of running became apparent. Over the summer, I volunteered to organize the PASIC Fun Run, which in the past has occurred on Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. during the convention. Historically, the attendance has been rather poor and I was determined to improve on that, so I expanded from one morning to three and plastered the social networks (tweeted with hashtags, created FB events, harassed friends & "friends" on their FB walls) to get the word out. 

What we ended up with was a terrifically eclectic group of percussionists each morning that had this common thread of running (and drumming). Where else are you going to hop from conversations with percussion professors from New Mexico, Missouri, Connecticut, Texas & South Carolina to the President-Elect of PAS to husband/wife drummer/percussionist for actor/musician Gary Sinise's Lt. Dan Band? We didn't set any speed records. We didn't run terribly far. We did have a lot of fun, meet new people and talk about anything from marathons to the new Schwantner Percussion Concerto to the mess at Penn State to our upcoming concerts & recitals. Even people who didn't join us for the runs each morning used topic of the Fun Runs as a conversation ice-breaker since I had posted about it so much leading up to the conference.

In the clinic I co-presented with Josh Gottry at the convention, I encouraged the young percussionists & budding composers in the audience, in the spirit of networking, to approach performers and composers they might have put up on a pedestal. They're all people. I think any two people can have at least one common thread that can break the ice – be it percussion, sports, politics or even… 

Running.

Good for your health. Good for your career.

New Pieces at PASIC 2011!

In the spirit of shameless self-promotion, here's a list and brief description of all of my new publications that will be available at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (or PASIC...we love our acronyms) next week in Indianapolis.

Concerto for Vibraphone & Wind Ensemble (full score to peruse)
Solo Vibraphone w/ Wind Ens | 4-mallet | 15:00 

The Cry
Percussion Ensemble | 12 players | 11:00

Edge of the World
Keyboard Percussion Quintet (w/ opt. aux. perc.) | 4:00

Encantada
Solo Vibraphone | 4-mallet | 4:30 

The Sacred Marimbist, Volume 2
Solo 4.3-octave Marimba | Hymn Arrangements | 4-mallet | 25:00-35:00

Spun
Keyboard Percussion Ensemble | 8 players | 8:30

Topsy Turvy
Young Percussion Ensemble | 6-14+ players | 2:40

Everything can be found at the C. Alan Publications booth in the exhibit hall (Booth #227-231). Hope to see you there!

New publications at PASIC 2010

The 2010 Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC) is finally upon us! I anxiously await it every year – catching up with old friends and colleagues, going to see & hear first-rate (for the most part) performances and seeing what kind of damage I can do to my checking account with all the new music & other such percussion products that are on display in the exhibit hall. I know others feel the same, so I figured I would put in a shameless plug for my new publications that are being released this year at PASIC by C. Alan Publications (Booths 101-105).

Almost Beyond
Listen | duet for marimba & piano | $24.00

The Celtic Xylophone, Books 1 & 2
Listen | xylophone w. piano accompaniment (orig. for xylophone w. marimba trio) | $18.00 each 

Concerto for Vibraphone & Percussion Ensemble
Listen to Mvt. I | Listen to Mvt. II | solo + 8 players (piano reduction also available)
$80.00 (PE version) | $50.00 (piano reduction) 

Ellipsis
Listen | percussion ensemble 8 | $36.00

Encantada
Listen | solo vibraphone | 3-octave (opt. 3.4-octave) | $12.00 

A Winter Prelude & Postlude
Listen | solo 5-octave marimba (Prelude) & marimba quartet (Postlude) | $10.00

The Yuletide Marimbist Companion
vibraphone accompaniments for The Yuletide Marimbist book | $12.00 

Night’s Song (Concerto for Vibraphone, Mvt. I)

A few years ago, I was approached by Lisa Rogers from Texas Tech University to write a vibraphone concerto for her. We had already collaborated on a project for oboe and vibraphone resulting in Tangling Shadows. It’s wonderful to get to work with someone multiple times so that you truly take advantage of one another’s talents, expectations, and idiosyncrasies. In this particular case, I am grateful to Lisa for her patience throughout the whole process while I found the piece.

Like many others, I love to go outside of the world of music to find the inspiration for a given piece. One of my favorite places to go is literature and, more specifically, poetry. There’s just something about the vivid imagery and the arc of the story or poem that helps the composition take shape. Since this would be a two-movement work, I wanted to find two poems that represented some kind of duality so that the movements would be quite contrasting. One of my favorite poets, Pablo Neruda, happened to have written a collection of poems called “Ode to Opposites” that features pairs of poems. I knew going in that I liked the idea of pitting dark against light and that’s precisely what I found – “Ode to Nighttime” and “Ode to Enchanted Light.”

The first movement, Night’s Song (El Canto de la Noche), paints a picture of rain falling in the dark of the night - at times serene and beautiful, at others much more violently passionate. The tonality is centered on A, but there is constantly a struggle between the major and minor modes transforming a simple lyrical theme into something ethereal and haunting. Some of the phrases from the poem that gave shape to this movement include “behind daylight,” “you thrash around the sky,” “you run wild over the savage flow of rivers,” and “while stars gaze from blackened heights.”

In regards to the vibraphone itself, it has such deep roots in jazz that I really wanted this concerto to be more of a departure. There are other vibraphone concertos that do a great job of embracing this history, so I didn't want to simply follow in others' footsteps. My aim was to write something "pretty" while maintaining the integrity of a "serious" piece of music that will stand the test of time in the repertoire. As it stands now, the piece only exists for solo vibraphone and percussion ensemble as well as a piano reduction. Once the second movement is complete and the percussion ensemble version has received its premiere, two other versions will follow – one for vibraphone and wind ensemble and the other for vibraphone and orchestra (undecided as to whether it will be full orchestra or string orchestra).

Here is an electronic realization of the percussion ensemble version of the piece.

I. Night's Song

“Night’s Song” will receive its premiere at the 2009 Percussive Arts Society International Convention on Saturday, November 14th at 9:00 a.m. by the Brazoswood High School Percussion Ensemble, directed by Eric Harper, with Dr. Lisa Rogers as the soloist.

The second movement, Enchanted Light, will be completed very soon (if all the stars are aligned).