""Twas the Night Before New Year's Eve"
December 30, 2005
7:30 p.m.

Here's what we will be performing:

Michael Colgrass:  Mystic with a Credit Card (1978) -(stand-alone notes)

Mystic with a Credit Card is an excerpt from my brass quintet, Flashbacks, commissioned by the Canadian Brass in 1978 and premiered by them at Tully Hall in New York on February 6, 1979.

In Flashbacks I attempt to feature each of the quintet members in a way that fits the nature of their instrument. This excerpt for trombone features the instrument’s broad emotional scope, which spans from gently expressive to barbaric. Mystic with a Credit Card gives the soloist a chance to demonstrate this range of qualities in a theatrical context. As well as playing, the trombone player speaks to the audience in an almost confessional way about feeling lost in a fast-changing multi-cultural society. I express this idea musically by showing the close stylistic relationship between East Indian music and Western blues, where the two styles can at times sound so similar that the stylistic identity of each becomes blurred. This mosaic of styles represents the blend of the divergent cultures in the soloist, whose feelings are never quite resolved.

-Michael Colgrass

W. L. Altman:  and it makes me wonder... for Guitar and Soundfile (2003) - (stand-alone notes)

(These notes were written by Altman for Rusty's performance of this work on a Third Chair Chamber Players concert in April of 2003)

The title, and it makes me wonder... is a silly joke, a portentous phrase taken from a piece of music that became an embarrassment to discriminating guitarists and Rock & Roll aficionados.  In spite of the ridicule heaped upon Stairway to Heaven, I have attempted to create from its sounds (along with sounds from various other Zeppelin tunes - there will be a test after the performance!) a study of the electric guitar's sound palette, set as accompaniment to an adventurous solo for the "classical" guitar.  Some amplification of the soloist is necessary in order to allow the dynamic range necessary for the electric guitar sounds.

After the fact, I have gone back to the lyrics of Stairway to Heaven to see if some serendipitous connection could be found between them and and it makes me wonder....  Alas, it ain't exactly poetry!  Nonetheless, it is interesting that the unsophisticated imagery of these two young rock prophets (Plant/Page) raise age-old questions which still do "make me wonder". I am writing these notes mere hours before the deadline for G.W. Bush's ultimatum to S. Hussein elapses.  Here are some lines that jump out at me:

Yes there are two paths you can go by
but in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on
yes there are many roads to choose from.

Yes there's always time to see reason, to change roads.  Unfortunately the fists of G.W. and S.H. are tightly clenching the wheel.

The following words actually help me to escape utter despair:

And it's whispered that soon, if we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
And the forest will echo with laughter
And it makes me wonder ...

I hope, piper or no, that we can stand so long, that we can see reason, that the dream of democracy WILL dawn - for the U.S.A. as well as all the world.  Then will the forest echo with laughter, along with the purple mountain, the arid desert and the fruited plain."

Michael Isaacson:  Seraglio for Bass Flute and Finger Cymbals (1992) - (stand-alone notes)

In the summer of 1992 I was commissioned by flutist Toby Caplan to compose a brief duet for contra-bass flute and solo percussion for the 1992 National Flute Association convention in Los Angeles.  Two octaves below the C Flute, the contra-bass flute notes are truly felt as well as heard.  I was enthralled by this rare instrument and went about composing a sensuous, "Sheherezade-like" solo with finger cymbal accompaniment which would suggest the atmosphere of a harem.  Here in the more accessible alto and bass flute versions, the work nicely retains the mystery of the east.

-Michael Isaacson

Randy Snyder:  Ritual Cadences for Solo Snare Drum (2005) - (stand-alone notes)

When Joe Holmquist approached me wearing a s*** eating grin on his face. I knew something was up, and indeed it was, a commission to write a solo snare drum piece!

I immediately fell into panic mode, thrashing about for some concept that would hold me in good stead, eventually narrowing in on two quite different solutions: 1) a Euro-American modernist aesthetic reflecting composers like Carter, Berio, and Martino that emphasized extreme surface detail through timbral variety and metric modulations,  and 2) rhythmic patterns (Changdons) of Korean traditional music, based on compound metrical ostinati.

Eventually, unable to choose between the two, decided to cut my losses and incorporate both into a diverse two-movement structure. So as I stealthily flounced away from Joe's house having secreted the finished piece in his mailbox it was I who was wearing the aforementioned grin!

Stacey Bowers: Rolling Thunder for Sequencer and Live Players (1982/Version for Winds and Percussion 2005) - (stand-alone notes)

Rolling Thunder looked long at his son before he spoke.  Then he spoke quietly.  "Now you know what has to be done here, so why don't you wait until you feel those things are done, and then speak? ... If you're feeling impatient, then you're where you think about time, and if you're thinking about time, you should be able to think about the order of things.  Things have their order.  You know there are certain things I have to do that I can't do until I do other things first."

Quote from the book, Rolling Thunder by Doug Boyd (1974)

Nikola Resanovic: alt.music.ballistix (1995) - (stand-alone notes)

(notes by the composer, as found on his website: www.nikolaresanovic.com)

Bearing a title suggestive of a fictitious interrnet news group, "alt.music.ballistix" is an electro-acoustic composition scored for solo clarinet and digital audio tape which I composed for Professor Hakan Rosengren in the fall of 1995.  The 12-minute work is divided into four contiguous movements as follows:

Mvt. 1 - "A Matter of Fax" (a three-minute sonic montage featuring original samples from various technological sources including a fax/modem, telephone, short-wave radio, satellite transmissions, mingled with the most precious of all musical comodities - silence!)

Mvt. 2 - "A Soliloquy" (a three-minute, 11-tone, unaccompanied clarinet solo based on every pitch but the pitch 'D' which appears later as an accompanimental 'ison' or drone)

Mvt. 3 - "A Balkan Dance" (influenced by Macedonian and Bulgarian dance idioms, the movement features many references to the folk music of this region of the Balkans.)

Mvt. 4 - Convolution@dat.cc.uakron.edu
(The above three movements are polyphonically combined, and a fourth element - the unrelentingly polite voice-mail lady - is injected into the sonic recipe.)

"Ballistix" is a musical representation of some of the bizarre realities of our modern era of digital communications and information.  It is the metaphor of the seemingly backwards peasant down-loading the latest nasdaq figures via his cell phone/modem onto his lap-top computer in some remote region of the Balkans - his cows grazing in the background.  This juxtaposition of the modern and the timeless, the sophisticated and the simple, the sublime and the ridiculous, expresses itself in a music which combines "atonality" with the 'ison'; "emancipated rhythm" with a metric straight-jacket; a clarinet with an accordion, tambourine and modem.

"Ballistix" is convoluted music:  it takes musical events that seem isolated and unrelated at their first presentation and restates them in a contrapuntally intertwined manner.  In this new context these same musical events are transformed by their very interaction as they combine to reveal a higher order of relationships.