Peter Gach, Piano
1. Madelyn Byrne
Northern Flight 11:58
2. Norm Weston
3. Roger Przytulski
From Jazz Suite:
4. Promenade 0:46
5. Funk 3:14
6. Rag 2:09
From Chants Music
7. Dance 1 4:07
8. Gregorian 3:30
9. Dance 3 5:08
10. Madelyn Byrne 10:06
Suite for Piano and Computer: The Elements
The premise of this recording was simple: create a recording of solo contemporary piano music written by living Southern California composers. The purpose of the project was to illustrate the tremendous diversity of approaches to piano writing and the wide variety of musical styles used by the composers. The CD highlights the vitality and creativity of SoCal musical life and attests to the fact that composed music for the piano still flourishes. Peter Gach has spent most of his professional musical life in the San Diego area, and is currently Artist in Residence at Palomar College. Throughout his career, he has sought to actively propagate new music, most especially that of composers whom he personally knows and has worked with. This commitment to ‘localism’ is also a commitment to cultivating an intense musical life wherever he finds himself. It is a dedication to the support of a thriving musical culture that seeks to reach and integrate the audience into the creative process. It is neither ivory tower, nor a cult of esoteric contemporary music lovers far removed from the general public. Gach is also committed to the proposition that present-day pianists should not only (and principally) be ‘museum curators’, preserving music of the past, but more importantly facilitators for the development of a rich contemporary musical scene. To that end he has commissioned and premiered numerous works for solo piano, some of which are recorded here.
The two pieces by Madelyn Byrne, Northern Flight and Suite are not only for solo piano (although the piano part is very prominent) but rather for solo piano and computer sounds. Both works are ‘big-boned’ canvases that move in large gestures to create a musical landscape of compelling scope. Northern Flight has a title that suggests programmatic content, and while this is never specifically spelled out, the overall arc of the composition indeed suggests the vast spaces of an uninhabited Northern landscape. The work’s structural integrity gives us a ‘flight path’ of wide vistas and powerful scenery. The piano writing is romantic, spacious and at times rhythmically reminiscent of rock music. But an overarching lyricism dominates.
The Suite, while not as ostensibly programmatic, also describes an unfolding line of development from quiet to agitation to quiet. The computer sounds here, as in Northern Flight are carefully and skillfully integrated into the piano writing. Note also the sampled soprano voice (sung by Mary Jaeb), further underscoring the intense lyric richness of the writing.
The Sonata by Norm Weston is a compact work, written in a two-halves-repeated binary form that gives it a neo-classical tilt. The piano writing is angular and extremely rhythmic. Quickly shifting accents, compact chords, and swiftly moving single lines give the work a clean, brisk texture. There is an inherent logic to the piece that while intelligently and skillfully conceived, is never rigid. While the composition is relatively brief, its structure gives the listener a compelling and complete musical experience.
Roger Przytulski’s Trinity demonstrates the contemporary predilection for eclecticism, while at the same time presenting an authentic compositional voice. The composer cites, among others, the musical styles of Jerry Lewis, Charles Ives, John Adams, Fats Waller and Dave Grusin as inspirations. Following a free introductory section with the interval of a fifth prominent the work evolves through several sections, culminating in a ‘hard-driving’ finale of great virtuosity.
The pieces excerpted from Ellen Weller’s Jazz Suite wed two of the twentieth century’s prominent musical idioms – atonality, where all the 12 tones of the piano octave are treated as equal partners, and the swing and syncopation of jazz. The result is a witty and sometimes acerbic hybrid, where the dissonance of atonality is wedded to the lively rhythmic gestures of jazz improvisation. All of the notes of the three pieces, Promenade, Funk and Rag are written out, but there is an off-the-cuff spontaneous feel nonetheless.
Dance 1, Gregorian and Dance 3 demonstrate William Bradbury’s ability to absorb the characteristics of ‘exotic’ and distant musical idioms and incorporate them into a very personal and deeply felt musical language. Dance 1 with its endlessly turning three eighth note accompaniment figure provides the background for a single line melody that breaks into delicate ornamental filigree. One imagines whirling dervishes. Gregorian evokes the mystical depth of chant echoing through a vast stone cathedral. Dance 3, with its relentless syncopations and repeated pedal tones builds to an ecstatic climax.
William Bradbury is an Emmy Award-winning composer and Professor of Music and Music Technology in the Visual and Performing Arts Department at CSU San Marcos. His has written compositions for orchestra, chamber ensembles, soloists, and electronic media and computer-based multimedia collaborations with other artists. LEAVES for Narrator, Piano and Orchestra, was commissioned in honor of Palomar College's 50th Anniversary and premiered by the Palomar College Orchestra with Dr. Peter Gach as soloist. In 2002, Bradbury was commissioned to write the score for KPBS television's film, San Diego's Coastal Wonder. He has received grants from Meet the Composer, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Maryland Arts Council, and many others. www.WilliamBradburyMusic.com
Madelyn Byrne is an active composer whose work frequently combines acoustic instruments with computer-generated sounds. Some recent compositions in this area include For ANWR (commissioned by Yoon Jeong Heo), Rain, Sea, and Sky (commissioned by the NOISE Ensemble), and Dream Tableaux (commissioned by Colin McAllister). Past honors include ASCAPlus Awards, honorable mention in the "Suoni di Legno" competition, winner of the Friends and Enemies of New Music Composition Competition, and recordings on CRI and SoundWalk Records. Her music has been represented on several new music festivals and on television, radio, and internet broadcasts. Madelyn has been a guest composer at Columbia University’s Computer Music Center and is currently on the faculty at Palomar College.
Peter Gach is a Southern California pianist who has long championed the works of living composers. In addition to those appearing on this CD, he has performed works by Roman Ryterband, Francois Rose, James Weld, Rafael Stradomski and many others. He has also appeared in collaborative/improvisatory performance installations such as Wireless City and Undefining Queer. He has done advanced work at the Warsaw Conservatory in Poland, and holds degrees from Indiana University and the University of Arizona. His repertoire ranges from the complete WTC II of Bach to the Ives First Sonata. Fluent in Polish, he includes many works of Chopin and Szymanowski in his programming. He is currently Artist in Residence in Piano at Palomar College and chairs the Performing Arts Department there. Daphne.palomar.edu/pgach
Roger Przytulski is known for writing versatile music that appeals to musicians and general audiences alike. His compositions have been performed by various ensembles including the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, Bourgas Opera-Philharmonic Society, USC Thornton Symphony, Varna Opera-Philharmonic Society among others. He has written scores for several prize-winning short films and has had his music appear in documentaries on the History Channel. He has received degrees from Palomar College, California State University, Long Beach, and the University of Southern California (M.M., 2001). He is on the faculties of Long Beach City College and the Orange County High School for the Arts. www.Pretzylmusic.com
Ellen Weller, Assistant Professor of World Music at Palomar College, received her MA in Music Composition from Queens College of the City University of New York, and the Ph.D. in Music from UCSD. Weller is a multi-wind player and pianist, and is an active member of San Diego's Trummerflora Collective. She has appeared in festivals including the SF Alt, Edgetone (San Francisco), Spring Reverb (San Diego), and the Big Sur Sound Shift, in addition to various jazz venues. She has two CDs of original and improvised music on the Circumvention label, Spirits, Little Dreams and Improvisations (2004) and Point of Contact (2008). Recent compositions include 1918: for two pianos and community, and incidental music to Angels in America. www.myspace.com/ellenwellermusic www.wellermusic.com
Norman Weston studied music composition at both Indiana University and Northwestern University. He has received numerous commissions and awards and his music has been performed throughout the United States. As a pianist, he is known for his performances of contemporary music, and has premiered dozens of new works, many of which were written expressly for him. Mr. Weston has been on the faculty of Saddleback College in Orange County, California, since 1989. In 2007 he was named Saddleback College Professor of the Year and Orange County Community College Professor of the Year. In addition to the Sonata featured on this CD, he has also written works for Piano and Wind Ensemble, and Piano and Orchestra for Peter Gach.
Funded in part by the Palomar College Foundation and a
Subito grant from the American Composers Forum California Chapter.
Recording engineers: Charlie Weller and William Bradbury
innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.
Philip Blakburn: director, design
Chris Campbell: operations manager