New PARMA Project: Dwight Beckham’s Orchestral Works

We’re pleased to announce that composer Dwight Beckham has signed on to release a collection of orchestral works recorded earlier this year with PARMA and the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra in Olomouc, CZ.

Dwight Beckham.jpegKansas composer Dwight Beckham, Sr. (1931-) did his undergraduate and graduate work at Wichita University. He has studied composition with Homer Keller, Adrian Pouliot, Harold Moyer, Joshua Missal and Robert Marek. In addition to teaching 40 years in the public schools and colleges of Kansas he has played trumpet with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra, the Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra, and the Wichita
Wind Ensemble. Mr. Beckham has been inducted into the Newton High School (Kansas) Hall of Fame, the Kansas Teachers’ Hall of Fame and the Kansas Music Educators’ Association Hall of Fame. He was recently chosen Outstanding Bandmaster by the Kansas Bandmasters Association. A member of ASCAP he has a number of
publications with Wingert-Jones, Grand Mesa, Daehn, TRN and C. Alan. His works include commissions for concert band, full orchestra, string orchestra and chamber groups. He is the recipient of a Kansas Arts Commission Fellowship in Music Composition.

Keep an eye out for updates on this release project, which is currently in audio post-production at PARMA!

EXULTET TERRA: Artist Interview with Amelia LeClair and Hilary Tann

We checked in with composer Hilary Tann and choir director Amelia LeClair following the recent release of EXULTET TERRA, and we’re pleased to share below some of their thoughts on the album’s background, influence, and their upcoming projects:

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When did you first become familiar with each other’s work?

AL:  At the Harvard-Radcliffe Women’s Chorus conference “The Moor” spoke to me so clearly that I introduced myself to the composer immediately after the performance, and told her I wanted to do that piece.  I remember kneeling at her feet as she sat in the audience, unable to move from her fan base, and her smiling gaze at me when I gushed “I have to do The Moor!”  Her generous spirit was immediate, and she and I became fast friends.  At the time, Cappella Clausura was a women’s chorus, and I felt the piece was perfect for my energetic young vocal performance majors. Our first performance of it still rings in my ears.

HT:  I met Amy at a circular discussion (we were in a circle) during a Radcliffe Women’s Choruses Conference under the direction of Jameson Marvin. The conversation moved to “The Moor” – the first piece on the new CD – and Amy and I seemed to have similar senses of what “sacred” might mean.  Subsequently, Cappella Clausura performed “The Moor” and in the same concert performed Hildegard’s “O Deus” … the opening of which has haunted me ever since and infuses my remaining works on the CD “Exultet Terra”.

What is the story behind the album’s title work: ‘Exultet Terra”?

HT:  By the time I came to write “Exultet Terra” (a 45-minute, five-movement work) Amy and I had already been paired in many concerts.  Cappella Clausura had performed “The Moor” again and also both of the “Contemplations” — the first of which (21,22) was written for the Radcliffe Women’s Chorus, and the second (8,9) was written for Cappella Clausura.  In addition, Amy had programmed my “Three Psalms” (another extended, three-movement work).  By this time Amy and I were friends and collaborators and Amy was urging me to write a “major” work — like a Requiem — a real musical statement.  In the event, it turned out that “Exultet Terra” was composed for the 2011 Women in Music Festival at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, where I was composer-in-residence.  The Artistic Director, Sylvie Beaudette, asked me what I’d like to write as the festival commission and Amy’s large-scale piece was already in my mind.  Throughout my composing life, my twin inspirations have been poetry about nature, and nature itself.  “Exultet Terra”, which translates as “Let the Earth Be Glad,” allowed me to take favorite biblical verses and to combine these with three poems by George Herbert (1593-1633).  It is fitting that Cappella Clausura has the premiere recorded performance since their “O Deus” is so clearly the inspiration for the piece and since Amy’s urging for a”big piece” planted the early ideas in my mind.

What led to the pairing of Hilary Tann’s music with the music of Hildegard von Bingen?

AL:  As Hilary mentions in her answers, Hildegard’s “O Deus”, which begins with two sequential leaps of the 5th soaring to the 9th, was the inspiration for most of the pieces on this album, so we begin the exploration here with it, unadorned.  We wanted to highlight a bit more about Hildegard, and my arrangements of her chant, hence the addition of the chant “Rex Noster”, which I enjoy in particular because it’s text is suitable for men to sing, in fact it feels as though it is meant for male voices as it speaks of the tyrant being smothered by his own sins, a topic about which we now know perhaps too much! I very much enjoy pushing boundaries and having men sing Hildegard is one way to do that.

How do you think the latter would respond to the former’s music?

AL:  We might guess that Hildegard would have been shocked, in the 12th century, to hear polyphony, never mind a double chorus of men and women singing together. We do not know if she ever heard any reeded instruments, but the medieval shawm newly arrived in Europe from the middle east during the crusades in the 12th century, may have crossed her path. We suspect as she was a formidable and self-assured woman that she’d be pleased, and perhaps, not surprised to be so admired and emulated a thousand years after her death.

What do you most enjoy about directing a choir?

AL: I love harmony, living inside it, hearing beautifully rendered. I am fortunate to direct a vocal ensemble of professionals who can make harmony as it’s meant to be, with power and grace, filling up and expanding any acoustical space.  The well-trained human voice creates the most perfect harmony, unadulterated by tuning necessities.  In other words, when we sing well, we sing in perfect intervals, not tempered ones like most modern instruments.  These perfect intervals create partials in the air around one – and these are what one lives for as a musician, as a listener, as a human.  All of us have the capacity to sense and respond to the inherent vibrations created by harmony, which is why we call music the universal language.

It may surprise people that chant is intrinsically harmonic: the upper partials are evident here as well, and with careful listening, audible, but even if they’re not discernable by the average listener, they still inform the sound that arrives in the ear and brain, and that gently nudges the entire body.

What would you most like listeners to think about when listening to this album?

AL:  I’d like them not to think at all, but to just listen and allow the music in.  In our time of increased distraction, it is a rare thing to be able to sit quietly doing nothing but listening. Hilary Tann’s and Hildegard’s music is so arresting believe it compels one to do just that.

What are your next exciting musical endeavors?

AL:  In May, Cappella Clausura will perform works by women in the court of Louis Quatorze, including Antonia Bembo, Elisabeth Jaquet de la Guerre, Mlle. Laurant, and Leonora Duarte, with a viol consort and baroque dancers.  In June I’ll be directing an opera by Elena Ruehr entitled “Crafting the Bonds” based on a novel written by Hannah Bond, a former slave; next year our season will include a repeat performance of Patricia Van Ness’s transcendent “Birds of the Psalms” written for Cappella Clausura and premiered last May, a performance of Elena Ruehr’s “Eve” alongside Arvo Pärt’s “Adam’s Lament”, and in the future I hope to perform all three of Fanny Hensel’s masterful cantatas for chorus, soloists, and orchestra.

HT:  My saxophone quartet “Some of the Silence” is being performed at Bruno Walter Hall of Lincoln Center March 25th, then I have a choral premiere in Bethlehem, PA, April 22. My piano trio “Nothing Forgotten” is being performed in NYC by N/S Consonance, April 24.  A number of pieces including “Seven Poems of Stillness” are being performed in Saranac Lake April 30th, then I travel to Wales for a flute-cello-piano (Marsyas Trio) premiere, “In the Theater of Air”, May 25, as part of the Vale of Glamorgan Festival.  I’m looking forward to the CD release on Navona of my soliloquy for violoncello and orchestra, “Anecdote”, as well as my “Duo” (saxophone and viola) and “Solstice” (marimba and piano) on other compilations.  My most exciting future project is a trumpet concerto for a really great performer — but that’s still in the late planning stages.


Keep an eye out for Hilary Tann’s “Anecdote” to appear on an upcoming compilation of orchestral music on Navona Records, and in the meantime, you can purchase EXULTET TERRA on Amazon, iTunes, or ArkivMusic

New PARMA Artist – David Maki

d003aWe are pleased to announce an upcoming project with Chicago-based composer/pianist David Maki, to record and release his “Five Impromptus for Two” for piano four-hands.

Maki’s music has been performed widely at regional, national and international venues by many diverse ensembles and musicians. His music has been described as “fresh and unusual” by All Music Guide, “vivid, languid, introspective” by American Record Guide and “meditative and beautiful” by Fanfare Magazine. Past recordings of his music can be found on the Albany Records and Avid Sound Recordings labels.

Maki has substantial experience a pianist and collaborative artist performing a variety of genres including classical, jazz, lounge, and new music. He has toured Scandinavia twice as pianist with Amerikan Laulajat (Finnish Male Singers of North America), and served as pianist for the University of Iowa Philharmonic and the Cedar Rapids Symphony.

Currently, Maki is on the faculty of Northern Illinois University, where he is Associate Professor of Music, and serves as Assistant Director and Coordinator of Music Theory and Composition in the School of Music. He holds degrees in composition from Northern Illinois University (B.M.), the University of Iowa (M.A.), and the University of Michigan (D.M.A.). His composition teachers include Jan Bach, David Gompper, Evan Chambers, Bright Sheng, and Michael Daugherty; his piano teachers include Donald Walker and Logan Skelton.

Here are some of David Maki’s thoughts on the music to be recorded:d014e

“Five Impromptus for Two was composed in the winter of 2014. My idea was to involve a performer as collaborator from the start of the compositional process. Pianist Ashlee Mack has been a performing partner of mine, shares many musical sensibilities with me, and made an ideal collaborator for this project. Several times over the winter, I brought short musical ideas (brief melodies, a few harmonies, etc.) to her and we used them as catalysts for improvisation. I recorded our sessions, listened and transcribed sections, and used them as source material in the composition of five short pieces. Ms. Mack and I premiered movements I, IV, and V at Northern Illinois University in the spring of 2015.”

Keep an eye out for more news about this upcoming project – for how, you can check out the 2015 live performance of the first movement below:

Artist Interview w/ Hans Bakker and Peter Greve

We posed a few questions to PARMA Artists Hans Bakker and Peter Greve in advance of their upcoming split release: LINES TO INFINITY (out January 13th). Both artists were included on last January’s compilation, PINNACLE (along with composers Daniel Perttu, Steven Block, and Kevin M. Walczyk), and since both Netherlands-based composers discovered they lived right down the road from each other (Bakker in Amersfoort, Greve in Wijdemeren), a follow-up split album ended up being a great idea!

You can read their thoughts on the music below as we all get ready for Friday’s release of LINES TO INFINITY:

 

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What was the thought process behind this album’s title: LINES TO INFINITY?

PG:

  • The interplay of waves, clouds and horizon on Hans’ magic cover photo
  • The connection between the title of the CD and the title of the first piece on it: “Leys/Krachtlijnen” (= litterally translated: “Power Lines”)
  • The sun, “infinitely” far away, above the horizon as a metaphore for the eternity of the Cosmos

 

Would you please speak a little about your favorite piece of yours on the album?

PG:  I can’t really say: there is quite a time span between the conception of the two pieces, and both reflect my state of mind and beauty ideal at that time: different, but both are authentic and valid.

HB:  All three pieces are dear to me as different as they are in shape, occupation and genesis. But I have a soft spot for the fugue in the third part of the Trio. Every time I listen to it I experience a kind of joie-de-vivre.

 

When did you become familiar with each other’s work?

PG:  During the preparation period of “Pinnacle”. I knew Hans by name, but not personally: it was PARMA which brought us together: a most happy coincidence, as it turned out!

HB:  Likewise!

 

How far apart do you now live from each other?

PG:  29 kilometers (30-35 min.) by car

 

In what ways are your writing styles the same, and in what ways are they different?

 

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Peter Greve (photo by Joanna Greve)

PG:  I think this is for an independent third party (musicologist) to analyze, but my personal bottomline is: all composers are different individuals and  consequently write different music: that is fine and definitely shall remain so, because diversity is essential for all arts.

 

To say the same in another way (“The Four Basic Freedoms in Music”):

  •  composers are free to write what they want*;
  • executants are free to perform what they want;
  • podia are free to program what they want;
  • listeners are free to judge as they want.

*Unpermissible however are (“The Four Basic Constraints in Music”):

  • poor craftmanship;
  • false pretentions;
  • triviality;
  • non-commitment.

HB:  I agree with Peter that this is for an independent third party (musicologist) to analyze.

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Hans Bakker (photo by Ton Sciaroni)

 

“C’est le ton qui fait la musique”. Speaking about instrumental music there are no words, but only sound vibrations that can resonate in the mind of a like-minded listener.  I am sure the pieces of LINES TO INFINITY have expressiveness in common.  We have chosen PARMA to find receptive listeners all over the world.

 

What do you most enjoy about writing for flute?

PG:  I like all wind instruments (somehow more than string instruments), but the flute has the combined advantages of a large compass, great agility and a large number of flautists, among which many good amators. Besides (a practical reason), the two pieces on the CD were commissioned from me by flautists whom I personally knew and who asked me to write music for them or their ensemble.

HB:  It was a challenge to write music for flutists or ensembles, I knew.  Sometimes younger music colleagues, who are versed in the present-day flute techniques. For example in Mantra I for flute and piano (CD The Unnamed Source) and Leys/Krachtlijnen on this CD Lines To Infinity.  Sometimes passionate amateurs, for example Suite Hinnago.

 

Which Dutch composers would you say have most influenced your work?

PG:

  • Willem Pijper (1894-1947): for me, the most important composer between WOI and WO II; one may say: the Dutch representant of the German “Neue Sachlichkeit”. I had liked to be his pupil, but I was too young (16) and not up to it when he died. I liked his directness, conciteness and originality, unfortunately, he was considered too modern before WOII, but out-dated after it, because he endorsed poly- and octa-tonality, and rejected (vigorously: he was a feared polemic critic) atonality and dodecaphony.
  • Léon Orthel (1905-1985): actually, my last and principal piano teacher, but also a composer in his own right. He had the courage to return, after years of experimenting, to romanticism and write heavily loaded, emotional music right from his heart. So his music is quite different from Pijper’s, but he highly estimated his elder colleague and let me play Pijper’s piano works (i.a. the Pianoconcerto), rather than his own. Orthel maybe did not influence so much my music as my attitude and artistic standards: I especially appreciated his integrity and modesty. He did not live to see my development to composer, but he would certainly have encouraged me to carry on.
  • Ton de Leeuw (1926-1996): he too steered away in the 50’s of past century from the (then) main-stream of “Darmstadt followers” and found inspiration in Indian and other Asian music, but he integrated it into his style and wrote works of great beauty and expressiveness. He also was an eminent theoretician and wrote an authoratitive book on music theory which was, – and probably still is -, a standard work for Conservatory students. I did not pick up his Indian leads, but found inspiration and spiritual affinity to Eastern European music, notably Bartók, Janácek and Prokofyev (as Orthel found in Rakhmaninov). What we have in common is the feeling that one should not be afraid to look over the Western European borderlines in search for new impulses.

HB:  Seen directly no Dutch composer in particular. I found inspiration in and had an affinity also to Eastern European music, notably Skjrabin, Janácek, Bartok, Prokofyev and Stravinsky, as well as (old) Jazz and Gershwin. But reading Peter’s story I was somewhat perplexed, because I played Pijper’s Pianosonata, Orthel’s Thirth Sonatina and I studied extensively Ton de Leeuw’s  book on music theory (‘Music of the Twentieth Century). So indirectly we have  those Dutch masters in common!

 

What is the atmosphere like for new music in the Netherlands today?

HB:  Largely a clique affair.

PG:  In one word: unfavourable! To add a second: hostile. Now, the atmosphere for new music was never very favourable in this country, which was and is heavily focused on Trade and (on Sundays) Religion. Sponsoring by state-run funds has significantly been cut by right-wing politicians (yes: democratically elected) in favour of Private Enterprise, orchestras are liquidated or forced to merge, podia are forced to think in terms of commerce and PR, i.e. bring the cast-iron repertoire and avoid new music.

Of course, the music of the modernist-composers of the 2nd half of last century did not improve the situation, nor did the advance of pop music, “easy listening”, jingles, dance festivals, TV, music continuously and everywhere, etc. I can not stop these developments, but what I can do (and I am neither the first nor the only one to do so) is writing music which is accessible and understandable, but also gives the listener something to chew upon (and swallow or spit out, as applicable).

 

What would you most like listeners to discover after hearing this album?

PG:  Basically: something in themselves which resonates with the music.

HB:  Agreed.

 

For more information, check out the catalog page for LINES TO INFINITY, where you can find detailed bios, liner notes, and browse the written music: http://navonarecords.com/catalog/nv6070/

Listen below for a sample, and if you like what you hear, pre-order the album at https://www.amazon.com/Lines-Infinity-Various-artists/dp/B01NAHXUXW/

New PARMA Artist: Alla Cohen

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Photo Credit: Nir Landau

Boston-based composer Alla Cohen is releasing a full album of her chamber works, recorded at the Old South Church in Boston, to be available in March 2017.

A faculty member at Berklee and at NEC in Boston, MA, composer/ pianist Alla Cohen came to the USA from Moscow, Russia in 1989. The works on this album will showcase Cohen’s compositional stylings across a wide variety of instrumentations, including string quartet, piano trio, solo cello, chamber orchestra, and soprano with viola.

For now, you can check some of her previously-released music through this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkjG3PL8Pyg

Keep an eye out for more news about the upcoming release, RED LILIES OF BELLS, GOLDEN LILIES OF BELLS, WHITE LILIES OF BELLS, within the next few months!

Recordings in Moravia

We wwp_20161124_16_16_16_proent to the Czech Republic last month to record once again with the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra, one of our top partner ensembles, this time including works by contemporary composers Carl Vollrath, John Carollo, and Daniel Crozier. It was a nice time of year to experience Moravia, and I wanted to write up a quick post to share with you all some of the scenery and the music (along with my strong recommendation that you visit too should you get the chance)!

As the holidays approach, we arrived just in time to see vendors setting up shop in squares around the city of Olomouc for the traditional Christmas market, surrounded by festive lights, a big tree, and even a lit-up merry-go-rwp_20161124_16_16_02_proound for the kids (and kids-at-heart). Besides buying locally-made trinkets, clay bells, hand-painted ornaments, wood carvings, knitted hats and the like, one could walk through the pleasantly-crowded city center most evenings to the sounds of live music and the smells of savory/sweet street food like sausages, corn-on-the-cob, warm punch, and roasted chestnuts (my personal favorite was the Trdelník [I accidentally ordered coconut instead of chocolate, but it was still excellent!]).

For sessions, wewp_20161123_08_34_26_pro started off in the studio with Carl Vollrath‘s “The Land of Lanterns” for solo clarinet and wind ensemble, a lovely piece
which showcased the lone reed instrument lyrically and effectively against the pressing textures of the larger ensemble. Although I’ve heard the Moravian Philharmonic players through countless PARMA releases in the past (see our recent playlist for a few examples), there’s really nothing quite like sitting in the production room as dozens of professional musicians work together seamlessly to bring a well-crafted piece of art to life. This session set the stage for many more excellent recording sessions to come, which would take place over the next few days.

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Hard at work in the production room

In our next session, we worked with composer John Carollo to record the first of what would end up amounting to six new recordings. His dynamic Symphony No. 2. had many moments of catchy, rhythmic syncopation throughout, and dramatic use of the orchestra in passages both forceful and lyrical (the word “wow” was uttered more than once!). The resulting audio, along with a string work “The Rhetoric and Mythos of Belief,” dedicated to his late partner of 35 years, and other works for string ensemble which we recorded later, will be heard together on an upcoming album of Carollo’s works currently planned for rewp_20161124_10_47_16_prolease in August of 2017.
The third composer with whom we recorded was Florida-based Daniel Crozier. His work, “Balade” for full orchestra, was impressive to hear, an intricate-yet-turbulent swirling of orchestral textures with a quiet, serene center holding it all together. A challenging work to perform for sure, the ensemble did a tremendous job with the well-orchestrated guidance of conductor, producer, and composer working together, with a definitive recording sure to be the result.

After all was said and done, audio files safely on their way back to PARMA’s Audio Department (roughly 4,000 miles away), I took a brief break to walk around in Prague before flying out the next morning – I hope you’ll enjoy browsing through a few more photos I took along the way (below), and here’s some relevant holiday music to listen to while you view:

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Click to listen on Spotify!

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New PARMA Artist – Leonard Ball

We’re pleased to share that composer Leonard Ball is currently working with PARMA towards a finished recording of his chamber work titled “..leaveleonard-v-ball-jrs ~~~ (he.. ~ she.. ~ the.. ~)” for flute, viola, and harp.

Leonard V. Ball, Jr. is an Associate Professor Emeritus of Composition and Theory at the University of Georgia. He was born in Richmond, Virginia and brought up in eastern North Carolina. His musically formative years were spent as a vocalist/guitarist in a number of folk and light rock bands, culminating in professional work as an arranger/performer for several bluegrass and folk groups. After an eight-year hiatus with the United States Army, Ball earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Theory and Composition and a Master of Music degree in Composition from Kansas State University. In 1987, immediately before joining the faculty of the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, he completed a Doctor of Musical Arts in Composition at the University of Memphis. His principal teachers were T. Hanley Jackson, John Baur, and Donald Freund.

At UGA, Ball was director of the University of Georgia electronic studio from 1987 to 1995; director of the Roger and Phyllis Dancz Center for New Music Electronic Studios from 1995 to 2001; director of the Roger and Phyllis Dancz Center for New Music from 2001 to 2015; and Chair of the Composition/Theory area from 2010 to June 2015. His compositions have been performed across the United States, in Europe, South America, and Japan. His electronic works have focused on interactivity using movement as a control source for sound generation and manipulation and, more recently, real-time manipulation of instrumentally produced sound.

In the composer’s own words:

“..leaves ~~~ (he.. ~ she.. ~ the.. ~) was written in 2008, but was never performed. In effect, “..leaves ~” essentially remained on the shelf for eight years. Fast forward to 2016, with an opportunity from PARMA to record a smaller force chamber work under ten minutes in length, and the work was a natural choice for the project. Since “..leaves ~” was not performed or published, no program notes existed. To start formulating the notes, archived work files were examined in order to reveal the composition process and develop some comments. Like so many of my compositions, I found that the first thoughts put to score were not the opening measures of the work. Instead, the genesis for the work was the slower, steady, open section starting approximately three dsc00771minutes twelve seconds into the finished piece. From there “..leaves ~” expanded in both directions, first to the end and then, finally, the first three minutes of material were added. I also wanted to give each instrument an opportunity to solo and be the focus. As to the title and what it means, there were no notes or comments about that process. The piece was written primarily during the fall months of 2008, so that might be an obvious connection, but there also might be deeper implications for some. Frankly, in my opinion, that is for each individual performer and listener to ascertain. I, of course, have my own sense of how the title relates, but interpreting the meaning of a work’s title is usually, at least for me, very personal. After experiencing the work, therefore, I hope you will take a few moments to develop your own views about the title’s meaning and its relationship to the music. Most importantly, however, it is always the music that matters.”