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.

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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. 

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!

The Inside Story: Demetrius Spaneas

Demetrius Spaneas a composer, musician, and musical ambassador,  has earned awards from ASCAP, Meet the Composer, the American Music Center, U.S. State Department, and Russian Senate. Today, with the re-release of FROM A FAR-OFF WORLD, Demetrius is our next featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists.

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

I think that honor distinctively goes to The Beatles. When I was about 12, I bought the American release of “Rubber Soul,” and listened to it until it wore out. Funny thing is the band had been broken up for about 10 years already. Jazz and classical came in high school, but my soul is Rock and Roll.

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

Other than with The Beatles above, my real epiphany came as a first-year student at New England Conservatory. Granted, I was already studying to be a professional musician at a top school, but being in rock bands in high school meant that I was really learning classical for the first time. For a history class assignment, I had to listen to the second movement of Ives’ “Three Places in New England.” I thought someone switched the tape! After assured that it was right, I listened again, and again…I spent hours listening to it over and over again…it was then that I knew I had to do contemporary music as a performer and creator. Mind, blown.

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

After thousands of performances in dozens of countries, I still have to point to my favorite story which happened early on in Boston. I was playing a run of Kurt Weill’s “Lady in the Dark”…it was the final night, packed house, and we were going into the last scene, which opens with a beautiful unaccompanied bass clarinet solo playing “My Ship.” The conductor also conducted the Pops.

I picked my bass clarinet off the stand, and a pad fell out of the side, bounced, and rolled under the stage, never to be seen again. The conductor saw this, and looked at me with horror; I saw my career flash in front of my eyes, and didn’t like the ending.

At that moment, I noticed that one of the other wind players had Hubba Bubba bubble gum. I reached across the pit at grabbed the pack saying “gimmie that!”, shoved a piece in my mouth for a second, took it out and shoved it into the open hole, and played the solo using alternate fingerings.

My young career was saved.

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What would you say to an artist performing your work that nobody else knows?

Make it yours. Be informed, but own it.

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

That honor goes to “Blood Memory” by Sean Heim. At the final recording session in LA, after days in the studio, I was exhausted. The final 3 notes of the piece are marked “2nd highest note possible,” “highest note possible,” “highest and most disturbing sound possible.”

Heim kept saying “more disturbing, I want pain, suffering!” I was numb and my chops were bleeding. Kept recording those last notes, over and over, and he still wasn’t happy. “More suffering! This is a soul dying!”

I finally said to him “alright, mother fucker, you want it, you got it!” We rolled the tape, and what came out of me was from somewhere deep and dark. I fell off the chair and threw up blood and everything else. The composer ran out, kept saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I thought I killed you!” And finally, “that sound…was horrible…I don’t know what you did…it scared us.”

You’ll hear that on the album.

What does this album mean to you personally?

The album was recorded back in 2005 and released on Capstone in 2006. It was really a step forward for me creatively, but its impact is more personal. Shawn Naidoo, whose music takes up about half of the album, died a few years after the release—he was 49. He was a good friend and brilliant composer. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to work with him, record his music, and call him my friend.

FROM A FAR-OFF WORLD is now available on Amazon, iTunes, and is streaming on Spotify

The Inside Story: Bruce Crossman

Australian composer Bruce Crossman, who self-identifies his music as being heavily influenced by Christian, Eastern, and naturalistic spirituality, is today’s next featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to see what his dream job would be.

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Photo Credit: Tod Clarke

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

I love going to Japan, especially Tokyo. In some ways, it is a very subtle and laid back culture and yet in others, it is full on vibrancy, of life coming straight at you. I am thinking here of trying to cross Shibuya crossing with my wife—it was like trying to cross a raging torrent, I just held onto my wife and went for a swirling swim to the other side! That type of vibrancy—ranging from Cosplay to grey-suited businessmen to teenagers in designer tats, was exhilarating. Tokyo is made up of these discreet boroughs arranged along the ancient property lines of the city; so even though it is large, you always feel like you are spiraling into a discreet Oku moment of discovery, where the sheer quality and imagination of what you discover is exhilarating. This year, the comedic qualities of Kabuki—pretty obviously a complex love triangle with modern parallels—was subtly rich with its amazing body expression and exhilaratingly economical musical gestures. Like the city, each musical and theatrical gesture was placed in an exact moment of being in relation to the whole. This subtle richness and moments of discovery make me want to create.

In the event of a zombie apocalypse, what are the three things you absolutely can’t live without?

I could not do without my wife, my Christian faith, or a piano where I can improvise and express what I feel. Obviously, my wife is good at killing zombies, very beautiful and makes me much wiser than I actually am. I think without my soul mate to reflect on life with, I would feel lost. My Christian faith is a constant anchor for my life, which renews my spirit and mind, fills me with hope for the future, and causes me to think of others and the rich possibilities that life has here and for the future. I think if I did not create through improvisation and notation through my piano, I would feel bottled up and shut down; I need my piano to able to express and process the flow of life and its rich possibilities.

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

I love the job I have at present working at Western Sydney University in Australia, which affords me time to create, mentor composers and musicians, and is very trusting of me to organize creative projects involving musicians, poets, visual artists, and filmmakers. I think it is a great privilege to be able to pass on the rich creative experiences I have had throughout the Asia-Pacific to a new generation of creatives as well as to have time to compose music and travel to China, Korea, and Japan.

NV6095-LIVINGCOLOURS- Front CoverWhat does this album mean to you personally?

In many ways as a younger composer struggling to recognize and develop my own creative voice, there was a long journeyed process encouraged by many generous people within the Asia-Pacific, including Cambodian-born American composer Chinary Ung and Australian composer Ross Edwards. It became very important to me to not try and be someone else but just to simply be myself in my music, and to express the many riches around me—especially from Asia. This album, Living Colours, is important to me because it represents that journey of internal resonance with the places, peoples and spirit of the Asia-Pacific from the dynamism of the discovery of European heritage interacting with my Asian-Pacific locale from emergent colours through into wriggling, living colors and spirit born of the sonorous and visually rich places of the Asia-Pacific.

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

Yes—I would like listeners to feel the wriggling, living colour changes across rich percussive, intervallic and instrumental combinations across the music and senses the expression of the sonorous cultures of China, Korea, Japan and the Philippines and its connection with spirit and visual gestures of calligraphy and abstract art. I hope the meditative moments and vigorous interactions of improvisatory inspired sounds create life in the listener to uplift them and cause the eyes of their heart to consider the spiritual dimensions of life.

What was your favorite musical moment on the album?

Yes—at about two-thirds of the way through Gentleness-Suddenness, there is a rich moment where the sonorous chordal conglomerations layered with Filipino gong-chimes, Japanese temple bell, and crotales resonances with soaring violin and whispered intimacy of the mezzo-soprano in Chinese Kunqu’s “Zhe yi shatian” (this brief moment) and Judeo-Christian Revelation’s “The Angel showed me the river” is beautifully performed and creates a still moment of reflection within the driving whole.

Bruce Crossman’s Navona Records release LIVING COLOURS is no available for purchase on Amazon, iTunes, ArkivMusic and is streaming on Spotify

The Inside Story: Betty Wishart

Composer and pianist Betty Wishart, who has been noted by FanFare Magazine as “possessed of a distinctive and worthwhile compositional voice,” 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 her “must have’s” in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

Wishart speaking at Bosendofer Hall

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

I went to a performance without a chance to try out the piano.  Since the first piece was slow, it gave me time to acclimate to the instrument.  One important note:  this was a beautiful rented Steinway.

When if dove into the fortissimo section of the second piece, the piano began moving!  What to do?

I leaned further at the first opportunity, and pulled the piano back towards me!  After the concert, they discovered that the rollers weren’t locked!!

In the event of a zombie apocalypse, what are the three things you absolutely can’t live without?

There is no question that the number one priority is a grand piano.  I don’t even want to envision a life without one.  It’s the outlet for my emotions and where I begin composing.

The second must-have would be a computer.  If manuscript paper and a continuous supply of sharpened pencils could count as one, that would work fine also.

Everyone who knows me knows my third “must-have” is coffee.  However, it’s an even toss-up between coffee and Cheeze-its!

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

We’re dreaming, right?!  I would love to be a freelance composer in Manhattan.  Being among the arts community there always inspires me.  When I get a break from teaching, I go there to get refreshed and energized.   Of course, the job would need to support a two-bedroom apartment around 71st Street near Central Park West!

NV6094 - Passage - Front CoverWhat would you say to an artist performing your work that nobody else knows?

Sections of the horn part are devilish.  If necessary another instrument can double the high notes.

What does this album mean to you personally?

After hearing “Journey”, I hope people realize that I write music for all instruments, not only piano.*3

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

The ominous opening leads to a sense of foreboding. Visualize the music as background to a film.

Although the music was inspired by the threat of a terrorist attack, the piece is about facing the fear of the unknown.

The Navona Records compilation album PASSAGE: Contemporary Works for Orchestra is now available to purchase on Amazon, iTunes, and ArkivMusic, and is streaming on Spotify

The PARMA Album of the Day: JUST MUSIC

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On his debut release on Ravello Records, JUST MUSIC: MUSIC FOR PIANO IN FIVE LIMIT JUST INTONATION, Croatian composer Zoran Šćekić presents an open series of compositions aiming to explore the harmony of a non-tempered microtonal system based on integer harmonics, or just intonation. Muzika.Hr says the album is “In other words, ”Just download” approaches the piano as we have not yet heard, highlighting the beauty of his tone on the delicate and wonderful way.”

Find JUST MUSIC on Amazon and iTunes.

The Inside Story: Rodrigo Cotelo

Rodrigo Cotelo, composer, musician and Music Director of the debut music collective group #Bloomerangs, is today’s next featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to discover what fever Cotelo is nursing.

Cotelo 2Who was your first favorite artist(s) growing up?

I was raised listening to the Beatles and Vivaldi daily and my parents would use The Bee Gees as lullaby’s to put me to sleep. Until age three those should be named as my favorite artists. From 3 to 9 there were the Mexican boy band groups that dominated my air time (Parchis and Menudo -where Luis Miguel and Ricky Martin came from).  From 9 to 12 Sting and Queen were right up there as well as numerous 80’s Pop and Rock groups. Past that I became a Hard Rock and Metal teenage riot youngling until I discovered Jazz at age 17-18 thanks to John McLaughlin’s music.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Justin Bieber is the one I bring up the most music related. I think he is overly hated and his musicality and sensitivity are off the charts! It happens when you start being produced by USHER at 6 years old.

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

Any place I haven’t been to. Discovering new places is super fulfilling to me. From the ones I have already visited, I’d take recording gear and spend a full month at Lake Powell, UT. One of the most beautiful spots on earth is right there in the middle of the Glenn Canyon.

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What would you say to an artist performing your work that nobody else knows?

This music is about enabling the performers around you with a sonic/harmonic environment for them to shine and bring the best of them servicing the music.

I would also tell them that music is something greater than any person that writes it, arranges it or even listens to it and that the performer is the lucky guy that gets to connect with music (that “something greater”) by becoming one in it.

What does this album mean to you personally?

I wrote about it in the album describing “Horizon Sunset” but I did it in a more philosophical generic type of English. Aside scope to that is that is music that I wrote and recorded as I was starting to close down my studio and a chapter in my life when my now spouse and I decided to get married and move to the US. Hence “Horizon Sunset” and what it could mean to new opportunities that come together while letting go…

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

It’s a plethora of different feelings! Each tune has its own vibe and some of them are stylistically and genre divergent from each other because they are meant to have a different feel. I have done similar things throughout my career as a recording artist for my solo records as well, to me, it’s just a testament that we are not monochromatic in what/how we feel even during one single day. It also speaks to multiple interests and human impact to all that surround us. We are all different from each other and this album is indeed about the humans that brought it to light that’s why it became a collective album (#Bloomerangs), something greater than my individuality.

#Bloomerangs debut album HORIZON SUNSET is available Friday, May 12th. Pre-order now until Friday to receive three instant bonus tracks. 

The Inside Story: Piotr Szewczyk

Piotr Szewczyk is an acclaimed violinist and composer, an American Prize winner, and has been hailed by Gramophone Magazine as a “violinist of exceptional finesse and flair” and a composer of “magical” works. Today, Szewczyk 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 Szewczyk’s guilty pleasure is…

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

As I was studying violin and piano and playing standard repertoire as a young musician, I started asking myself: why do I have to play only other people’s music? Why do I have to express only other people’s feelings, creativity, emotions, and ideas? I felt the urge to express myself by creating and playing my own music, not just interpreting other people’s works. I actually started composing on piano first because I was drawn to exploring harmonies I liked and experimenting beyond what I’ve learned from classical music. Then I started incorporating violin and other instruments and started to pursue composition professionally, along with violin performance.

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

In a way, I feel I’m already doing most of that. I feel extremely lucky that I can be a performer and composer, do both professionally, and be surrounded and inspired by all kinds of wonderful musicians. I hope I can expand those pursuits in the future to include running my own new music festival where I could program and perform my music, music of other living composers that I find fascinating, and sharing that passion with audiences.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Dark chocolate! Can’t live without it!

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What does this album mean to you personally?

Bliss Point represents the deepest artistic fulfillment to me, to be able to perform my own music with amazing musicians and share it with audiences and be able to express something deeply personal. It’s the riskiest, honest, and vulnerable statement to open yourself fully to others by creating and performing your original works. But the fulfillment is also the greatest, and I’m hoping the music will connect with listeners on a deep emotional level.

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

Just being open minded and receptive, and hopefully, the music will connect with the audience and may mean different things to different people. I hope the listener will be able to tune into my emotional soundscape I was exploring while writing the music and will be able to re-experience that while listening.

What was your favorite musical moment on the album?

Each piece means something different, but in the context of this album the title piece Bliss Point and its ending is the favorite part for me. I’m very happy with what I was able to accomplish musically and structurally in this work and hope the listener will get an emotional and intellectual satisfaction from experiencing this piece in the context of the full album.

Piotr Szewczyk’s BLISS POINT, featuring Bold City Contemporary Ensemble and Trio Solis is available Friday, May 12 on Navona Records

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