Benjamin Broening

Recombinant Nocturnes

Innova 784

 

 

1

 Double Nocturne†                                   two pianos                                 09:55

 2

 Nocturne Fragments: Mercurial                                                               02:40

 3

 Nocturne Fragments: Remote                                                                  03:00

 4

 Nachtlied (Second Nocturne) †          piano four-hands                    09:43

 5

 Nocturne Fragments:

 Gentle, tolling, flexible                                                                                02:14

 6

 Nocturne Fragments:

 Flexible, mysterious, resonant                                                                03:04

 7

 Nocturne/Doubles ††                             piano and electronics           06:02

 8

 Nocturne Fragments:

 Aggressive, bright, eventually giving way                                           02:18

 9

 Nocturne Fragments: Eternal                                                                   02:04

 10

 Nocturne Fragments: Tenderly (i)                                                           02:11

 11

 Third Nocturne                                          piano and electronics           10:16

 12

 Nocturne Fragments: Tenderly (ii)                                                          02:11

 13

 Night Falls (Nocturne Loops)              four pianos                                07:03

                                                         

                                                                                                            Total:       62:37

 

 All performances by Daniel Koppelman except † performed by duo runedako and †† performed by Ruth Neville

 

 

 

The interconnected pieces of Recombinant Nocturnes all share the same musical DNA: materials, gestures, rhythmic ideas and brief melodic fragments drift from one piece to another in the set, constantly recombining in new ways to create music that ranges from delicate tintinnabulations at the threshold of audibility to passages of explosive virtuosity.

                 

Double Nocturne (2009–10) scored for two pianos superimposes the exact pitches and rhythms from each

of the two pieces for solo piano and electronics heard later on the disc (Nocturne/Doubles and Third Nocturne). The result is a seamless organic whole that dramatically recasts the material of each component Nocturne. These Nocturnes are not just self-referential — they call to mind a wide range of piano music: a series of cascading descending thirds in the middle of Double Nocturne brings the Brahms Op. 119, b minor Intermezzo to mind. Similarly, the way that the powerful, monolithic chords of the end of Nocturne/Doubles are subsumed into what seems like a single, enormous ecstatic piano evokes Messiaen.

                 

Perhaps the most lyrical piece on the disc, Nachtlied (2008) for piano four-hands is also the densest and most intricate: thickets of sound give way to brief moments of clarity and repose. But the repose never lasts long, there’s always something unsettled pushing the music forward. Though it is a kind of companion piece to Schubert’s Wandrers Nachtlied I you would be forgiven if you didn’t catch the connection, as the points of reference are subtle ones of tone, tonality, register and chord voicing. But try playing Nacthtlied immediately after a record-ing of the Schubert and listen to the seamless transition from the end of the song to the beginning of Nacthtlied.

                 

Nocturne/Doubles (2002) for piano and electronics, is the oldest piece in the collection and the spring from which the entire collection flowed. Almost all the material heard in other pieces grows out of bits of this one: listen for the repeated note figure, listen for the octave grace notes that embellish melodic fragments and listen for quiet, isolated chords in the middle of the piece that are voiced just so: these are the principal raw materials that are recombined and recast into other shapes in the surrounding pieces. 

                 

Third Nocturne (2009) also for piano and electronics, takes that same idea of the repeated note and extends it into the electronics. The timbral connections between piano and electronics are even closer than in Nocturne/Doubles: listen especially for the repeated notes in the electronics that seem to delicately spin out from the piano and the graceful interplay between piano and the electronics of luminously fractured melodies at the end.

                 

The movements of Nocturne/Fragments (2010) for solo piano are interspersed throughout the disc. A series of fantasies on musical fragments drawn from larger pieces in the collection, the piece seems to explore the idea of musical difference and change. When is a repeat not a repeat? The two movements Aggressive, bright, eventually giving way and Flexible, mysterious, resonant share the exact same pitches and rhythms — only the dynamics, pedaling and tempo are changed — and yet their effects are profoundly different. Tenderly (i) and Tenderly (ii) share the same score as well, here the single melodic line shared by both is played normally in the former version but with fingers muting piano strings in the latter. The other movements quote directly from or allude to material in the other pieces on the disc. Listening to the collection becomes an exciting and sometimes disorienting experience — wait, have I heard that before?

                 

The collection ends with the long, slow, deceptively simple descent of Night Falls (Nocturne Loops) (2010). The four pianos (overdubbed in this recording) all trace the same chord progression from a high register to a low one, but each with a slightly different rhythmic pattern. The piece is a musical analogue of the experience of what the poet Ammons calls “the closing up of day,” the gradual softening and dimming of light from late afternoon to dusk.

                 

The intersections among the works invite a constant reevaluation of their relationship to each other that is intensified if you play them in a different order. Try playing the disc on shuffle mode and you’ll hear some new and surprising transitions between movements and pieces, new musical connections too!              

 

Benjamin Broening’s music couples his interest in the expressive power of sound with a sense of line derived from his background as a singer. Born in Paris in 1967, he has been hailed in the press as “a major talent” (New Haven Register). Active as a composer of acoustic and electroacoustic music, Broening has written pieces for ensembles such Zeitgeist, Ensemble U:, eighth blackbird, Charlotte Symphony, the Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia, the Band and Orchestral Division of Yamaha Corporation of America, the Arts

Now Series at North Carolina State University, duo runedako, and the Connecticut Choral Society, among

many others. A recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, Broening has also received recognition and awards from the Jerome Composers Commissioning Program, American Composers Forum, Virginia Commission for the Arts, ACS/Andrew Mellon Foundation and the Presser Music Foundation. His music has been recorded on the Centaur, everglade, Equilibrium, MIT Press, and SEAMUS record labels. Broening is founder and artistic director of Third Practice, an annual festival of electroacoustic music at the University of Richmond, where he is Associate Professor of Music. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan, Cambridge University, Yale University and Wesleyan University, where his principal teachers were William Albright, Andrew Mead, Alexander Goehr, Robin Holloway, Martin Bresnick, Jacob Druckman and Neely Bruce.

                 

duo runedako is dedicated to exploring and expanding the repertoire for multiple keyboard instruments. From traditional literature for two pianos and piano four-hands, to interactive works for electronics and computer, the duo presents a wide spectrum of concert music. Pushing the boundaries of contemporary music and pulling from classical, jazz and electroacoustic traditions, duo runedako often blurs the lines between musical styles. Praised for their “dazzling élan and finesse” (Saginaw News), duo performances are adventurous. duo runedako has toured extensively throughout the United States and in Europe and has presented innovative programs in Finland, Ukraine, Poland, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. In 2008–2009 the husband-and-wife team toured Ukraine with a series of concerts devoted to the music of American composers. Active in commissioning and premiering new works, duo runedako presented David Gillingham's Interplay: A Concerto for Piano Four Hands and Orchestra in Prague, with Vladimir Valek conducting the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra. Neville and Koppelman have recorded for Dichter Press, MMC, with the SONOR Ensemble for CRI, and with George Lewis for New World Records.

 

Pianist Ruth Neville brings a wealth of experience as a performer and interpreter to the works of today’s generation of composers. Comfortable in the world of technology-enhanced repertoire, Neville’s...”enthusiasm over the possibilities for the future of keyboard music is palpable” (Clavier). Described by the Greenville News as “… a deft, sensitive chamber music player whose idiomatic playing is remarkable for color and control,” her chamber music activities have included residencies at the Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt and the Bayerische Musikakademie Marktoberdorf. Neville has recorded for Celestial Harmonies and Neuma Records. In addition to performance degrees from the University of Michigan and Oakland University, Neville holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at San Diego. She is currently a member of the faculty at Furman University in South Carolina, where she teaches piano and music theory.

 

Born in New York and raised in California, Daniel Koppelman has gained experience with many different musical traditions — classical and popular, composed and improvised, acoustic and electronic — which has led him to explore their intersections in search of new possibilities for performing, teaching, and creating music. Koppelman's current performance interests include digital signal processing of acoustic piano and improvisation with various real-time controllers in conjunction with Cycling '74's Max/MSP and Ableton Live software. He has recorded for Capstone, SEAMUS, C74, and Everglade Records. His 2005 2-disc CD/DVD set of 21st century music for piano and electronics, Escapement, was hailed by Keyboard Magazine as "engaging, intelligent, and unpretentious." Koppelman holds degrees from San Francisco State University (B.M.), Indiana University (M.M.), and the University of California at San Diego (Ph.D.), where he was a Regents Fellow; his piano teachers have included Wayne Peterson, James Tocco, Cecil Lytle and Aleck Karis. Currently Professor and Director of Music Technology at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, Koppelman has been a resident artist at STEIM in Amsterdam, the Institute of Sonology in The Hague, and the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts in La Jolla, CA. In 2008 he was awarded

a Fulbright Scholarship to teach courses in Odessa, Ukraine in contemporary American music (jazz, classical, electronic) and the creative use of new technological tools. In 2009 his Fulbright was extended to provide for lecturing and concertizing across Ukraine.

 

Recorded May 22–24, 2010 in

Camp Concert Hall, Modlin Center for the Arts, University of Richmond, Richmond, Virginia

Producer: Benjamin Broening

Engineer: Mike Burns

Musical Assistant: Heather Stebbins

Production Assistant: Mike Korch

Piano Technician: Ray Breakall

Graphic Design: John Malinoski

This recording was supported by the ACS/Andrew Mellon Foundation and the Music Department at the University of Richmond.

 

Innova Director: Philip Blackburn

Operations Manager: Chris Campbell

Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.