March 28, 2015

On this program, nu tackles the newest repertoire possible: music by UNCSA composition students of Lawrence Dillon, Kenneth Frazelle and Michael Rothkopf. All of the works on this concert were completed in the last few months of 2014; they reflect the diverse interests and influences of the current generation of creative artists.

Program

Directed by Saxton Rose and Christopher Lees

  • 5/13 by Dak Van Vranken
    for chamber orchestra
  • Baleine by Kyrie Antoinette
    for flute, harp, cello, double bass
  • The Hollow Men by Dayton Hare
    for flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello
  • Across Distances by Cheyne Runnells
    for flute, guitar, violin, double bass, percussion

INTERMISSION

  • Clara’s Theme by Jessica Buford
    for flute and cello
  • Stephan’s Quintet by Zachary Mackey
    for electric guitar, percussion, piano, violin, viola, cello
  • Rest, Refocus, Repeat by Brent Lawrence
    for soprano saxophone, two violins, viola, cello, piano
  • Fanfare by Oliver B. Glynn
    trumpet, horn, trombone, bass trombone, timpani

Composers' Notes

Dak Van Vranken, "5/13"

5/13 (the first few weeks of May, 2013 to be exact) chronicles the first time I fell in love. Very clichéd, but utterly true. In fact, looking back on it now, I realize just how incredibly clichéd the ideas originating this piece actually were. But I also realize the honesty in these ideas. And as reluctant as we are to hear yet another love story, I unabashedly share one with you now, because we’re all human and we’ve all gone through this at least once in our lives.

5/13 opens with reverence and gentle passion. The cello presents the main theme of the piece, which is austere and yearning in character. This theme exists throughout, and it is not so much about the action of falling in love, but rather my reaction. I spent many hours pondering, waiting, and questioning. As the piece unfolds, there is a sense of pensive discovery. I chose to incorporate the electric guitar, which sounds almost alien amongst the other “classical” instruments, in order to augment this sense of discovery.

Kyrie Antoinette, "Baleine"

This piece is truly an amalgamation of my musical influences at the time, and is dedicated to a good friend of mine, whose bold and sparkling personality more or less inspired its nature. The title is French for “whale,” a strange sort of inside joke.

Dayton Hare, "The Hollow Men"

T.S. Eliot published his famous poem The Hollow Men in 1925, and it has since become a staple of modernist poetry. My first encounter with it came earlier this school-year, when it was assigned to my English class as a poetry reading to complement Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. I was immediately struck by the vivid evocation of emotions, the prevalent allusions, the bleak and barren landscape in which “the hollow men” reside, and the elusiveness of meaning. It was a style of poem that I had not encountered before, and it drew my interest. I read it several times over the course of the following week, and the effect it had upon me was such that I decided to incorporate its influence into my own work.

The resultant piece is scored for five players and is in five movements, each corresponding with one of the five stanzas of the poem. In each movement, I try to capture an aspect of the corresponding stanza, both by attempting to represent the meaning of the words and expressing my personal reaction to the poetry. Throughout the piece, I utilize a number of extended techniques which I have not previously incorporated into my music, in an attempt to both capture some of the textures of Eliot’s work and to erode my own personal limitations.

Cheyne Runnells, "Across Distances"

Across Distances was actually written backwards. My first semester at UNCSA, I wrote Return to Me to be performed at the nu ensemble concert that year. The opportunity to have any combination of instruments play a piece doesn’t come up too often, and I wanted to write for a group I might not get to write for otherwise. I was listening heavily to the progressive bluegrass band Punch Brothers (not actually brothers) and the Japanese samisen duo Yoshida Brothers (actual brothers) at the time, so I wrote a heavily pentatonic piece for an ensemble that reminded me of those two groups.

Once my second year started, I wanted to go back and explore the quintet I’d created more, and I decided to turn Return to Me into the second section of a larger multi-movement piece. Thus, Please Stay was written the second semester of my sophomore year to be the first movement, utilizing a similar sound-world while focusing more on the emotional content of the piece instead of being as technically demanding as Return to Me.

Jessica Buford, "Clara's Theme"

Clara’s Theme was conceived in the wake of my aunt, Minister Clarissa Joyce’s battle with cancer. She found and radiated love early in her life, yet its difficulties caused her and her companion to separate, only to find one another again shortly before her death in February of 2014. Over the first measures, the love theme is established, the flute and cello intertwined in contrapuntal play. The chaos encircling the second section speaks to the constant struggle and turmoil that existence can wreak, the triadic harmonies becoming increasingly dissonant and chromatic. By its return, the main theme has been charged rhythmically and harmonically, symbolizing the energy love is given by an appreciation of every day one has. “Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death.” – Song of Solomon 8:6

Zachary Mackey, "Stephan's Quintet"

I have always been fascinated with space, so naturally, when I learned about Stephan’s Quintet, I was immediately drawn to create a musical composition on this phenomenon. Stephan’s Quintet is a set of five galaxies in the Pegasus Constellation, of which four galaxies form the first compact galaxy group ever discovered (1877). These galaxies are scientifically interesting because of their violent collisions, and are involved in a cosmic dance that most likely will end with the galaxies merging. I tried to paint the image of these four galaxies playing off of each other and colliding lines with moments of obnoxiousness and dissonance. The violent nature eventually leads to a crashing halt, which is suddenly sustained by only the piano. Slowly, each instrument merges into the sound of the piano solo, and the ensemble begins to embody the galaxies merging together.

Brent Lawrence, "Rest, Refocus, Repeat"

Rest, Refocus, Repeat is a piece about taking a break. Written in June of 2014, I wanted this piece to reflect on the feeling of taking a moment to pause, enjoy the warmth of summer, and appreciate the colors and sounds that come and leave with it. Then, of course, it’s back to work. Rest, Refocus, Repeat was commissioned by Irving Park United Methodist Church of Greensboro. The original work, written for oboe d’amore and organ, was premiered there. Then, it was later played for the closing concert of the 2014 Sounds of Summer Organ Series held at UNCSA.

Oliver B. Glynn, "Fanfare"

The word fanfare calls to my mind Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man or the introduction of Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra, as well as military and royal music. Although I have strong associations with the word, I am referring to it simply as a term for an announcement (typically played on brass.) This Fanfare is an introduction to my own writing for brass ensembles, and it is announcing my excitement for this year’s nu ensemble concert with works by the fantastic composers with whom I am lucky to study.