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SCI Conference Blog

Monday, February 02, 2004

Final Concert of SCI Region 6--2004
submitted by Jay C. Batzner

Since I need to leave immediately after this concert (the weather forecast for Kansas City is not good) this will be a real-time review. I want to congratulate Tim Crist and Arkansas State University for their spectacular job in programming, organizing, and performing all this wonderful music. Thanks to all who participated in this laborious event!

The first piece is Drift by Dorothy Hindman and is played by the ASU Sax Quartet. Mechanical punctuations initiate this work and the student enesemble is really digging in deep to the music. Long and smooth gestures arice from the grooves and grive way to more punchy stuff (I haven’t used “punchy” in a while and I was due). The harmonies change at unexpected intervals and slap-tounging thickens the texture. Lots of great visceral energies here. Gradually more sustained lines emerge from held tones and the piece disintegrates quickly.

Next up is Gín-á-Koa by Chinchun Chi-sun Lee. It is performed by violinist Linda Hsu and pianist Stefanie C. Dickinson. The piece opens with smooth jazz chords and a folk-like violin tune. So far this has been a delightfully elegant piece that emphasizes simplicity and the melodic gift in Taiwanese folk melodies. Very comfortable and enjoyable. These traditional melodies are wonderfully crafted and manipulated throughout the three movements. The final movment has a lot of great Stravinsky and Bartok rhythmic punches. What fun!

Kirk O’Riordan’s wife Holly was in a car accident on her way to the airport to perform Kirk’s Three Pieces for Solo Piano. Holly is uninjured, thankfully, and their car is reported as driveable. I must applaud Tim Crist again because they have chosen to play a recording of Kirk’s piece. I’m glad we get to hear it and I hope that I may see Holly perform it soon!

The “Moto perpetuo” first movement is true to form. The active arpeggiations and crashing chords propel the piece to its final cadence. “Cadenza” begins with soft oscillations in harmony which expand throughout the range of the piano and a repeated-tone figure begins to take control of the motion. These two contrasting ideas are brought together and monolithic chords emerge and decay at the close. “Toccata” is a monophonic ride through nimble passages in the piano’s lower register. The piece spreads out in true tocccata fashion and coalesces with hunge banging chords. Exceptional writing and performance! I hope Holly is well and safe. I am so glad that we got to hear her performance.

And now the seven movement pursuing the emerald scintillate by Michael Sidney Timpson for violin (Linda Hsu), alto sax (Jackie Lamar), and marimba (Blake Tyson). Each movement explores various “East meets West” influences the composer has experienced. These are delicate and personal pieces that explore all the fantastic coloristic qualities possible in the unique instrumentation. The form of each piece is controlled by its own internal logic and organic needs. Nothing feels artificial or forced. Each piece is reflective, sometimes playful, always colorful and organic. A real gem! (there, I got that pun out of my system)

We move to Lee Hartmann’s Seven Miniatures for Two Violins and Piano played by Stephen Sims and Kimberly Meier-Sims on violins and Lauren Schack Clark on piano. Each of these character pieces contain just the right amount of charm and skill to present, develop, and conclude material successfully while leaving the listeners wanting more. The violins take glorious center stage, soaring and dancing throughout the pieces. These miniatures are packed will highly-spirited and clever writing for everyone on the stage and in the audience. Delightful!

Our concerts conclude with Charles Savages’ Mad Rush to the End. Clarinetist Cynthia Krenzel-Doggett and tenor saxist Thomas Krenzel-Doggett take the stage for a piece described as “hurry up and wait.” A perfect piece to conclude these days of music. Vibrant, chromatic runs and punchy angular leaps are the most salient characteristics here. Tension builds throughout the counterpoint and rhythmic energies intensify. Unison licks bring the whole to a conclusive ending. Bravo!

A Review of Concert 8 from SCI Region 6 -- 2004
submitted by Jay C. Batzner

The 1 PM concert featured electronic and electroacoustic music. Per Bloland’s Thingvellir, for trumpet and amplified resonating piano, was the only piece that did not use pre-recorded sounds. Rob Alley, the performer, projected into a microphone which fed the resonating piano strings. The end result was an eerie and moody piece. The piano’s layer of harmony was akin to hearing chant sung in a huge cathedral. Cool piece.

Snow of Ages, by Chin-Chin Chen, explored the sound of three instruments: woodblock, gong, and windchimes. Each movement subjected one sound to a series of spatialized and fleeting gestures. There was very little manipulation of these sound objects, so the source of the sounds was always apparent.

Matthew Cureton’s Reposes of the Soul, a four-movement tape piece, sustained a lonely and introspective mood throughout each movement. The primary focus of the piece was timbral and gestural development and each movement took a slightly different spin on the source materials. The pieces were different from each other yet clearly connected to the whole.

Per Bloland was up again with The Wonderful Delight of Profound Ineptitude (winning the “Best Title” Award in my book). The opening sound world was highly synthesized and manipulated. Gradually the gestures transitioned into and out of recognizeable objects. All of the sounds used were highly kinetic and mobile and Per built these textures into lucious moments of cacophony. The work seemlessly journied into ambient neighborhood sounds and once again exploded into cacophony and an abrupt cadence. In a word: woo-hoo! (or is that two words?)

Memories Among Us by Timothy Miller was a brief work filled with sparkling energy. Two primary forces fought for supremecy. Eventually the swirling vorticees and incessent tappings decided to cohabitant the piece.

Mark Snyder’s Horse “dropped the funk bomb” on the SCI crowd. The rumbles and squeaks of manipulated rocking horse sounds made a great counterpoint to the bass sax’s long sweeping lines. A great groove emerged in the recorded part and the bass sax quickly intercepted and joined in. A fun piece that invigorates my desire to write for bass sax! Put a bass sax with Stuart Hinds’ overtone singing and we’d have a musical force that could, well, it would be pretty cool.

The finale of the concert was Douglas O’Grady’s Canticle. This tighty focused piece manipulated vocal and vocal-like timbres until a full-fledged independent line soared above punctuating sweeps in the accompaning texture. Hearing the vocal line descend into gutteral sounds was a delight. A great piece on a wonderfully engaging concert!

A Review of Concert 8 from SCI Region 7 -- 2004
submitted by Jay C. Batzner

I’d like to thank Lee Hartmann for reviewing last night’s concert. If I had to review my own piece, Pioneer X, the purple prose would have been painfully prolific (nice alliteration!).

Now that I’ve done a few reviews, I’d like to shake things up a bit. I wrote a few reviews post-concert and one during the concert. I have a lot of time on my hands this morning, so I’ve decided to write this review pre-concert. We’ll see if I’m accurate (or if anyone notices).

Kidding! Just pulling your legs, there.

The ASU Ringers, a handbell choir, played two pieces this morning: Allen Brings’ Two Strains and Memphis-based composer Brandon Goff’s Felipé does Handbells. Two Strains was a simple, diatonic piece in two movements: “Elegiac” and “Jubilant.” These charming pieces went straight to the emotional cores contained in their titles. “Jubilant” ended with a joyful major chord, vibrantly rung throughout the whole group. Special kudos go to the Ringers’ bass-bell player and his “baseball bat” grip for the final note of the piece. Felipé was a tango-esque gem that used a lot of special techniques (mallets, dry strokes, etc.). The ASU Ringers were clearly enjoying themselves in this piece.

Next up was Ken Metz’s Songs from Mother Goose. These seven songs were well-handled by baritone Bill Higgins and pianist Jeri-Mae Astolfi. Each song featured the prominent vocal line by maintaining a sparse piano texture. These plain settings drew me into the texts and highlighted the texts’ abstract meanings. Mother Goose poetry is so bizarre and, on the surface, seemingly meaningless. I’m now inspired to seek out the meanings behind these texts!

Jeri-Mae Astolfi returned for Phillip Schroeder’s Moons. There four pieces all held to a slow-moving and deliberate texture. Resonant arpeggios imposed a sense of calm and stasis on the audience. Once I was sucked into the slow pace and sound world of these pieces, I didn’t want to leave.

Next up was the premiere of Five Poems of Galway Kinnell by conference host Tim Crist. Matthew Carey, baritone, easily soared above the dark rumblings of pianist Joy Fiala. This cycle was rich with nightmare poetry images and the music ranged from ethereal to visceral and from spooky to heartfelt.

The final piece pre-lunch was Sam Magrill’s Song of Shalom for soprano and cello. I am a big fan of vocal works without piano and this piece did not disappoint! Pamela Richman, soprano, and Tess Remy-Schumacher, cello, each seemed to perform separate compositions. These independent parts would intersect and overlap in such ways that kept each performer out of the other’s way. This dichotomy of the work provided a rich musical experience and is exactly the kind of thing that I go for. Good stuff!

Saturday, January 31, 2004

A Review of Concert 6 from SCI Region 6 -- 2004
submitted by Lee Hartman

The visual media concert of the SCI Region 6 conference was stunning and diverse both sonically and visually.

Mystings by Jim Stallings for ensemble, tape, and visual artist began with a mystical opening of maracas, wind chimes, and sprinkled water for preparation of the watercolor painting. The atmospheric opening led to a militaristic section complete with fife and drum. Swatches of purple cut through the palette of pinks and blues on the painting. The piece ended atmospherically like the beginning, yet a brand new painting had been created.

Jay C. Batzner's Pioneer X for solo trumpet was an exploration of spiritual placements and notes that call to mind the voyage of the Pioneer X satellite. Moving between three stands, Grant Garland (trumpet) progressed farther from the audience. The sonic distance is effectively achieved by the use of open trumpet and trumpet with various mutes.

The striking images of Memory of Hope by James Croson made the lush orchestration of the tape part even more evocative. The lamentful cello line fit seamlessly with the images of lost love and horrific warfare.

True Nature, also by James Croson, was a groovy geometric romp. Constantly shifting shapes morphed in and out of recognizable forms. As the shapes came into focus, the music followed suit forming recognizable themes.

Nicole Carroll’s Travels to Nowhere used gravel and wine glasses as her primary sound sources. Images of a country road were layered overtop of pictures of college life. The juxtaposition of two sound sources and the layered changes created a shifting, yet static feel.

Funnel Cloud by Stephen Beck shifted styles, moods, and sampled material. Following a tornado’s path, we were transported to a fantastical world where art comes to life that dances to quotes from various sources.

Protect Your Domain Name, also by Beck, was a social commentary on the effect of broken-down communication. A female voice was the primary source used to evoke feelings of inevitability and warning.

Peter Kirn’s Incubus featured processed extended flute technology with stunningly beautiful film of two dancers. Shot from the waste up, both film and tape explored negative spaces while creating an intense erotic atmosphere.

A review of concert 5 at SCI Region 6 Conference -2004
submitted by Jay C. Batzner

My last two reviews were written in haste for the SCI blog in my hotel room between concerts four and five. For this next review, I will write during concert five (haste minus the procrastination). I will also try to curb my use of the words, “punchy” and “lyrical.”

Our first piece on the 4pm concert is The Grass for women’s chorus by Jason Bahr. Jason’s setting of Emily Dickinson’s poetry is both rich and simple. The simple flowing lines contain delicate rhythmic articulations of specific words which breaks the otherwise fluid shapes. The whole piece has a natural flow, and a simple effective emotional shape. A well balanced and compelling work in all respects.

Greg Bartholomew’s, A Rainy Day is next (also for women’s choir). In contrast of Bahr’s work, this piece is full of droplets of song that pool together into harmonic cadences. The ASU Women’s Choir comfortably handles both contrasting pieces well. Both works are full of simple and direct music that clearly communicates the spirit of the texts.

Two Choral Songs for the same ensemble are next. Mark Francis’ writing begins with parallel motion which, periodically, breaks into dialog between two sections of the ensemble. The second song builds on the dialog feature of the first song, periodically joining into brief unison or parallel motion. The climax of this Roethke setting pulls the choir into stark octaves and gradually recedes into dialog, and finally a unison line. Both of these songs are well balanced and they function quite well as a matched set.

The men now come on stage to from the whole ASU Concert Choir. Their first piece is Bonitas Domini by Mike McFerron. The rhythmic vibrancy of the beginning is absolutely delightful! This work is full of energy and life. The choir is doing a great job handling the dissonance and independence in an unaccompanied setting. Different non-pitched sounds are woven into the standard chordal texture. A very evocative piece! Lots of fun for listeners and performers alike.

The Book of Nightmares by Timothy Crist is happening now. These smooth, thick chords provide a strong “wasteland” image in my mind. The whole tone of the piece is haunting and more than a little creepy. The core of the piece fixates on one thick chord and then expands away into more lavish sonorities. I’d share bits of the text with you, but I’d rather you sleep well and have pleasant dreams tonight!

The last choir piece of the concert is Michael Murray’s After the Fall, a 9-11 anniversary piece. The music radiates out from a single pitch and then throughout the choir. The first movement deals with how to express the un-expressible, or how to speak after such and unspeakable act. The tone of the poem is quite effectively displayed in the music and the performance. We, the second movement, begins in small gestures and rises to thick, luscious chords at its climax. The end of We recedes into its more introverted beginning. The final movement, Changing Home, describes the quick transformation of everyone’s lives from September 10th to September 11th. The music reflects the horror of the events and the choir easily handles the thick dissonant chords. The tough emotional content of the piece is handled well by the choir. Bravo. These were difficult pieces both musically and emotionally.

Now for something completely different. The Sonata for Alto Saxophone by Timothy Melbinger is being performed by Jonathan Rohner (sax) and Lauren Schack Clark (piano). The first movement takes the piano through its full range in wide-sweeping gestures while the saxophone plays short melodic fragments. Moments of unison provide a window to the structure. The saxophone gradually builds up energy into tense flutter-tongue trills while the piano explores the extreme low register at the end. Movement two begins with a soft delicate tune in the saxophone. This melody is cautiously stepped through and surrounded by the sparse piano. Movement two contains a great sense of three independent lines shared between the two instruments. The final movement emphasizes rhythmic interplay and dialog between he performers. The overall marcato feel breaks into sneaky and brash sonorities while still building to a chain of extended techniques and a quick-fade ending.

The final piece on the program is Tre for flute, cello, and piano by Dwight Banks. Joe Bonner is our flautist again, Lauren Shack Clark in on piano, and Jonathan Kierscey takes the stage with his cello. The first movement opens with rapidly expanding gestures in all instruments creating a nebulous, yet crystalline, sound world. Each instrument takes an extended solo in this first movement. The harmonic vocabulary ranges from fre-atonality to jazz/blues. Dwight is very adroit at shifting from one to another. Neither harmonic vocabulary sounds our of place with the other – cool! This trio is being conducted, and watching the conductor from the audience heightens our awareness of Tre’s rhythmic complexity and independence of parts. These performers are working hard, but they do not seem to be troubled. A more regular rhythmic pulse is present in the final movement. The pulse dissipates from time to time, but it inexorably returns to structure the whole movement. Once again, unison events articulate the final cadence.

A review of concert 4 at SCI Region 6 Conference -2004
submitted by Jay C. Batzner

After lunch came Eric Honour performing his own solo saxophone piece, Instant Vacation. The first movement, Random Crow, was a tour-de-force of extended techniques and structure. A truly virtuoso performance and piece! The second movement, For Hound, relied on more traditional lyricism and the final Attentive Magpie movement blended the extended techniques with the utlra-rapid gestures and traces of the second movement’s lyrical nature.

Stark contrast again with John Bilotta’s solo clarinet Entr’acte. This intimate two-movement work contained a lot of expressive potential for Ken Hatch’s performance. The delicate and personal first movement was balanced by a delightfully bubbly and vibrant final movement. A real charmer of a piece.

The alto saxophone returned in Allene Kirk’s hands as she and pianist Lauren Schack Clark negotiated James R. Geiger’s Schwerza. The angular and punchy opening melted into sheer lyricism with ease. Both performers handled the challenging aspects of coordination throughout this work.

…a chasing after the wind by Frank Felice cast a contemplative and haunting mood on the audience. Joe Bonner’s alto flute solo burst into flurries of activity, always highlighting the straining quality of the instrument in its upper register. Lauren Schack Clark was once again the pianist, providing a creepy chiming of a grandfater clock that fortells the final moments of an unredeemed life.

Fakebook II for solo piano by Arthur Gottschalk and performed by Stefanie C. Dickinson brought windows of jazz into an epic three-movement setting. Each movement (Corea, Tatum, and Brubeck) easily traveled through free-form feels, sprite or driving rhythms, and snippets of jazz standards that quickly dissipated into the ether. The fiery Brubeck finale was everything one would want from such a rhythmically driving composer.

Stuart Hinds’ Rhapsody for voice and keyboard defies description. Hinds has the ability to sing overtones and change these produced overtones independently of the sung fundamental. A short demonstration preceded the piece, and was mind-boggling. Hearing one man sing polyphony by himself in the context of the composition was doubly boggling.

Finally, we had Variations and Theme on Lullaby for Louise by James A. Jensen. Violinist Jeffrey Z. Flaniken and pianist Donald C. Sanders presented these delightful variations in 6 movements that ranged from explosive to lyrical—from percussive to furious. The work concluded with the lullaby theme. This simpe tune was the perfecgt way to conclude. Given the gamut of variation throughout the composition, the tune sounded so familiar when stated plainly. An excellent piece, well crafted and lovingly played.

A Review of Concert 3 at the SCI Region 6 Conference-2004
submitted by Jay C. Batzner

The first concert of Friday was off with John Stafford’s fanfare, Turnaround for brass quintet. The ASU Brass Quintet (Richard Jorgensen, Sherri Fincher, Robin Dauer, Neale Bartee, and Ed Owen) gave this piece the solid ensemble performance that it deserves. The fanfare motives alternated with softer chorale passages and the total harmonic language had the perfect blend of dissonance and resolution.

Brass themes continued on the second piece which was Lawrence Axelrod’s Music for Horns. The ASU Horn choir managed to convey the organic flow of the opening with the triumphant sounds and punctuating textures of the middle of the work. This was a challenging piece for the ensemble and they handled the murky and mysterious section with aplomb.

Members of the ASU Horn Ensemble continued with Dragonfly by Sue Dellinger. Scored for three horns and percussion, Dragonfly began with a punchy opening that shifted easily into a short languid moment and then back to an exciting finish.

Julia Lansford (soprano), Harriet O’Neal (piano), and Ed Owen (tuba) then took the stage for Warren Gooch’s song cycle, The View from the Tower. These charming pieces poke fun at academic settings and created a wonderfully playful environment for the performers. The program notes were slightly apologetic (bringing “light” pieces onto stage), but needlessly so! Fun is fun and the audience quickly loosened up to laugh along with the ensemble.

Existance for two oboes was a stark contrast to all the previous pieces. Caroline Sampson and Miguel Prianço move their way through the serious opening and slithering passages of the work. Matthew Cureton’s piece held a great balance of ensemble motion and still maintained the independence of parts.

Amy Dunker’s exploration of The Raven brought even more variety to the concert. Amy always makes full use of her trumpet (this time including tapping on the bell with a snare brush). She truly captured the tone of the Poe’s famous poem. The ambient musical gestures were punctuated with spoken words from the text showing Amy’s particular understanding and interpretation of the poem.

The last work on the concert was Jeffrey Hoover’s lush Soul and Fire songs for soprano, piano, and clarinet. Once again, soprano Julia Lansford took the stage and with J.D. Kelly (piano), and Ken Hatch (clarinet), she filled the hall with rich, traditional folk-like melodies. Each of the four songs was rich and evocative, and when seen in the context of the proceeding two works, highlight the wonderful diversity present in the SCI composer membership.

Friday, January 30, 2004

A Review of Concert II from SCI Region 6 Conference-2004
submitted by Lee Hartman and William J. Lackey

The Arkansas State University Wind Ensemble under the direction of Ed Alexander opened the second concert of the Region VI SCI conference with the bombastic Ithaca Fanfare by Paul Osterfield. The energetic percussion opening established a high intensity that permeated the entire ensemble.

Ryan Garber’s Symphony for Winds in three movements began with a fanfare led by the trumpet. It created a rhythmic energy that lasted through the movement. The second movement, chaconne, explored the “chamberesque” qualities available to a wind ensemble. The quintets and trios led to a climactic ensemble tutti. The return to the opening quintet of three clarinets and two bassoons closed the movement nicely as well as provided an effective transition to the opening of the third movement, Rondo. The timpani was used creatively—not just as an opening idea of the movement, but as the transitional material for the entire movement.

Even though the topic of The Least Among You is tragic, it has given Gregory F.F. Hoepfner inspiration to create a lyrically somber composition. Performed by the ASU Flute Ensemble led by Joe Bonner, shifting of moods from childlike to violent was created by the composer through solo passages, ensemble interjections, and range.

Also performed by the ASU Flute Ensemble was James Haines’ Two Etudes for Five Flutes. Nocturne and Midi, two contrasting movements, were performed very well. Nocturne utilized high tessitura—shifting harmonic background that complimented the lower range melody. Registration of the melodic idea and harmonic background was explored in various combinations. The ending piccolo flourish was executed well by Heather Coleman. The motorhythmic Midi provided an energetic conclusion to this composition.

Conversation, a work for tom-toms by Ulf Grahn, explored the use of tutti versus solo passages. This work made use of hocket spread throughout the ensemble. Rhythmic interplay became more evident by the placement of the ASU Percussion Ensemble on stage.

The Japanese influence Shishi-Odoshi by Bruce Reiprich calls on the flutist (Joe Bonner) to imitate a Japanese flute through the use of whistle tones, timber trills, and pitch bending. The interplay of piano and gongs created a shifting sonic background.

Christopher Wicks’ Songs of Sappho are six concise movements. The performance was sung beautifully Julia Lansford who was accompanied by J.D. Kelly (piano) and Whitney Farris (flute).

Concluding the concert was Paul Dickinson’s Nine Pieces for Woodwind Trio. This devilishly hard piece was brilliantly performed by Carolyn Brown (flute), Lorraine Duso (oboe), and Min-Ho Yeh (clarinet). The prelude and postlude explored range, dynamics, and blend. Movement two, Unison, was a whirling dervish of fast flying notes. The solo movements explored the special characteristics of each instrument—the flexibility of the clarinet, the singing quality and embellishments of the oboe, and the articulation of the flute. The canons were expanded from one to three sixteenth note intervals creating a flurry of notes, masterfully executed.