Program Notes: Kaleidoscope: Road Movies

June 8, 2022

Ritual Music

David Skidmore
Born 1982 in Plano, TX

David Skidmore is a Grammy-Award-winning percussionist, Grammy-nominated composer, and musical entrepreneur. His work includes a tremendous range of genres, including classical, pop, hip hop, film scores, rock, ambient, experimental, and the avant-garde.

He has received commissions from many of the world’s leading percussionists and percussion pedagogues.  In 2005, Skidmore co-founded Third Coast Percussion, an ensemble that has performed hundreds of concerts across the country and internationally, also teaches musicians of all ages and experience levels, and has commissioned dozens of new works. It won a Grammy award for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance in 2017. 

Ritual Music is an energetic, tribal percussion quartet. It was premiered in collaboration with the Chicago-based Raizel Performances in the spring of 2005 and became a staple of Third Coast Percussion’s repertoire when the quartet was formed that year. This early Skidmore work, an “overture for percussion,” includes timbral, melodic, and rhythmic elements. It was conceived as variations on the numbers 2 and 4; in contrast to the raw energy of the music’s character in performance, the pitch content in the marimba, rhythmic motifs, and the structure of phrases were all determined numerically.

Ritual Music is scored for a 4.3 octave marimba with two crotales, one concert bass drum with five toms, two bongos, two congas a Djembe on stand, two snare drums, one brake drum, and four tambourines.


Reborn in flames (from Phoenix Rising) (2016)

Stacy Garrop 
Born 1969

Stacy Garrop has received numerous awards and grants including an Arts and Letters Award in Music from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Fromm Music Foundation Grant, Barlow Prize, and three Barlow Endowment commissions, along with prizes from competitions sponsored by many orchestras and ensembles throughout the country.

She taught composition and orchestration at Roosevelt University from 2000-2016. She earned a B.M. in music composition at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, an M.A. at the University of Chicago, and a D.M. at Indiana University-Bloomington.

Garrop has supplied the following note for Reborn in Flames (2016):

Legends of the phoenix are found in stories from ancient Egypt and Greece. While each culture possesses a range of stories encompassing the phoenix myth, these tales tend to share similar traits: a sacred bird with brilliantly colored plumage and melodious call lives for typically five hundred years; then the bird dies in a nest of embers, only to be reborn among the flames. In Egyptian stories, the phoenix gathers scented wood and spices for its funeral/rebirth pyre, then collects the ashes from its earlier incarnation and flies them to the temple of the sun in Heliopolis to offer as a tribute to the sun god. In Greek myths, the phoenix was approximately the size of an eagle and was adorned with red and gold feathers; it would fly from either India or Arabia to Heliopolis to give its offering. The bird’s association with immortality and resurrection are particularly intriguing aspects of these tales, giving numerous writers (including William Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, and J.K. Rowling) a rich resource for their own stories.

Phoenix Rising consists of two movements. I. Dying in embers represents an old phoenix who is settling on top of a pile of embers and breathing its last breath; II. Reborn in flames depicts the newly born phoenix getting its first taste of flight. Phoenix Rising was commissioned by saxophonist Christopher Creviston. I subsequently made arrangements for flute, clarinet, and violin.


Last Round

Osvaldo Golijov
Born December 5, 1960, La Plata, Argentina

Osvaldo Golijov grew up surrounded by classical chamber music and Jewish liturgical and klezmer music. He studied with Gerardo Gandini, a student of Alberto Ginastera (1916-1981), who established the Argentinean nationalist classical music idiom.  He also absorbed other Argentinean music, including the tangos of Astor Piazzolla.  From Argentina, he moved to Israel and then to the United States, where he worked with George Crumb at the University of Pennsylvania.  In Israel, Golijov studied with Mark Kopytman, an experimenter in graphic notation and chance elements. As a Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, he studied with Lukas Foss and Oliver Knussen. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and several other awards. 

He is Loyola Professor of Music at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, where he has taught since 1991, and he is also on the faculty of the Boston Conservatory.

Last Round joins Golijov’s past and present, mixing his memory of Piazzolla with his own distinctive, evolving style. The music reveals his wide interests: film and literature, different kinds of popular culture from all over the world, and his Eastern European Jewish heritage. He originally scored Last Round for two string quartets with a double bass, but later also scored it for string orchestra. Piazzolla’s terminal illness directly inspired the composition of the slow movement of the work. With the encouragement from the St. Lawrence Quartet, Golijov finished the work in 1996, preceding the slow movement with a fiery, fast movement. 

Golijov conceived the piece, reminiscent of Bartok’s settings of eastern European dances, “as an idealized bandoneon.” The first movement, Movido, urgent – Macho, cool, and Dangerous, is propulsive; it combines nuevo tango gestures and Piazzolla’s rhythmic obsessions. The pulsing bass provides a steady tango rhythm as the two string bands battle increasingly wildly. It represents a “violent compression of the instrument.”  The very slow second movement, “Muertes del ángel,” (Death of an Angel) Lentissimo, is a tango elegy, introspective and impassioned, rich in emotion and in effects. It is a seemingly endless sigh, a fantasy over the refrain of the song “My Beloved Buenos Aires” composed by Carlos Gardel in the 1930s. Its subtitle is an homage to Piazzolla’s groundbreaking tango La muerte del ángel from the 1960s. The brief crescendos, clustered chords, and portamenti (slides) sound together like chords being squeezed wheezingly out of a bandoneon. Golijov has given it a warm and rich sound that often borders on the melancholy. 

Last Round’s orchestration is unique: two small string ensembles oppose each other on stage with a double bass in the middle.  


Red Clay & Mississippi Delta for Wind Quintet

Valerie Coleman
Born 1970 in Louisville, KY

Flutist, composer, educator and founder of the Imani Winds, Valerie Coleman began her music studies in the third grade.  By the age of fourteen, she had written three symphonies and had won several local and state competitions.  She received a double Bachelor’s degree in Theory/Composition and Flute Performance from Boston University and a Master’s Degree in Flute Performance from Mannes College of Music in New York.  She has served on the faculty of The Juilliard School’s Music Advancement Program and Interschool Orchestras of New York.  Currently, she is on the advisory panel of the National Flute Association.  

Coleman’s music infuses contemporary orchestration with jazz, Afro-Cuban traditions, various distinct sonorities from within Africa, and inspiration from her African-American musical heritage.  

The composer has contributed a note on Red Clay & Mississippi Delta

Red Clay is short work that combines the traditional idea of musical scherzo with living in the South. It references the background of my mother’s side of the family that hails from the Mississippi delta region. From the juke joints and casino boats that line the Mississippi river, to the skin tone of kinfolk in the area: a dark skin that looks like it came directly from the red clay. The solo lines are instilled with personality, meant to capture the listener’s attention as they wail with “bluesy” riffs that are accompanied (‘comped’) by the rest of the ensemble. The result is a virtuosic chamber work that merges classical technique and orchestration with the blues dialect and charm of the south. 

Honest Labor (2021) 

Timo Andres
Born March 17, 1985, in Palo Alto, CA

The composer and pianist Timo Andres grew up in rural Connecticut. A Yale School of Music graduate, he is on the composition faculty of the Mannes School of Music.

Among his notable works are Everything Happens So Much for the Boston Symphony; Strong Language for the Takács Quartet, commissioned by Carnegie Hall and the Shriver Hall Concert Series; Steady Hand, a two-piano concerto commissioned by the Britten Sinfonia premiered at the Barbican by Andres and David Kaplan; and The Blind Banister, a concerto for Jonathan Biss, which was a 2016 Pulitzer Prize Finalist. 

Other recent projects include a new work for the Calder Quartet through the Los Angeles Philharmonic, premiered at Noon to Midnight and a major choral-orchestral work for the Orchester Cottbus Staatstheater, Land Mass. In 2019/20, Andres curated (and performed in) “American Perspective,” a concert with the Cincinnati Symphony, André de Ridder, Dance Heginbotham, and Inbal Segev, playing his cello concerto, Upstate Obscura

Andres writes: “Honest Labor is a short piece which attempts to uncover a kind of Transcendental satisfaction in routine tasks. A simple contrapuntal process gives rise to increasingly elaborate and expressive gestures, finally evaporating in an ambiguous haze.”


Recurring Dreams: For violin, cello, alto sax, and piano (2017) 

Roshanne Etezady
Born 1973

As a child, Roshanne Etezady studied piano and flute, developing an interest in many styles of music. Hearing Philip Glass and his ensemble perform marked the beginning of her interest in contemporary classical music, as well as her interest in becoming a composer herself. 

She was educated at Northwestern University, Yale University, and the University of Michigan, and she has worked intensively with numerous composers, including William Bolcom, Martin Bresnick, Michael Daugherty, and Ned Rorem. She is a professor at the University of Michigan.

Recurring Dreams is a piece written for saxophone, violin, cello, and piano. Intensely melodic, it connects the instruments through runs passed from one instrument to another. Later in the piece, the instruments create a contrasting feeling with a rhythmic forward section. Further on, the cello is featured in a lyrical solo, which is passed to the violin. The strings and saxophone then present a homophonic section, before the piano becomes the driving force in the final energetic section. 


STOMP (2011) 

John Corigliano
Born February 16, 1938, in New York, NY

John Corigliano studied composition at Columbia University with Otto Luening and privately with Paul Creston and Vittorio Giannini.  His more than 100 compositions have won him the Pulitzer Prize, the Grawemeyer Award, four Grammy Awards, and an Academy Award.

Corigliano serves on the composition faculty at the Juilliard School of Music and holds the position of Distinguished Professor of Music at Lehman College, City University of New York, which has established a scholarship in his name. 

Corigliano has written the following about his work, STOMP, a bluegrass fiddle piece for unaccompanied violin:

STOMP poses its player three problems; of ear, style, and coördination. First, the violin’s outer two strings are tuned to non-standard pitches. This mis-tuning (scordatura) deepens the instrument’s range, and replaces the usual perfect fifths between strings with grating dissonances high and low. Second, the piece is modeled not on classical precedents, but on American fiddle music — bluegrass and jazz. And third, as in fiddle playing, the violinist must periodically stomp with his or her foot along with the music.

So STOMP demands a theatrical mind, an unerring ear, and a delight in making music with the entire body. It is supposed to be fun for the audience, and a workout for the soloists. 

This piece makes use of stomping and tapping the foot, making the violinist a one-man band. In STOMP, Corigliano has specifically written when the foot must be “stomped” and when the foot must be “tapped” throughout the piece. 

Etude No. 6 (2003) 

Philip Glass
Born January 31, 1937, in Baltimore, MD

Philip Glass has made an extraordinary and unprecedented impact upon the musical and intellectual life of our time. He discovered his love for music as a child in his father’s radio repair shop and record store, began flute lessons early at the Peabody Conservatory, and, at fifteen, entered the University of Chicago.  Composition teachers include Darius Milhaud and Nadia Boulanger.  After he had completed this thorough education in Western musical practice, he developed an interest in non-European music and especially, the Indian sitarist, Ravi Shankar.  While in Paris, he earned money by transcribing the sitar player Shankar’s Indian music into Western notation. Upon his return to New York in 1967, he applied these Eastern techniques to his own music.

After his time in Paris, Glass traveled in Africa and India, before returning to New York to organize a group of sympathetic performers into the Philip Glass Ensemble for the performance of music in a new style he was developing. 

Glass’s music features repeats and variations of a small number of musical ideas, giving birth to the term “minimalism” to describe his idiosyncratic style. He never approved of the term and prefers to say he composes “music with repetitive structures.” He utilizes a constant beat with subtly shifting rhythms over a static harmonic structure, often hypnotizing the listener. Instead of development sections, Glass continually investigates ways to forge a new musical vocabulary that integrates the melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic in original ways.  

Glass began writing a series of relatively short piano pieces, Etudes, in 1992 with the goal of becoming a better pianist and improving his own keyboard technique by honing his skills. Completed nearly two decades later in 2012, the set of twenty diverse and intricately melodic Etudes records the evolution of his musical voice as a composer and charts his deeply personal connection to the piano. In these etudes he explores textures, tempi, and techniques. 

The etudes incorporate an immense range of moods, techniques, melody, and harmony and demonstrate his deeply personal relationship to his instrument as they record his evolving style. 


Road Movies (1995)

John Adams
Born February 15, 1947, in Worcester, MA

Adams has noted that the title Road Movies is “total whimsy’ suggested by the “groove in the piano part” which propels the music forward in a “swing mode.”  

Adams describes the opening movement, Relaxed Groove, as “a relaxed drive down a not unfamiliar road.” He goes on to explain that his “material is recirculated in a sequence of recalls that suggest a rondo form.”  The piano sounds many tones from which the violin chooses a three-note motif.  As the piece continues, other notes adhere to the initial violin motif, and complex lines result.  

The second movement, entitled Meditative, is, in contrast, spare.  Adams tells us it “is a simple meditation of several small motives.  A solitary figure in an empty desert landscape.”

The third and last movement, 40% Swing, takes its title from a reference to the setting on a MIDI sequencer through which the desired level of swing can be calibrated with accuracy.  Adams explains it “is for four-wheel drives only, a big perpetual motion machine.”  He comments that “40% provides a giddy, bouncy ride somewhere between a Charles Ives ragtime and a spectacular rideout chorus by the Benny Goodman Orchestra, circa 1939.”  The movement requires concentration and excellent technique. Adams cautions, “It is very difficult for violin and piano to maintain over the seven-minute stretch, especially in the tricky cross-hand style of the piano part.  Relax, and leave the driving to us.”

Program notes © Susan Halpern unless otherwise noted.

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