Listen Hear: "Ellipsis" performed by the OU Percussion Ensemble

During my brief stint in Houston, TX from September 2007 through March 2009 I met some great lifetime friends, tasted some fantastic food and had the opportunity to work with some of the best middle and high school percussion ensembles in the country. I adjudicated a few percussion ensemble festivals and witnessed several middle school ensembles performing pretty advanced literature for their age. Just before I moved away, the middle schools of the Spring Independent School District (just outside Houston, TX) commissioned me to write a piece for them. I Gladly accepted, but knew that I couldn't approach the piece as I would a typical middle school composition, so I wrote as if writing for a high school. The result was a piece that has been picked up and performed by high schools and colleges all over the country.

Here is a recording of the University of Oklahoma Percussion Ensemble (made up of primarily freshmen and sophomores) directed by Josh Knight.

Listen

"Ellipsis" is published by C. Alan Publications and available for purchase from Steve Weiss Music.

Listen Hear: "Imagining World" performed by the UNT Symphonic Band

Every now and then Dennis Fisher, conductor of the University of North Texas Symphonic Band, graciously agrees to do some demo recordings and occasionally I'm lucky enough for one of my pieces to be included. While in Chicago for the Midwest Band & Orchestra Clinic this past week, Dennis presented me with a recording of my newest band work Imagining World, which was commissioned by the Oswego High School Band, directed by Stephanie Silosky. Because of this new UNT recording, I was able to share it with another band director at the conference, which is likely going to result in a performance in March. So, a big thanks to Dennis Fisher and the UNT Symphonic Band!

Listen

"Imagining World" is published by C. Alan Publications and available from J.W Pepper.

Listen Hear: "Spun" performed by the Penn State Percussion Ensemble

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I've talked about Spun fairly recently on here, so I won't bore you with too many details. This recording is from the premiere at Penn State University, where Dan Armstrong is the percussion professor and the one responsible for the piece coming to fruition. At the final dress rehearsal, just an hour before the concert, Dan asked me if I'd like to conduct the piece on the concert. Wearing only the upper half of a suit with jeans on the lower half (you know... going for that cool-down-to-earth-composer-in-the-audience-graciously-accepting-applause look), I was hesitant and hummed & hawed. But after a quick drive back to the hotel trading out the jeans for suit pants, I was ready. In reality, I was just scared to conduct the quick-changing multi-meter stuff I had written. So, any inaccuracies can be traced back to me hacking my way through "conducting" this world premiere.

Listen

"Spun" is published by C. Alan Publications and available from Steve Weiss Music.

Listen Hear: "Downtown Dash" performed by the UNT Wind Symphony

Every couple of years, I write a Grade II or III concert band piece to fill a hole in the C. Alan Publications catalog for a given year. Downtown Dash was written for release in the summer of 2009 and was subsequently selected as a J.W. Pepper Editor's Choice piece and was just included in the newest volume (8) of GIA Publications' series "Teaching Music Through Performance in Band" series. The world-renowned University of North Texas Wind Symphony, conducted by Eugene Corporon, recorded it beautifully ensuring this little Grade II band piece will never sound so good.

Listen

"Downtown Dash" is published by C. Alan Publications and is available from music dealers all over the world.

Listen Hear: " The Cry" performed by the OU Percussion Orchestra

I feel like Christmas has come early! In the past week, I've been fortunate enough to receive 4 fantastic recordings of my newest pieces – 2 for percussion ensemble and 2 for concert band. I'll be sharing them each in their own entry over the next week.

The first I'll share is The Cry, which was commissioned and premiered by the OU Percussion Orchestra. I had the opportunity to fly out to Norman, OK to work with Lance Drege and his ensemble for a few days back in November (2010) and had a blast. This recording is the result of a session during an afternoon rehearsal the day of the concert.

Listen

"The Cry" will be published by the OU Percussion Press and available from Steve Weiss Music.

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 

"A New Hope" for Jessica

My adorable (yet growing-up-way-too-fast) niece Jessica is graduating from the 5th grade in a few weeks & will be starting middle school in the fall. In preparation for their graduation celebration, my sister has been charged with gathering photos of all the 5th graders in the elementary school and putting together a slideshow. Since they can't use any copyright-protected music, she asked me if I would be willing to write 5 minutes worth of background music for the slideshow that will be shown during the ceremony and later burned onto CDs for all of the students.

The result was A New Hope – a 5-minute piece  reflecting nostalgia, happiness, & hope. Piano provides the instrumental basis for the piece. Jessica will be playing flute in 6th grade band in the fall, so I of course merged the piano melodies with flute as the piece progressed. Here's the recording followed by the instrumentation:

listen


A New Hope (electronic realization)

Instrumentation

Piano 4-hands
Flute
Electric Bass
Percussion 1 (Bells, Ocean Drum)
Percussion 2 (Suspended Cymbal, Egg Shaker, Bell Tree, Mark Tree)
Percussion 3 (Concert Bass Drum, Claves)
Drum Set
Violin 1
Violin 2
Viola
Cello
Bass

Enchanted Light (Concerto for Vibraphone, Mvt. II)

After months (well... really a couple of years) bleeding inspiration all over my manuscript paper, the Concerto for Vibraphone and Percussion Ensemble commission is complete! When I finished the first movement, I mentioned some of the inspiration behind the piece, but I'd like to go into a bit more depth here about it.

One of my favorite sources of inspiration for my compositions is poetry – especially that of Pablo Neruda. It's so passionate and filled with vivid imagery that it's just a blast to try and portray his words with music. I knew from the outset that Lisa Rogers (the commissioning party) wanted a 2-movement concerto, so I decided to try and find two poems with opposing themes and stumbled upon Neruda's collection "Ode to Opposites." I chose "Ode to Nighttime" and "Ode to Enchanted Light" which pit night against day.


I. Night's Song

Ode to Nighttime by Pablo Neruda
(I. Night’s Song – “El Canto de la Noche”)

Behind
daylight,
behind every tree and rock,
behind every book,
night,
you rush around working
or you rest,
waiting
for your retracted roots
to grow into foliage or flower.
You thrash around the sky
like
a flag,
you pour yourself into
sierras and seas
and the smallest cavities, too:
the exhausted peasant’s hardened
eyes
and the black coral
of people’s mouths
opened wide in sleep.
You run wild
over the savage flow
of rivers,
you penetrate, night, hidden paths
and love’s deep constellations—
tangle of naked bodies—
and crimes that splatter
the shadows with screams.
All the while trains
stay on schedule, stokers
feed night-black coal to red fire.
The overworked accountant
wanders deep in a forest
of petrified papers,
and bakers knead
mounds of whiteness.
Night also sleeps
like a blind horse.
It’s raining all over the country:
on the huge trees
of my homeland
and on roofs
of corrugated metal
night’s song
is heard.
Rain and darkness are the blade
of a singing sword
while stars, or jasmine petals,
gaze
from blackened heights:
they are signs
that, little by little,
with time’s slow passage,
we will come to understand.

Nighttime,
my nighttime,
night of the whole earth,
you bear something
within you, something round
like a child
about to be born, like a
bursting
seed:
it’s a miracle,
it’s daylight.
Your beauty is all the greater
because you nourish this budding poppy
with the darkness that flows in your veins,
because you work with your eyes closed
so that other eyes may open
and the water may sing,
so that our lives
might be born again.

For the first movement, Night’s Song, I tried to depict this mysterious, starry night that gradually turns dark and rainy. The phrases that really spoke to me and shaped the music were “behind daylight,” “you thrash around the sky,” “you run wild over the savage flow of rivers,” and rain and darkness are the blade of a singing sword while stars, or jasmine petals, gaze from blackened heights.” I love how Neruda describes daylight as being born nighttime, so I decided to make the movements attacca so that the second movement, Enchanted Light, bursts forth out of the first movement.


II. Enchanted Light

Ode to Enchanted Light by Pablo Neruda
(II. Enchanted Light – “La Luz Encantada”)

Under the trees light
has dropped from the top of the sky,
light
like a green
latticework of branches,
shining
on every leaf,
drifting down like clean
white sand.
A cicada sends its sawing song
high into the empty air.
The world is
a glass overflowing
with water.

The second movement is much more sparkly and bright, depicting the “light dropping from the top of the sky.” The “cicada sending its sawing song high into the empty air” even makes an appearance when the ensemble vibraphone player places pennies on the bars and then bows those bars with optional help from a sizzle cymbal. Motives and themes from the first movement return in several spots throughout the second movement helping to unify the work. The soloist gets a workout as well in the tour-de-force second movement, unlike the much more introspective first movement.

The piece will be performed in its entirety at the International Society for Music Education (ISME) Conference in Beijing, China in August 2010 by the Texas Tech University Percussion Ensemble, directed by Allan Shin, with Dr. Lisa Rogers as the vibraphone soloist. I will be using the first movement on a clinic I'll be giving at the Idaho State University Day of Percussion next weekend.

The piano reduction is complete and wind ensemble and full orchestra versions will be completed by this summer.

Limerick Daydreams Featured in a Book + a New Recording from Maestro Ray Cramer

While sitting in the audience during a performance of Limerick Daydreams by the UNC-Greensboro Percussion Ensemble, I started to imagine how it might sound to score the piece for wind ensemble. Just a few days later it was all orchestrated and ready for a band to try it out. Dennis Fisher, conductor of the University of North Texas Symphonic Band, agreed to perform the premiere of the new version and had some wonderful tips for me along the way. Since then, the piece has been performed by the UNT Wind Symphony and the Lone Star Wind Orchestra (both under the baton of Eugene Corporon), the NY & NJ All State Bands and the Indiana University Wind Ensemble (all conducted by Ray Cramer) and many other bands around the world.

A little over a year ago, Dennis Fisher told me that "Limerick" would be featured in the 7th Volume of Teaching Music Through Performance in Band. According to the GIA Publications website, "this book includes extensive analyses of a broad range of the best wind band literature being published today. Each Teacher Resource Guide includes a description of the composer, historical perspectives, technical considerations, stylistic considerations, a breakdown of music elements, a form and structure analysis, and more." Dennis did a wonderful job writing the article for the piece.

Unrelated to the book is the new recording I received late in the summer from Maestro Ray Cramer, Conductor Emeritus of the Indiana University Wind Ensemble, of a live performance he had conducted with the Mushashino Academy Wind Symphony in Tokyo, Japan. He tells me that a studio recording is forthcoming, but until then take a listen to this magical performance.


Limerick Daydreams (for wind ensemble)

Musashino Academy Wind Symphony
Maestro Ray Cramer, conductor

Limerick Daydreams is available from C. Alan Publications or any of your favorite music dealers.  :)

Rusalka's Song to the Moon Redux (thanks to an inspired new recording)

In the summer of 2009, Dr. John Parks, Professor of Percussion at Florida State University, contacted me telling me that the FSU Percussion Ensemble had performed my arrangement of Song to the Moon and that they had added a soprano soloist to the mix and it worked beautifully. He also informed me they would be recording the piece with soprano for their forthcoming CD release and asked if I might add some of the introductory material from the original opera scoring, featuring lush low strings and a brief harp cadenza. The FSU Percussion Ensemble CD, titled Volume One, features Song to the Moon with soprano soloist Marcía Porter in addition to works by David Skidmore, John Cage, Blake Tyson, Astor Piazzolla, and more.

Check out the rough cut of FSU's new recording of Song to the Moon:

Song to the Moon
Florida State University Percussion Ensemble
Dr. John Parks, director | Marcía Porter, soprano

Then, be on the lookout for the official release of the CD. I've heard 3 more tracks and the ensemble sounds really fantastic with an assortment of music from some fresh new voices on the scene.

Now for some of the technical information accompanying the new edition that was just released today by C. Alan Publications:

Program Notes

Song to the Moon is an aria from Antonín Dvorák’s opera “Rusalka,” which combines elements from three fairy tales, Hans Christian Anderson's Little Mermaid, Friedrich de la Motte Fouque's Undine, and Gerhart Hautpmann's The Sunken Bell. At this moment in the opera, the good-natured old Spirit of the Lake, Jezibab, is enjoying the singing of the Wood Nymphs, when his daughter, Rusalka, approaches him sadly. She tells him that she has fallen in love with a handsome young prince and wishes to become human in order to know the bliss of union with him. Deeply saddened, the Spirit of the Lake consents to her request, and leaves. All alone, Rusalka sings this beautiful aria, confiding in the moon the secrets of her longing.

Silver moon upon the deep dark sky,
Through the vast night pierce your rays.
This sleeping world you wander by,
Smiling on men's homes and ways.
Oh moon ere past you glide, tell me,
Tell me, oh where does my loved one bide?
Oh moon ere past you glide, tell me
Tell me, oh where does my loved one bide?
Tell him, oh tell him, my silver moon,
Mine are the arms that shall hold him,
That between waking and sleeping he may
Think of the love that enfolds him,
May between waking and sleeping
Think of the love that enfolds him.
Light his path far away, light his path,
Tell him, oh tell him who does for him stay!
Human soul, should it dream of me,
Let my memory wakened be.
Moon, moon, oh do not wane, do not wane,
Moon, oh moon, do not wane....

Notes About the New 2nd Edition

  • Return to the original key of G-flat major. Because I had not originally intended for the arrangement to be performed with soprano, I put the piece in G major, transforming it from 6 flats to 1 sharp. By putting it in its original key, there is now the possibility of adding a soprano soloist with this aria in her repertoire.
  • A new 27-bar introduction sets up the aria beautifully.
  • A modified softer ending to better match the original aria.
  • Phrase markings have been added to every part to clarify melodic intentions.
  • Rolls markings in the marimba parts have been clarified throughout.