Monthly Archives: October 2013

Planes, Trains, and Fiddlin’ Okies

On the eve of Halloween, one might have expected to hear Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain at the University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra Concert, but instead the audience was thrilled in different ways.

The program began with the only piece of music written prior to the 20th century- Wagner’s Overture to Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen, WWV 49.  This was played with great strength and energy and then was followed by more recent works in chronological order.

Next on the program was the Symphony, Mathis der Maler by Paul Hindemith. With its large tonal implications, this piece is easier for concertgoers to digest than many of its other 20th century counterparts. Also, the music was accompanied by corresponding images of the Grunewald painting that inspired the work. The appropriate images were displayed behind the orchestra with each movement.

Following the intermission, the orchestra opened the second half with a lovely piece motivated by Vincent Van Gogh’s painting Starry Night. Michael Cash, the composer, not only wrote the program notes, but was also present at the concert, helping the audience to feel even more connected to the music and the music-making process as a whole. The composer truly reached success here as the music so accurately described the painting. Again the performance was supported by images of the famous painting in the background.

The guest performer of the night was Kyle Dillingham, an Oklahoma City University graduate who has made his way fiddling across the globe. Known as “Oklahoma’s Musical Ambassador” this tall fiddler brought an immeasurable amount of energy to the stage. He first appeared on stage for the Iowa premiere performance of Wiley Post- Tone Poem for Violin and Orchestra. The program notes were extremely appropriate and interesting in this case as they were written by the composer himself, Callen Clarke (another Oklahoma native). Clarke sets the stage for his piece, explaining the difficulty of setting someone’s life story to music. He grafts in a quote from Mendelssohn, champions the cause of the tone poem, and defends music’s far reaching effect on human emotion and experience.  Within this context, the audience was well prepared to hear a newly composed piece of music and be able to identify with it and understand it from the opening piano introduction. Another aid for the listener was the projection of pictures of Wiley Post that were displayed directly behind the orchestra. This made it possible for the audience to listen even more intently as they tried to associate the sounds they were hearing with the life experiences depicted in the pictures.

The last piece on the program was Orange Blossom Special, an arrangement by Dillingham himself. This 1938 American tune was originally written to commemorate the passenger train. Dillingham’s arrangement emphasized the instrumental effects that represent the sounds of a train and include the whole orchestra. The first known recording of the original song can be found here. It was a lively ending, and pushed the limits of usual concert programming expectations.

Although it was an enjoyable concert, I did find the programming to be very interesting. With the exception of the Wagner, all of the pieces were composed within the last 80 years. The composers and arranger of the entire second half of the program were all born after 1970. Now, none of these works were laden with the extreme complexity that so often pervades new music and strips it of audible melodic interest, yet at the same time I could have really used a movement of a Mozart symphony (or something of that sort) somewhere in between all of this to cleanse the pallet and provide some refined clarity of sound. From my perception the audience handled everything well and was engaged the whole time, but who’s to say it might have been better if a Baroque or Classical piece were thrown into the mix as well?


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The Piano Retuned: Michael Harrison’s Revelation

As music listeners we often forget how accustomed we are to twelve-tone equal temperament. This is, of course, the tuning system used on almost all keyboard instruments, allowing the performer to move evenly from key to key. The sacrifice of our system is the loss of pure intervals, as might be heard by a professional ensemble singing Palestrina. But while the choir can adjust their tuning on the fly to create a pure sound, the piano has no such flexibility.

Michael Harrison has been experimenting with alternatives to equal temperament since his introduction to north Indian classical music in the late 1970s. He performed Revelation: Music in Pure Intonation on October 16 at Riverside Recital Hall, Iowa City. This is a piece for solo piano, conceived of in 1999 using his own system of just intonation. Harrison tunes the piano according to the overtones of a fundamental low F. The white keys form a series of pure fifths and the black keys form a separate series of pure fifths. The end result is that many of the black keys sound as 1/8 semitone dissonances against adjacent white keys.

Revelation began on a pedagogical note: the first movement is titled “Revealing the Tones.” Harrison played softly and slowly from the low register of the piano, arpeggiating chords upwards. I could immediately hear the alien quality of the tuning system. It was as if something wasn’t quite right, as if the piano was strangely out of tune. The second movement, “Night Vigil,” was more motivic in nature. The music began to take on a minimalistic style: a repetitive ostinato in the left hand and a theme in the right which came back again and again. “Revealing the Commas” was next as the audience heard those intervals for the first time.

The fourth movement was the real substance of the piece: “Tone Cloud I.” It began with a pause while Harrison brought out an odd contraption. It was a metal bar with teeth that he set on the keyboard to depress a series of keys. He then held down the sustain pedal so that these strings were open the entire movement. Harrison closed his eyes and seemed to zone out. He was playing very rapid, repeating patterns of microtones in both hands. These “clouds” swelled up and down as the music changed. I realized that I was hearing some totally new timbres from the piano. It sounded almost like a cello or voice. Other times there was a low rumble which enveloped the whole room. Above, I could hear distinct overtones created from the close harmonies.

Revelation contained four such tone clouds, each with a different character. Interspersed were various other movements which I didn’t find as compelling. “Homage to La Monte” reused material from earlier and “Night Vigil II” was more a point of repose. The minimalism was a bit too repetitive to be interesting. “Vision in the Desert” was an obvious take on an Indian raga. It featured ornamental elaboration on various pentatonic scales.

Happily, the piece ended with the grand “Tone Cloud IV.” This movement built up into an aggressive frenzy of sound. Harrison pounded on the keyboard with fists and elbows. I could swear it sounded like someone was playing the unused organ on the other side of the stage. Harrison hit the final, lowest note and let that sound slowly die away before taking his bow.

I realized after the performance that Revelation: Music in Pure Intonation was really an exploration of timbre the piano. It succeeded tremendously, opening the audience to brand new sounds. Harrison’s performance was emotional and engaging. I would say this piece is worth a listen – even to those who normally avoid minimalist music.

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A Concert with Michael and David

Sunday night, I had the pleasure of attending a concert performed by clarinetist Michael Norsworthy and pianist David Gompper. Program and performer notes can be found here. As Michael explained to me before the concert, two themes arose unintentionally as he and David were putting together the program:

Americana – all of the composers involved are or were American (Lukas Foss was born in Germany but spent most of his life as an American citizen).

Arrangements – most of the pieces were not originally written for clarinet but were arranged from flute, English horn, and soprano pieces.

Before the concert began, I looked through my program and found there were no program notes! I was afraid that I would be losing crucial information as I listened to the music, but as Michael and David took the stage, Michael explained the situation to us. Because of a printing mishap, he would be speaking briefly before each piece in place of the usual program notes. In his introduction to the concert, Michael also informed us of a third, more intentional, concert theme: friends. Michael has or had a personal connection to each of the composers on the program, and he called it “a concert of my friends, performed with my friend.”

First on the program was Elliott Carter’s Pastoral (here is a recording of the original English horn version). Michael prefaced the piece by saying it wasn’t “the Carter you expect.” Indeed, I was surprised at the piece’s simplicity. Carter composed the piece in 1940, early in his career. As the title suggests, the piece evokes images of the countryside with its simple melodies and harmonies.

Next was Three American Pieces (recordings of the original flute piece) by Lukas Foss. Despite borrowing melodic material from folk music and some Copland-esque harmonies, the piano part is far from simple. Michael gave David the advice to “play the wrong notes, but the right way” before beginning their performance. The first movement, “Early Song,” alternates two sections. The first reminded me of Satie’s Gymnopediés. I’m guessing that including a reference to a famous French piece near the beginning of his American piece was some intentional humor on Foss’s part. The second alternating section was a sharp contrast; the piano was very rhythmically active and loud, demanding the listener’s attention away from the now quiet and low clarinet. The second movement, “Dedication,” was all about the piano and clarinet blending. The instruments were frequently playing in the same register and sharing melodic fragments. The third movement, “Composer’s Holiday,” is a much faster hoedown-like piece with a clarinet melody reminiscent of “Dixie.”

The third piece was Nebraska Impromptu, written by Marti Epstein specifically for Michael. The piece’s opening juxtaposes a very rhythmically active piano part using the extreme registers with a very quiet and slow melody in the clarinet. As the piano calmed down to meet the clarinet, the two evolved into a homophonic texture, slowly playing chords together. This piece really pushes the clarinet’s lowest dynamic possibilities; Michael’s pitches were almost imperceptible at times, just adding color to the piano phrases.

Next was SchiZm, a piece by Derek Bermel. Bermel was recently a guest composer at UI for the JACK Quartet concert, so many of us in the audience were already familiar with some of his work. The first movement, “Field of Stars,” featured a lot of rolled piano chords and frequently brought the clarinet into its highest register.  I recognized some symmetrical octatonic scales in the clarinet’s melodic material. The second movement, “Puppet State,” was a little more virtuosic. The clarinet part was full of trills, wide glissandi, low register “honking” sounds, and flutter tonguing. Salsa and tango rhythms were humorously and seamlessly introduced several times throughout the movement.

Two more pieces followed intermission: Joseph Schwantner’s Black Anemones (recordings of the original soprano song and flute arrangement) and Robert Beaser’s Souvenirs (originally for piccolo). Both pieces feature lyrical clarinet melodies and are mostly written in melody/accompaniment textures. The melodic material was inspired by folk songs, featuring a lot of pentatonic scales. The fourth and fifth movements of Souvenirs (“Spain” and “Cindy Redux,” respectively) borrow heavily (or possibly directly quote) the “Simple Gifts” and “Oh! Susanna” melodies.

Michael and David’s concert was extremely accessible, featuring music influenced by the American vernacular style championed by Aaron Copland in the 20th century. The atmosphere was made even more accessible by Michael’s decision to speak to the audience before each piece. Listeners were able to relate to Michael’s personality and hear about his experiences with the pieces and composers. I decided to make the experience even more personal by sitting in the front row, and I could hear every time David tapped his foot and Michael breathed. It would have been nice to have this concert in a smaller venue to add to the intimate experience, but the performers’ friendly attitudes were warm enough to fill the hall anyway.

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Strings Can Lead To Many Things

Upon arriving at Riverside recital hall on Friday, October 11th to hear “The JACK Quartet” perform works featuring University of Iowa Composers, I did not have a preconceived idea of what these compositions might sound like or how they would differ from one another. I anticipated that they would fall under the umbrella of being “contemporary” but was not sure what to expect. It would be an understatement to say that I was pleasantly surprised after experiencing the contrasting compositional approaches over the course of the evening. As composers, they were able to convey a spectrum of “effects” specific to writing for string quartet whether timbral, harmonic in a tonal sense or otherwise.

The instrumentation of a string quartet seems to lend itself to the vision and creation of sections that might be thought of in a similar manner in some cases as the idea of a vignette, easily changing gears and potentially moving from one texture, timbre, harmonic idea or special effect to another in a whimsical manner. This instrumentation gives the sense of allowing a certain privilege to exist that does not demand the same necessity that other instrumentations do. This might include the practicality of sticking to a specific concept in terms of form, texture, length, melody, timbre etc. than what seems to be necessary here. It is inspiring to think about the process they must have undergone in order to “make the most” out of the instrumentation they were working with.

The first piece by Joshua Marquez, written in 2013, is entitled “Cold Star”. The three movements contained in this relatively short piece are entitled “Proto”, describing the creation of a star, “Equilibrium”, describing the point in which a star becomes a “main sequence” star, and “White Dwarf” which is the final stage in the life cycle of most stars.

“Cold Star” begins with chromatic sweeps of an octave or more in all four string parts intermittently. These sweeps are not subject to separated half steps as if they were played on a piano but rather, continuous like a violin, viola, cello or even a trombone or fretless acoustic or electric bass for that matter. The chromatic scale itself becomes a vehicle for a “special effect” of sorts in the context of a string quartet. The theme of “Cold Star” is inspiring in regards to the idea of the conquest of space. The use of a sound reminiscent of the “doppler effect” seemed to serve contrasting functions invoking imagery and historical references. The doppler effect serves as an aural reminder of the conquest of America reminiscent of trains, trucks and planes. It is demonstrative that the conquest of space is and has been a product of the thread through history of advancing technology. It’s no surprise that this type of imagery is still such an integral part of the repertoire based on the goals and visions by which these composers are influenced. The immediate reference that came to mind for me was “Different Trains” by Steve Reich. Many of their main influences are most likely composers who immigrated to this country and collectively developed a specifically “American” concept and sound during the 20th century.

The texture then changed to a symmetric and/or non tertian harmonic cell using an intervallically jagged vertical sonority with notes traded among the quartet introducing an exciting and unexpected rhythm that propelled the piece forward. This motive increased in speed and harmonic rhythm as this section propelled itself towards the end. Maquez uses “volume swells” by way of dynamic attack on sustained chords.

The second piece of the evening was a composition by Justin Comer entitled “Betrayal” written in 2013. It is inspired by the idea of some of the most famous historical “betrayals” over the last two-thousand years in the realm of religion and instances of dictatorship or absolute political power and control, to attempt to put it simply. The objective regarding this theme is to convey the emotions of the betrayed.

“Betrayal” begins with writing involving contrasts in range, harmonic approach and metric modulations creating thematic and rhythmic variety. It provides a generous feeling of forward motion in the midst of not using many repeated sections. The end of the piece partially consists of plucked violins over cello “long tones” and a beautiful melody played by the violist as it slowly disintegrates. Although Justin Comer used certain “special effects” for the strings and didn’t stick to a “tonal” approach during many sections of his piece he seems to have done an extraordinary job in employing tonal and atonal elements as a vehicle for tension and release on small and large scale compositional levels which felt refreshing and inspirational.

Next came String Quartet No. 2 (first movement) by Leonid Iogansen. It began with excitingly frantic passages using chromaticism and symmetrical scales as well as “artificial” harmonics producing extremely high frequencies accompanied by plucked strings in the viola. It had a very driven and almost angry feeling about it. It was very percussive and had a lot of what I have heard referred to in the context of the writing I’ve done for large Jazz ensemble as a “Ka-chunk” effect. This idea is especially recognizable in this piece during the sections where one member of the quartet has an eighth note followed by an eighth note from another member playing a different note, followed by a rest. I felt as though Leonid Iogansen spaced these figures out in a way that created larger rhythmic phrases, almost hemiola-like except not necessarily containing a predictable starting or ending point. This created constant excitement within the challenge of conceptualizing the rhythmic superimposition that was being applied among the quartet. It makes sense that his programmatic conception was that of being caught in the turmoil of a storm.

Towards the end, the strings were pulsating back and forth between a half step or so, and would then momentarily leap up a large interval, less than an octave. It reminded me of an electronic heart monitor in a hospital that you might see in a movie (Hopefully not in real life!) where it’s jagged and unstable with consistent leaps upwards and back down, letting you know that we are on the verge of something serious, whatever it may be!

Leonid Iogansen included many interesting textural contrasts, plus the viola player broke a string about a quarter of the way through the piece which served as a vehicle for humor, the empathetic sense of humility and a chance to get more acquainted with the person sitting next to you!

The next piece is entitled Pisyressin by Alexandros Spyrou (2010) which is an oblation to the tetrad. An oblation is a gift or offering to “God” and a tetrad is a four part structure that comes into existence during the prophase of meiosis and contains two homologous chromosomes which both consist of two “sister” chromatids. What this means scientifically, I’m not sure but I was content in knowing that I did not actually have to do a science project, but instead listen to this beautiful piece! It was enough for me to interpret Spyrou’s title as potentially serving to communicate the idea of a transcendental bridge of sorts between the duality of science and religion that has been a prominent debate, especially over the last few centuries. My interpretation was that his goal was to show that this dualistic way of considering the idea may not be practical and that acknowledging the connection in the way these two ideas mutually reinforce one another may help to bring us closer to a more universal and compassionate view of life on earth. If this is the case, I agree with Spyrou in that it is a cause for celebration.

As I mentioned earlier in Marquez’s “Cold Star”, the portrayal and theme of American conquest is also strong in “Pisyressin. My immediate association was to see it as representing a microcosmic environment whereas “Cold Star” represents a macrocosmic environment. Both pieces allow us to consider the mystery behind the building blocks of the universe. Both pieces programmatically represent an independent material unit that is subject to stages of development inevitably leading to its eventual decline which can be seen as a metaphor for the human experience. This serves to shed light on the idea that we are experiencing a similar cycle to everything that is happening around us and is the “big question” in life which is why I think why many pieces contain programmatic themes such as these.

As I mentioned earlier in Marquez’s “Cold Star”, the portrayal and theme of American conquest is also strong in “Pisyressin. My immediate association was to see it as representing a microcosmic environment whereas “Cold Star” represents a macrocosmic environment. Both pieces allow us to consider the mystery behind the building blocks of the universe. Both pieces programmatically represent an independent material unit that is subject to stages of development inevitably leading to its eventual decline which can be seen as a metaphor for the human experience. This serves to shed light on the idea that we are experiencing a similar cycle to everything that is happening around us and is the “big question” in life which is why I think why many pieces contain programmatic themes such as these.

The beginning contains a “doppler effect” like sound and gives the imagery of a truck going down a rural highway at 5:30am with the violins emulating the effect of birds chirping. This texture later becomes interspersed with chords, “long tones” and relatively consonant sonorities with large intervals and octaves among the quartet. It was clear that there were indications in the score that called for frantic atonal improvisation, which created variety and excitement. These sections were again separated by long tone chords from the two violins and cello, along with plucked viola passages. There were also many instances from one passage to the next which contained contrasting volumes over one or two minute periods of time. In addition, timbral and harmonic contrasts helped to emphasize these changes in mood and intention regarding the composer’s approach to creating forward motion.

The next piece “String Quartet No. 4” (2013), composed by Nima Hamidi, is based on elements from Iranian traditional and new music based on the number four. It contains four quartal chords where second and fourth intervals play an important role in defining the sound.

It starts very frantically, creating the imagery of a herd of animals charging towards the edge of a cliff. I appreciated the challenge taken upon by writing this kind of an intro. It felt refreshing and struck me as a brave and dramatic gesture of sorts for the composer to feel as though he did not have to “build” towards this feeling. I think it succeeded in creating a mood that was immediately climactic that is, if the listener is not opposed to considering it this way which I most certainly was not. It provided from the very start, a strong feeling of excitement, urgency and uncertainty of what might follow.

Next, were partially muted strings with simple long tone melodies on top, almost as if he was working backwards from the climax which I appreciated as being daring and creative.

The atonal approaches used in “String Quartet No. 4” did not seem to be attempting to capture the imagery of nature as in some of the previous pieces. Instead, they were used as a vehicle to create “harmonic” tension combined with timbral and rhythmic effects. Tonal melodies did not seem to be one of the main focuses in the midst of the timbral combinations used. However, there were relatively simple sections containing two note motives which built towards a climax. This technique manifested in a contrasting manner, especially towards the end.

“None Above Me” (2013), written by Jason Palamara is based around the idea of a “cleansing of the conscience” and a new beginning of sorts. It entertains the idea that as human beings, we put certain ideals on a pedestal, but that this behavioral tendency can and has been what causes a great portion of the distrust and conflict in the world. Palamara uses this concept to write “None Above Me” from the inspiration of what remains after the surrendering to his view of this truth, as I interpreted it.

It begins with a one-note rhythmical figure with the violins playing what sounded like 4 octaves up from the cello with the viola somewhere in the middle. They all play different rhythms but it locks in very beautifully in terms of concept and rhythm. This theme returns throughout the piece in varying forms.

The tempo then slows down and contains a beautifully melodic violin melody over a diatonic harmonic context. It then briefly modulates to the relative minor key and the opening one-note theme is restated, differently. This idea repeats and develops throughout the piece. It then slows down and the violins swoop up and down creating a dramatic effect. The opening one-note melody is again restated, this time the same as in the beginning of the piece. It then moves back to the relative minor as before and ends on a whole-tone scale passage creating contrast to the previous diatonicism.

The last piece is entitled “Vrttasu” by Brian Penkrot (2012), and refers to the breath cycle of a human being with contrasting sections being equivalent to an inhale and and exhale.

One of the first things that struck me about “Vrttasu” was the fact that it seemed to contain counterpoint in the context of atonality. It felt fresh, exciting and innovative. Penkrot used special effects such as the violist crunching against the strings vertically using two hands while manipulating the bow horizontally.

There seemed to be a very thin line between tonality and atonality especially towards the end where it sounded like it weaved in and out to create tension and release over the course of short periods of time. It was almost like a V chord repeatedly tonicizing a I chord except timbre and general intervallic dissimilarity played an important role in the process. At one point it sounded like rock ‘n roll music based on the nature of the aggressive minor pentatonic line in the lower register of the cello. This felt to be unexpected, exciting, dramatic and brave. At the end of the piece a similar figure was used but without the extroverted nature of the previous “rock ‘n roll” like passage. It contained an extremely high pitch on top in the violin which fluctuated up and down chromatically in an atonal fashion, leading us to the end of the piece.

Overall, the evening seemed extremely successful from my point of view and I felt grateful to have attended. I left feeling inspired to seek out performances like this one on a more regular basis.


To visit the “Jack Quartet” website or program notes from the performance please visit the links below.


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The Beauty of Extremes

Saturday night, Riverside recital hall was hosting the JACK Quartet for the fifth time in last five years. It was an outstanding event that gathered new music lovers from different ages, to enjoy a wide range of music both technically and conceptually.

The concert started with an arrangement based on a two-part Latin ballade composed by Rodericus (ca. 1400), composer who was living in15th century. For Christopher Otto, the arranger of piece,  intention was discovering underlying rhythmic complexity by adding two new parts for violin II and cello, to the two original parts being heard in violin I and viola. The experience of hearing this piece performed by JACK helps to discover the beauty and subtle hidden relationship between this music and the music we now call contemporary.

The first short piece was followed by a two-movement piece called Holy Howl. A twenty-five minute performance started with a long tuning (almost five minutes), which was a part of the musical experience followed in the piece according to the composer Wolfgang von Schweinitz (b.1953). This precise tuning is a very significant part of the performance, and also a crucial part of performing the piece, because of the usage of non-tempered intervals between carefully tuned pitches. A Microtonal-chromatic scale as a cantus firmus line in the viola part, helped to form a smooth counterpointe motion in the most consistent way possible. But still, some of the chords constitute a dissonant timber. These dissonant moments are subtilized by careful usages of dynamics and timbre. Despite the lack of extreme changes in material and significant melodic motions in the surface, and a long duration, the piece is well composed and cleverly constructed dynamically and in timbre to keep the interest of audience.

After an intermission, the concert was continued by a thirteen-movement piece composed by John Zorn (b. 1953), called The Dead Man. According to a note in the program, the book inspired a piece with same name by George Bataille. This piece in an extremely opposite way of expression compared to the second piece. Holy Howl is trying to illustrate some miniature and complex texture, featuring the usage of extended techniques in the best way. According to one of the performers, in spite of making subtle ironic moments in the music, it is not the primary purpose of the piece, and the composer considers his music an extremely serious genre. By imitating real life elements, including TV, changing the channel on the radio could be heard in different movements, which strength the programmatic side of piece. Another important element in this piece was the subtle usage of repetition. The same underlying pattern in different movements, and repeating extremely complex and well-designed musical gestures in unexpected moments, helped the coherency of piece; but a really unique experience of listening, at the same time watching JACK play in an incredible way.

The last piece included another performer, who was also the composer of piece. Derek Bermel, (b. 1967)a Grammy-nominated composer and clarinetist composed this piece inspired by lectures, presented by the renowned physicist, Nima Arkani-Hamed about gravity. The piece, including a virtuosic part for clarinet, with an outstanding performance by the composer, featured three movements. Clever usage of glissandi to define the concept of gravity, could be seen in all of the movements. After introducing this technique in first movement, the composer designed the second movement, Heart of Space, using long note glissando passing between instruments. Having a classical jazz performance experience, Bermal performed the long glissando and big leaps perfectly. The piece finished with fast, dance like music with usage of multi-tonal techniques. Interrupting gestures in different tonality than the melodic, counterpointe textures being played in the string part, remind me of the piece called Unanswered Question, composed by American composer, Charles Ives.

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UI Concert and Symphony Bands

October 9th was a date that some freshman in the University of Iowa would not forget: it was their first concert as a college student with the Concert Band or Symphony Band. Both bands are composed are composed by the finest UI wind musicians, majors and non-majors, and  also conducted by the band conducting students.

The first half of the program was played by the Concert Band. A Festival Prelude, by Alfred Reed (1921-2005), started with triumphant chords and very rhythmic phrases on the best composer’s style in the first section and then it changed to a softer middle section, as heard many times in Sousa marches. The piece was written in 1956 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Enid (Oklahoma) Tri-State Music Festival and is part of a huge output, in quality and quantity, of band music in the second half of the twentieth century from the composer. The second piece was Shadow Rituals, by Michael Markowski (b. 1986). Being influenced by the music of Frank Ticheli, Markowiski won the first prize in the Frank Ticheli competition with this work. The piece starts with an eerie atmosphere, but still energetic and the changing meters give the piece a good rhythmic feeling. Nessun Dorma, by Giacomo Puccini (1958-1924), is one of the most well known aria for tenor in the classical literature after it became famous in the voice of Luciano Pavarotti recording in the 70’s and also several soundtracks. But instead, the piece was arranged for trumpet solo and band by Les Taylor and beautifully soloed by Dr. Amy Schendel, UI Music School faculty. Last piece for Concert Band was Symphonic Dance #3 “Fiesta”, by Clifton Williams (1923-1976). The composer was successful in translating the Mexican happiness and celebrations in his music, even when most of the music was written in 5/4 time signature. A trumpet solo, in the best mariachi style, was featured and very well played. The work was commissioned for the 25th anniversary of the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra and was later arranged for band by the composer himself.

The Symphony Band played the second half of the concert. Italian in Algiers overture,  by Cioacchino Rossini (1972-1868) and transcribed by Licen Cilliet,was the first piece and the audience could listen to one of the overtures that even being written at the age of 21, was already in the best composer’s style. The second piece was Trauermusik, by Richard Wagner (1813-1883). The band was successful in giving the sublime and delicate sonority the piece required in some sections, since it was composed to Carl Maria von Weber’s remains torch-light procession to the late composer’s final resting place. The counterpoint in the piece is an early beginning of the big scale counterpoints we can listen in later Wagner works, Brahms and later on in Strauss. Flourishes and Meditations on a Renaissance Theme, by Michael Gandolfi (b. 1956) was the third piece played. Well crafted, this is a Theme and Variations form piece based on a theme quoted by Joquín Rodrigo (1901-1999) in his Fantasia Para un Gentilhombre. Although there is 7 variations, the music have a palindromic form in the dynamic range: starting from the soft, going to the loud sections in the middle and then finishing at the same dynamic it started. The fourth piece was A Movement for Rosa, by Mark Camphouse (b. 1954). Written in homage to Rosa Parks, the music have three contrasting sections that relate to Mrs. Parks life: early years, the racial strife in the 50’s and the rest of her life. The composer was able to use the texture of the music, the soft and loud dynamics and the consonant and dissonant harmony to make those sections different and it is what makes us feel the serenity or the anguish of the social tension at the time. And, as the last piece, The Gallant Seventh, by John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) was played as the Band usually ends the concerts with a Sousa march.

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