Bill Whitley and The Inside Story: Benchmark Chamber Music

Composer and pianist Bill Whitley’s writes music that is rooted deeply in themes of mysticism and nature, incorporating musical elements as diverse as a Gregorian chant, raga music, and progressive rock. Today, Whitley’s our next featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to discover what makes his new album benchmark chamber music.

When did you realize that you wanted to be a composer?

The first time I heard In a Landscape by John Cage, was when I realized that maybe ‘classical music’ was bigger than Chopin and Beethoven. I started improvising, then notating solo piano music like there was no tomorrow. What surprised me most, was that I never got tired of writing music. Unlike practicing and performing on the piano, the depth of the composing well seemed to have no end to it.

If you could do any job in the world and make a living at it, what would it be?

Testing high-quality headphones.

If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be? And why?

On the deck of a cabin overlooking the confluence of the Okanogan and Columbia rivers. That kind of openness is where my music comes from.

Chamber Music

What was your favorite musical moment on the album?

Wow. That’s like trying to pick a favorite child.  I’m really proud of all of the tracks and all of the performances, and the mixes…

…but “The Eddy (reprise)” into “White Water” (tracks 13 & 14) at the conclusion of Little White Salmon where Donna starts humming, then falls back into “Flow”…that gets me every time. It seems like a really great way to end the album, and it’s so clear that everyone…performers, engineers, producer…everyone really got the piece, the music, and the whole album.

Was there a piece on your album that you found more difficult to compose than the others?

They were all either really easy to write or all really hard to write.  I can never remember. I do know that some of them came with really difficult emotions. But that’s what the pieces are for…and often the ones that are the result of working through deep sadness sound the happiest.

But one piece, in particular, captures the feeling of failing to find my way out of depression…that would be “Oaxaca.”

What does this album mean to you personally?

It’s most definitely a benchmark. I didn’t expect that. I look back at all of the work I’ve written and recorded before with I DREAM AWAKE as the acid test. I’ve already actually recycled/deleted/removed uploads of works I’d written or recorded prior since this album has been mixed. I think my body of work will be defined as pre- and post- I DREAM AWAKE.

I see the album as an example of what my work could be.

Bill Whitley’s I DREAM AWAKE releases on Ravello Records Friday, August 11th and will become available for purchase and streaming. 

Ross Crean and The Inside Story: The Great God Pan Horror Opera

Chicago-based composer Ross Crean is a multifaceted artist who’s active in many genres of music.  Last year, Crean’s song cycle A Passive-Aggressive’s Guide to Mother Goose, was a winner of One Ounce Opera’s inaugural Fresh Squeezed Ounce of Art Song competition. Today, Ross Crean is our next featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to find out what role The Great God Pan has played in Crean’s life.

What was your most unusual performance, or the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?

My most unusual performance was the premiere of my monodrama Xenophysius Obscura (The Stranger’s Nature in Darkness) at Moscow State Conservatory.  The work is intended to be sung in complete darkness and includes me roaming through the audience at one point.  I was also barefoot so that no one in the audience would know when I was approaching.  However, that backfired when I stepped on a bolt that held one of the seats down.  I gasped, and in turn, I heard several other surprised gasps in response that traveled back from where I was standing to the stage.  I wish I was able to recreate that moment for recording!  The good news is that I neither damaged my foot, and the audience found the performance intriguing, so I never felt the need to confess what really happened at that point.  Good thing, because it makes for great material you can talk about later, like this!

If you could do any job in the world and make a living at it, what would that be?

Exactly what I do now, which is composing.  I worked as a performer for a very long time, and I will cherish the experiences I have gained through that, but there is nothing like being able to sit at home and completely be cerebral while creating a new piece of music.  I love the creative process so much and enjoy being able to collaborate with so many talented performers who understand my work.  It has been such a rewarding experience to see my music come to life, and the nerves and frustration that can occasionally accompany that do not amount to the joy and sense of accomplishment I get to feel when I am relating to others through my music.  To me, it is always being able to express myself fully and have a continuous conversation with an audience.

If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be? And why?

Hands down, I am always hoping to do work in Portland, Oregon.  During my touring days, I had been to Portland hundreds of times, and I currently go back to work on different art installations.  The energy I feel there is unlike any other place I have ever gone.  It has always felt like a second home to me.  Plus, as someone who thrives off of books and music, the downtown area pretty much has me covered, inspiration-wise.  I am completely addicted to Powell’s books and can spend many an hour there each time I visit.  Portland also has some of the best hiking imaginable, and I appreciate my time to escape to the great outdoors.

The Great God Pan

What does this album mean to you personally?

The Great God Pan has been such an immense part of my life for the last three years.  It was a way for me to deal with grief, to find my creative self again, and to make an old story become relatable to current events.  I gained a family through this process and learned immeasurable lessons about the recording process and behind-the-scenes work.    Thematically, it has been an awakening of the undercurrents that can come through in a story that is not originally meant to be there, and therefore give the story a new life.  It was also a way for me to really let my synesthesia take over and create a whole new world of sound and color.  Listeners may not understand that world, but for myself, I feel like I wholeheartedly connected to a piece of music, and can escape to that world each time I listen to it.  I have written a couple blogs about this that appear on my website, should anyone want to read further about my experiences with this opera.

What was your favorite musical moment on the album?

There were so many, but the one that stood out for me was Rachel’s aria, In the Garden.  I originally wrote that piece as a chamber work and performed it many times myself.  It combined my love of the Celtic sean-nos singing with internal piano dissonances, two things I have always enjoyed.  When it came time to work on the opera as a whole, I knew that I had to include that piece as part of it, since it was the character of Rachel who inspired it.  The aria is a demonstration of impending madness, the losing of one’s self-control, and to have it take place in such beautiful natural surroundings like the forest can actually be frightening in its conception.  Jessica Hiltabidle had researched that particular moment of the story for months, and when she walked into the studio to perform it, there was really nothing I could say.  She knows how to bring that inner turmoil to life, in a true and organic way, not something that has been staged.

Is there a specific feeling you want listeners to tune into when hearing your work?

Personally, if I have done my job correctly, I will not have to convey that verbally.  There are several goals I have with this opera as far as what I was attempting to create, but really, what I want is to have the audience walk away with further questions.  To be able to spark a further conversation about this opera would be an amazing achievement.  I found so many layers within a story that seemed to have such a  surface narrative, that I wonder how much more can be lying underneath there.  That discovery alone has lit a fire in me to delve into future stories and narratives in a similar fashion.  I cannot control the listeners’ interpretations as to what they hear, so I simply hope that they enjoy it, whether it be a horror story or a sociopolitical commentary on sexuality and religion.  Either way, I am happy to have had the opportunity to share a piece of myself with them.

Ross Crean’s THE GREAT GOD PAN is releasing on Navona Records Friday, August 11th and when it will be available for purchase and streaming. 

Doug Bielmeier and The Inside Story: Experimental Electronic Music and the Creative Process

Composer Doug Bielmeier, who is an assistant professor at The Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI and a freelance engineer at Noisy Buffalo Productions, has 15 years of studio and live engineering experience under his belt. Today, Bielmeier is our next featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to see Bielmeier’s thoughts on what it means to be creative and writing experimental music.

Who was your first favorite artist(s) growing up? 

I remember my sister and I listening to a 45 rpm single of “La Bamba” (not sure if it was the Ritchie Valens version or the Los Lobos version done for the Lou Diamond Philips film of the same name). At the time, we didn’t speak Spanish, so the words were meaningless to us. Nevertheless, we understood the excitement in Ritchie’s voice and the frenetic Quecha-like rhythms. The B-side of the single was Valen’s more famous “Oh Donna.” It was a slow and sighing ballad about a girl he pinned over. We were more interested in “La Bamba” because of the rhythm and excitement. The A-side was worn down to the vinyl where the B-side remained pristine. I think it’s a wonderful idea that two kids from suburban Buffalo, NY, in the 1980s could understand a Mexican-American pop hit from the late 1950’s and be excited about it. It’s this “dulcet excitation” in music that I’ve been drawn to ever since.

When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist/ composer/creator?

I don’t think I woke up one day and said, “I want to be creative and will create from this day forth until the rapture.” I think being a creative person is a lifestyle: The process of creating intertwines with your daily schedule and becomes your ritual. I was a very creative child. Luckily, my parents supported my creativity and paid for piano, voice, and even composition lessons throughout my youth. I wasn’t allowed to watch a lot of TV, and my mother required that we read a particular number of books per month as well as keep a journal. I grew up learning that days were meant to be filled with “doing.” I’ve grown to embrace the creative process, deciding that the process itself is almost more important than the outcomes.

If you could do any job in the world and make a living at it, what would that be?

I really enjoy my life, which includes teaching music technology, hosting a podcast about creativity (The Process), long bike rides, lots of coffee, and creating and producing music and video. I’d really like to shape my music for use in TV and film. I think it would be rewarding to have the music utilized beyond listening and performance. I’ve always loved film and cinema. Using my music to enhance a scene on the big screen is something I’d really enjoy and I think my music lends itself to this end. Some days I do contemplate giving it all up and training to become a park ranger in the Pacific Northwest, but, I think, I need to write a movie score or two first.

Experimental Electronic Music

What was your favorite musical moment on the album? 

Track 2 on the CD, “The Rocking Chair,” is a great track to get a sense of what the album’s all about. I also feel it is the most musical in that it has a rather straightforward form: it builds to a vocal crescendo or chorus and then dissipates into the next section/track. This track feels the most revealing of my process and my ideas for the album, specifically Windowing. The practice of windowing in electronic composition deals with the manipulation of found sound files by the stretching and compression of time, sample rate, bit depth, and window size. The layering and temporal placement of these windows create larger sonic landscapes for the creation of new musical works divorced from the source context. The original source material for “The Rocking Chair” was a short four-bar acoustic guitar sound file that was dropped several octaves in pitch by digitally slowing the playback speed. This track also features my live and processed vocals. I look forward to exploring vocal processing and manipulation with the process of windowing in upcoming releases.

What does this album mean to you personally?

“Betty and the Sensory World” is a celebration of the short life of vocalist Elizabeth “Betty” Reed. Her untimely death should be a wake-up call to anyone who is currently “coasting” through days or is “waiting till tomorrow” to make a change. The piece is a statement about leaving the “cave” of entitlement, victimhood, addiction, depression, and isolation, by returning to the sensory world of “true reality” (as described in Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave”)

Overall, the album represents my creative output in the spring and summer of 2016 while living in Indianapolis, IN.  These days were filled with warm weather, long bike rides, lots of coffee, and music. These sonic landscapes became the sound track for my return to the sensory world and renewed creative output. I spent hours bike riding around Indianapolis listening to versions and drafts of the album on my earbuds. For me, the music and its creation were a form of meditation and an affirmation of the sensory world. From this perspective, the process itself was just as important as the outcome.

Is there a specific feeling you want listeners to tune into when hearing your work?

I composed this work to function like a guided meditation, so it is best, if possible, to experience it as a singular statement. That, however, doesn’t mean it should be listened to in a vacuum. I think it’s most effective while doing something else relaxing. Turn it up loud over some speakers while you paint the garage or do the laundry. Throw on some headphones and go for a walk or bike ride. My hope is that eventually upon hearing the music you will be able to drift into a place of contemplation and calm.  The music’s ability to create these meditative sonics relies heavily on repetition, pulse, and the use of found audio. This combination, known as Windowing, evokes a sense of familiarity while creating an electronic landscape that appears organic to the sensory world. I hope the listener enjoys the composition, finds some serenity, and uses the sonic landscape to reconnect with the sensory world and themselves.

Doug Bielmeier’s BETTY AND THE SENSORY WORLD releases on Ravello Records and will be available to purchase and stream, Friday, August 11th.

The Inside Story: Matej Meštrović

Croatian composer, pianist, and professional goof ball, Matej Meštrović, is one of the most prominent artists in Croatia. Meštrović’s compositions range from chamber and orchestral concert music to music for television, theatre, and film. Today Meštrović is the next featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to see where he drew inspiration for Winter…

Who was your first favorite artist(s) growing up?

I grew up with Mozart. When my mom was pregnant with me, I was listening to Mozart from her belly. Not only listening; she was onstage, while pregnant with me, me in her belly while she was performing Mozart d-minor Piano Concerto with Zagreb Philharmonic orchestra. I think that’s the moment I decided to become piano player and composer.

When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist/composer/creator?

I started my music education when I was 4, so I remember one of my first performance when I was 6. It was blocked flute improvisation on the theme I’ve made myself  – “Old witch”. After that, I started playing piano and practicing a lot. My motto was ” If you want to practice piano for 25 hours a day, you have to get up one hour early.” I won all the competitions and had a lot of performances. At that time, besides the classical repertoire, I always played some of my own compositions on concerts. That made me realize that playing my compositions and composing music makes me so much happier than only reproducing classical music from other famous composers. If you ask me when – my answer is when I was 16.

What was your most unusual performance, or the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?

When I was 14, I played Mozart Rondo for piano and orchestra. The concert hall was sold out, the orchestra was already on stage and everybody was waiting for me. There were several stairs at the entrance to the stage, so I ran, and missed the last step and almost fell. One of the contrabass players kept me from falling down, and the whole audience laughed. Then I realized that you can’t be late for your own performance.
Why? Because there is no concert without you. So, I don’t run to stage anymore.

NV6114-4Seasons3Pianos-FrontCover
NV6114

What was your favorite musical moment on the album?

It is the beginning, the opening of the first movement of the Spring. Every time we play live “4 Seasons for 3 Pianos,” I am looking at the audience, and I see smiles on their faces. That makes me smile too.

Was there a piece on your album that you found more difficult to compose/perform than the others?

Yes, the finale of the Winter because I wanted to make that ending more “spectacular.” I spent days and days only on that part (for all other movements, inspiration came to me at the moment). So after many hours of playing/composing on my piano, I quit and decided not to push anymore.

I went for a long walk with my dog in nature. We live in the small village, so it is quiet and very inspirational surrounding. One moment I was listening to the birds and idea came to me as if I was hit by thunder. I realized that I have to make my “own Coda” and finish the Winter with all the other themes from Autumn, Summer, and Spring. After that, I ran home and composed that Coda in one breath. So, I made it in music the way nature made it in life – the last movement of the Winter is the first movement of the Spring – the end of the winter is intertwined with the beginning of the spring.

What does this album mean to you personally? Is there a specific feeling you want listeners to tune into when hearing your work?

It seems that my transcription of Vivaldi’s “4 Seasons for 3 pianos” is the first one in the world. There is a lot transcription for 2 or 4 pianos, but not a single one for 3 pianos. That makes me happy and proud. Besides that, this is not the only transcription, because I have done a lot of interventions on that score. Playing and recording this album with such great piano players as Matija Dedic and Hakan Ali Toker is a great personal experience for me. At the end I want to share this – when I was much younger, Vivaldi came to me and he told me “When you grow up, play with me like you are a child”. And that’s what I did.

Matej Meštrović’s 4 SEASONS FOR 3 PIANOS will be available to order and to stream Friday, August 11th. 

But wait…there’s more!

New PARMA Artist: Marta Brankovich

Marta

We are so happy to welcome pianist Marta Brankovich to the PARMA family!

Her first album with PARMA is inspired by her own journey as an artist, from her Serbian heritage to her time performing in the United States. The album features collaborations with PARMA artist Fredrick Kaufman and acclaimed international concert pianist Kemal Gekić.

Marta graduated from the University of Belgrade at 21. During her studies, she received numerous international and domestic awards, scholarships, and public recognition. In 1997 she came in third place for the famous Rubinstein Piano Competition. Additionally, she received a special honorary scholarship from her home country for making an outstanding career in the US.

Since 2010 Marta has held over 150 solo recitals which have garnered positive reviews from publications like the Chicago Tribune calling her a “Black Swan of Piano.”

She recently had her second concert tour in Europe in the past four years. The tour featured 14 recitals and lectures at various music concert venues across 6 different cities; including Prague, Belgrade, Skopje, and Istanbul. During the tour, she recorded for international TV and radio stations including famous Radio Vltava, and Radio Prague channel 3.

She is currently living in Miami where she finished her second Master’s diploma in piano performance studying with Kemal Gekić.

Can’t wait to hear the album? Check out this video:

Welcome, Marta!

New Compilation / Concert Series: Pedroia String Quartet

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PARMA is pleased to announce a new album-length project of contemporary string quartets with the Pedroia String Quartet, featuring an excellent mix of music from a few familiar PARMA Artists (De Sena, Deutsch, Osterfield) along with a few new faces (Bridges, Lamb, and Price). In addition to an album release, this program of music will also be performed by the Pedroia String Quartet in PARMA Music Festival events as part of an upcoming season.

More information on the Pedroia Quartet can be found at pedroiaquartet.com, and you can hear the Pedroia Quartet’s past work with PARMA on our release ARC OF QUARTETS navonarecords.com/epk/anarcofquartets

We’ll be sure to keep everyone posted as the project continues to develop. In the meantime, please take a moment to get to know the featured composers on the album:

Stay tuned for more updates!

New PARMA Artist: Carlos Simon

Carlos Simon.jpgWe are so thrilled to be welcoming composer and arranger Carlos Simon to the PARMA family!

2018 will see the release of Carlos’ album MY ANCESTOR’S GIFT on Ravello Records.

“Out of the turmoil and anguish of slavery, unfair laws and systematic oppression, African Americans have birthed the most incredible art forms. I, and many others, have benefited from the sacrifices that so many made. MY ANCESTOR’S GIFT is a homage to these offerings. I am the hope and dream of my ancestors. These pieces are truly retrospective and introspective of who I am as an African-American artist.” – Carlos Simon

Carlos recently graduated from the University of Michigan and currently serves on the faculty of Spelman College where he teaches courses in composition and music technology. He also holds degrees from Georgia State University and Morehouse College.

Recently, Carlos received the Underwood Emerging Composer Commission from the American Composers Orchestra. Additionally, he was the winner of the prestigious Marvin Hamlisch Film Scoring Award in 2015 and the Presser Award from the Theodore Presser Foundation. In the same year, he served as the young composer-in-residence with the Detroit Chamber String and Winds for the 2015-2016 season. In 2015 he was named one of ASCAP’s 2015 “Composers to Watch.”

Serving as music director and keyboardist for GRAMMY Award winner Jennifer Holliday, Simon has performed with the Boston Pops Symphony, Jackson Symphony, and the St. Louis Symphony. Mr. Simon has toured internationally with soul Grammy nominated artist, Angie Stone, where he performed throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Can’t wait to hear the music? Here is a preview of what’s to come:

 

There’s more fantastic music also available on Soundcloud. For more information visit www.coliversimon.com

Welcome, Carlos!

August New Music Features Our 500th Release!

Our next round of releases is, as always, a little different than anything that has come before.

Today we’re releasing Croatian pianist and composer Matej Meštrović’s debut album on Navona Records, which is an exciting all-piano take on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.  We’ve also got composer Bill Whitley’s debut album featuring sumptuous chamber music and our first-ever salmon-inspired recordings.  Then there’s an opera by Ross Crean based on Welsh author Arthur Machen’s eponymous novel of scientific hubris and supernatural behavior.  And …

(drum roll, please …)

Here’s the big one, our 500th PARMA release (Woah!), THE TRANSFIGURATION OF GIOVANNI BAUDINO, featuring the work of John A. Carollo.

New Music
The vinyl will be released on September 15th. Stay tuned for a very special announcement. Until then, you can pre-order the album on Amazon, which is dropping on August 25th.

Not only is it our 500th recording, it’s our first ever vinyl release.  Return with us to the days of wow and flutter, of 33 rpm, and bask in the warmth that only 180 grams of slick, black virgin vinyl can provide.

If you’re an old soul still spinning stacks of wax, this is the album for you! If you crave the warmth of vinyl and it’s more human, natural sound, this is the album for you!  And if you seek out creative and courageous music, this is definitely the album for you!

As mentioned above, our 500th release isn’t the only exciting project happening next month. Get a load of this roundup and start planning your pre-orders!

Four Seasons

4 SEASONS FOR 3 PIANOSMatej Meštrović

Classical/Classical Crossover

Performing with Hakan A. Toker and Matija Dedić on three pianos (and accordion), this album presents a whirlwind transcription of Vivaldi’s masterful string concertos by Croatian pianist and composer Matej Meštrović.

iTunes  |  Amazon  |  ArkivMusic


Medieval

SYMPHONIC SUITES 1 & 2: A MEDIVAL SAGA | Mark John McEncroe

Classical/Chamber Music

Australian composer Mark John McEncroe’s presents a classic adventure in orchestral music. Powered by McEncroe’s thematic style, these two symphonic suites lead the listener through a harrowing and dramatic story of ancient conflict and grandeur.

iTunes  |  Amazon  |  ArkivMusic


The Great God Pan

THE GREAT GOD PAN | Ross Crean

Classical/Opera

Chicago-based composer presents his opera The Great God Pan in this debut album that takes its story from an eponymous 1890 novella by Welsh author Arthur Machen, which explores themes of scientific hubris, transcendental medicine, and unexplainable supernatural behavior.

iTunes  |  Amazon


Vallarta

VALLARTA SUITE | John Robertson

Classical/Orchestral

On his debut album, New Zealand born, Canada-based composer John Robertson showcases the continuation of classic orchestral traditions with beautiful melodies, confident orchestration, and classic musical forms.

iTunes  |  Amazon  |  ArkivMusic


Chamber Music

I DREAM AWAKE | Bill Whitley

Classical/Chamber Music

Composer Bill Whitley presents in his debut album chamber music that’s characterized by meditative and trance-like qualities inspired by various forms of meditation practice, and, above all, the artistic installations of Alexander Calder.

iTunes  |  Amazon  |  ArkivMusic


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BETTY AND THE SENSORY WORLD | Doug Bielmeier

Electronic/Ambient

Composer Douglas Bielmeier’s meticulously crafted debut Ravello Records release collects works for electronics, which soothingly twists into a languid river of sound.

iTunes  |  Amazon


Cuban Music

TRADITIONAL CUBAN MUSIC | Ellasón

Latin/World

Ansonica Records presents a fantastic collection of traditional Cuban music performed with the Havana based all-female octet, Ellasón.

iTunes  |  Amazon

THE SEA KNOWS Hits #1 on Billboard

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Michael Kurek‘s Navona Records release THE SEA KNOWS charted #1 in the nation on Billboard’s Traditional Classical Album list! The album is also featured as #4 on the general Classical Album list alongside Lindsey Sterling, Celtic Women and Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Kurek commented saying…

Woo hoo! We have lift-off! The Sea Knows just entered the Billboard Traditional Classical Charts at Number 1 in the nation and as their “Hot Shot Debut,” also no. 4 in the general classical category that includes pop played on classical instruments (like Elvis played by an orchestra at no. 3). This is one of those cases where five utterly stunning performances by truly world-class musicians from seven countries made a poor composer look better than he deserves. Shout out to the great people of Parma Recordings for their utterly crucial role to make this happen.

The album, which is Kurek’s first release in 10 years, is a homage to his career of writing and composing music. Featured artists include PARMA’s own Ovidiu Marinescu on cello, Soledad Yaya (Sole Yaya) and Rita Costanzi on harp,  The Atlantic EnsembleDuo Portinari, and The Vanderbilt Strings.

The album has been reviewed by multiple platforms such as Midwest Record and featured in playlists such as “Classical New Releases” by Spotify, which is followed by more than 200k listeners. Grammy nominated classical composer and front man of WingerC.F. Kip Winger, who was a former student of Kurek says…

“Kurek is a rare talent who can evoke a universe of human emotion in one piece… I strongly recommend adding this CD to your catalogue.”

Find the album on iTunes, Amazon, and streaming on Spotify.

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