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Recorded at Western Sound Studios: Bryan Heany engineer

Mastered by Silas Brown at Legacy Sound

Red Tree, Yellow Sky was commissioned by Opus 21 for the Georgia O’Keeffe and Her Times exhibition at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. It was composed in response to the 1952 O’Keeffe painting of the same name. Two things immediately drew me to this work--first, its brightness, which is made of various shades of only two colors. This aligned very closely to my own general approach to music composition, creating works based on a very limited amount of material. Secondly, while at first glance I saw an imposing piece of wood in the foreground, the longer I studied this painting the more I saw the wood as an odd being doing a strange kind of dance. What O’Keeffe painted was brilliant--to bring life and depth to what was probably a very stark and static landscape. In the music I tried to capture that--by creating a bright, shimmering setting in which this figure dances, and to give the impression that this odd dance continues, as the landscape does, even after the piece concludes. - Bill Ryan (2009)

click here to see Georgia O’Keeffe’s painting

Bill Ryan’s music has roots in minimalism, jazz and popular music. It is energetic, evocative and deeply personal, and has been described as “…constantly threatening to burst at the seams, were those seams not so artfully structured...rarely has music this earthy been so elegant." [Gramophone Magazine] It has been performed in major venues across the country including Le Poisson Rouge, Symphony Space, and Lincoln Center (New York), BAM (Brooklyn), Woodruff Arts Center (Atlanta), the Atlas (Washington D.C.), Constellation (Chicago), DIA (Detroit), Initman Theater (Seattle), and the Hobby Center (Houston), and internationally in Europe, Asia, South America, and Australia. In addition to being heard on the concert stage, choreographers and dance companies throughout the country regularly use Bill’s music. Most recently he composed the music for The Secondary Colors, an evening-length collaboration with Karen Stokes Dance that was called “The most adventurous, if not spectacular, work this year” by Culture Map Houston. In 2004 he formed his own ensemble, Billband. Made up of performers equally at home in the classical, jazz, and pop worlds, the group has released two recordings on the Innova label to critical acclaim. Their 2013 release Towards Daybreak was a featured release on NPR, the Huffington Post, and iTunes Classical.

Why Has The Hunter Not Returned? The seed of this piece came from a cello solo I was working on. As I probed further I realized I was working with rhythmic ideas that couldn't be conveyed by a string instrument, so I broadened my concept and began to work with two marimbas. There are two fundamental parts to the piece: the first is a propulsive 11 beat cycle that is shared back and forth between the two players in phrases of varying length. The other is an African-based 12 beat cycle that is more circular and grooving in a conventional sense. The overall form is roughly ABAB. The harmony is largely pentatonic, even bluesy, though they’re some chromatic flights. The title is taken from a traditional W. African song of the Ewe people, a haunting aeolian melody I learned when studying that music. The words speak of a villager who goes out to hunt for food and does not return. I have tried to summon the feeling of the song and its theme, its drama and excitement . - Joel Harrison (2008)

Named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2010, Washington D.C. native Joel Harrison has long been recognized as a highly gifted guitarist, composer, arranger, vocalist and songwriter. A survey of Harrison’s body of work would be a bit like spinning a globe and stumbling on regions with names like Duke Ellington, Hendrix, The Beatles, John Mclaughlin, and Charles Ives. Wielding a focused lens and an ever-increasing courage to take risks with his art, Harrison has quickly blossomed from mentorships with Joan Tower, Ali Akbar Khan and Charlie Banacos into one of the most respected artists of his generation.

Harrison is a two-time winner of the Jazz Composer’s Alliance Composition Competition, and has received support from Chamber Music America, Meet the Composer, the Flagler Cary Trust, NYSCA, New Music USA, and the Jerome Foundation.  He has released 16 CDs since 1995 as a leader. His most recent efforts include Multiplicity (Whirlwind Recordings), a collaboration with virtuoso sarodist Anupam Shobhakar, and Mother Stump (Cuneiform), where Harrison finally puts himself out front as a guitarist, leading a trio that catalyzes numerous American guitar styles, in a stunning display of raw sound and emotion that both soothes and rocks.

His 2013 release, Infinite Possibility, new music for a 19 piece jazz orchestra, received a four and a half star review from Downbeat. AllMusic called it "a stellar exercise in ambition and vision." Past works include Harrison on Harrison (Highnote, 2005), exploring the music of George Harrison, (Dave Liebman, Uri Caine and David Binney), Free Country (Norah Jones, Binney, Gary Versace), and the septet Search (Donny McCaslin, Stephan Crump, Dana Leong). All display his affection for country, gospel, Indian, modern jazz, classical concepts, and of course his dry sense of humor dispatched with a Zen sensibility.

Harrison has composed several non-improvised works as well, including the PASIC award-winning marimba solo Fear of Silence, and a percussion quartet with piano entitled Faith in Nights.

The combination of formal Western classical notation with improvised music from jazz, African, and Eastern traditions may be perceived by some as experimental; however, Joel Harrison’s music directly challenges this philosophical model. In fact, Harrison proposes that in the very near future we may come to see many more musicians emerging with equal proficiency and fortitude on both ends of the equatorial and cultural divide, and in deference to a musical climate defined by a directive that averts any social or cultural barrier in its midst.
A quote from the spoken poetry of Oliver Lake, from a Joel Harrison project, touches on this astutely: “It’s best just to create it and play it. Put all my music on the same plate!”

Alternations (non altar nations) was commissioned by the Coalescence Percussion Duo. The work was completed in July, 2014.  The primary one-word title “Alternations” provides a transparent insight into the nature and structure of the music.  Most, if not all, aspects of the composition are guided by the concept of alternating elements including those of one sound or timbre to another, of contrasting resonances, of one player to another, of one phrase to another, the order of many events, etc. There is a micro/macro structural relationship based on the number 35 that provides a precise framework for each phrase length (thirty-five beats) and for the length of the entire composition (thirty-five phrases).  The premise of the commission was to write an eight to ten minutes of chamber music for two performers who both play on the same 4 1/3 octave marimba along with selected percussion instruments.  Two identical, though differently pitched, sets of instruments are employed so that one player has an alternate set of similar sounds to the other. An obvious compositional choice might have been to make the musical role of the marimba dominant over the presence of other percussion instruments however this composition features the marimba simply as an equal sound source to the other instruments. Some of the phrase constructs are palindromic. The aesthetic of this music can perhaps be judged as having a nostalgic link to an earlier era of percussion music. The title is, in an imprecise way, a kind of alternation that features two conceptual homonyms separated by the palindromic word “non” reflecting the composer’s poetic preference of one of these words to the concepts and complications that can often exist as a result of the other.  - Christopher Deane (2014)

Christopher Deane is an Associate Professor of Percussion at the University of North Texas College of Music teaching orchestral timpani, mallets, and directing the UNT Percussion Players percussion ensemble. He holds performance degrees from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He studied with James Massie Johnson, former principal timpanist of the St. Louis Symphony and percussion with Allen Otte. He has also studied independently with Roland Kohloff, N.Y. Philharmonic, Eugene Espino, Cincinnati Symphony and Leonard Schulman, N.Y. City Opera.

Deane is currently principal percussionist with the Las Colinas Symphony Orchestra and is acting Principal Timpanist of the East Texas Symphony Orchestra. He is a frequent performer with the Dallas Wind Symphony and has appeared on five recordings with that ensemble. Deane was the Principal Timpanist of the Greensboro Symphony for nine years and performed with the North Carolina Symphony for ten years. Deane has performed with numerous large ensembles including the Boston Pops, Cincinnati Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Ft. Worth Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Spoleto Festival Orchestra, Utah Symphony and Virginia Symphony working with conductors such as Leonard Slatkin, Loren Maazel, Andrew Litton, Jaap van Sweden, Jesus Lopez-Cobos, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, and Keith Lockhart. His chamber music experience includes performances with the Percussion Group Cincinnati, Aeolian Chamber Players, Mallarme Chamber Players and the Philidor Percussion Group. He has appeared in more than seventy performances as a concerto soloist with either symphony orchestras or wind ensembles.

Deane was the faculty percussionist for the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival in Maine from 1982 to 1989. Over the course of those eight years Deane worked closely with composer George Crumb performing his music and serving as a consultant to Crumb for works including Idyll for the Misbegotten, Quest, and Haunted Landscapes. Deane served as a percussionist for the American Dance Festival from 1992 to 1996. He has also served as faculty percussionist for the Vale Veneto Music Festival in Brazil.

Deane has recorded as a timpanist, percussionist and Hungarian Cimbalom soloist. He is a featured concerto soloist on two UNT Wind Symphony recordings featuring the concertos of Joseph Schwantner, Russell Peck and William Kraft under the baton of Eugene Corporon. Deane has also recorded the music of Stravinsky with conductor Robert Craft for the Naxos Label, and has recorded with the Detroit Symphony, North Carolina Symphony, Greensboro Symphony, Cincinnati Philharmonia, Mallarme Chamber Players, St. Stevens Chamber Orchestra and the Winston-Salem Symphony.

Deane has won both 1st and 2nd prize in the PAS Composition Competition. He studied Composition with Sherwood Shaffer, Robert Ward, and Charles Fussell, and independently with Ben Johnston. He has received numerous commissions including the Percussive Arts Society, University of Oklahoma, and the University of Kentucky. His music has been performed and recorded internationally and a number of his compositions have become standard literature on concerts and recitals worldwide.

More African Laughter was commissioned by the Coalescence Percussion Duo and premiered at the 2008 Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Austin, Texas.  The work reflects C. Curtis-Smith’s passion for sub-Saharan African music, evident in his previous works for orchestra and piano trio.  When describing the melodies of his African influenced works, C. Curtis-Smith remarked:  “While the melody is my own, this melody is in essence a sub-Saharan African melody (i.e.: diatonic, with large skips alternating with repeated notes, an overall descending shape, and a certain joyousness typical of much Black African music).”  This joyousness is reflected in the description of the second movement, “Jauntily, with Congenial Good Spirits”.  This work also features a sense of rhythmic displacement that can be described as a chase or follow the leader in which the marimba and vibraphone are playing the same material displaced by one or two beats. In regard to the rhythmic structure used in his African influenced compositions, C. Curtis-Smith notes the following: “The intricate cross-rhythms and polyrhythms are modeled on Ashanti Kete drumming from Ghana. In the Kete ensemble there is seldom a common downbeat; each player begins counting “one” on a different beat or subdivision of the beat.” This is reflected in the imitation of material throughout the work, always rhythmically displaced, so there is not a sense of a common downbeat.  When discussing his music, C. Curtis-Smith mentions: “I have gone back to the genuine roots of Black African music as found in traditional African Societies, untouched by New World jazz, blues, and Afro-American pop music in general”. Coalescence Percussion Duo would like to dedicate this recording in memory of Curtis Curtis-Smith who passed away in October 2014. 

An internationally recognized composer, C. Curtis-Smith is the recipient of over 100 grants, awards, and commissions, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Koussevitzky Prize at Tanglewood, the Prix du Salabert, and grants from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council for the Arts, and most recently commissions from the Barlow Endowment and the Harvard University Fromm Foundation.

At age 38, he was the youngest faculty member ever awarded WMU's Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award, the university's highest academic honor.

In 2001, his Twelve Etudes for Piano were selected for the repertoire list for the Eleventh Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. After a performance of the etudes in Tully Hall, New York Times reviewer Bernard Holland wrote: "Mr. Curtis-Smith takes up where Debussy's lonely, bleakly beautiful last music ends. Yet these pieces have a voice of their own. One hears ideas at work and a momentum that carries thoughts coherently and convincingly from first note to last." A review in Fanfare Magazine said, "These etudes are brilliant and delightful."

Notable figures who have championed Curtis-Smith's work are pianist Leon Fleisher and conductors Neeme Jarvi and Dennis Russell Davies, who have performed his music throughout the United States and in Germany and Japan.

In 1972, he "invented" the technique of bowing the piano, using flexible bows made of monofilament nylon line. This technique, exemplified in works such as Rhapsodies, has been used by other composers, including George Crumb. His music is published by Theodore Presser, Marks Music, and Editions Salabert (Paris).

Walk the Walk for baritone sax and percussion was commissioned and premiered by Opus 21 at the Knitting Factory, Brooklyn, New York on May 3, 2005.  The work was conceived by Opus 21 for a concert honoring pianist Joe Hunter (1927-2007) and the Funk Brothers, a group of Detroit studio musicians who played on all of the historic Motown recordings from 1959 until the company moved to Los Angeles in 1972. Using a deconstructed fragment from the Temptations' My Girl as a compositional idée fixe, I take the listener through a world of virtuosic Detroit blues, rock, jazz and Latin Motown musical grooves. - Michael Daugherty (2005)

Andrew Bishop: Baritone Saxophone

Michael Daugherty’s music has entered the orchestral, band and chamber music repertoire and, according to the League of American Orchestras, made him one of the ten most performed American concert music composers today. He has been hailed by The Times (London) as “a master icon maker” with a “maverick imagination, fearless structural sense and meticulous ear.” Daugherty first came to international attention when the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Zinman, performed his Metropolis Symphony at Carnegie Hall in 1994.

Born 1954 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Daugherty is the son of a dance-band drummer and the oldest of five brothers, all professional musicians. Daugherty joined the Composition Department at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance in Ann Arbor, Michigan where, since 1991, he has been a mentor to many of today's most talented young composers.

In 2011, the Nashville Symphony’s Naxos recording of Daugherty’s Metropolis Symphony and Deus ex Machina was honored with three GRAMMY® Awards, including Best Classical Contemporary Composition.  Michael Daugherty’s music is published by Peermusic Classical, Boosey and Hawkes and Michael Daugherty Music.