Ghetto Strings (23:58)
Daniel Bernard Roumain
1. Harlem (6:39)
2. Liberty City (5:31)
3. Motor City (6:48)
4. Haiti (4:54)
from the Jerome Foundation
David Evan Thomas
5. Simply, with feeling (5:55)
6. Broad and unhurried (6:25)
7. With easy movement (5:04)
from the Jerome Foundation
Cinema Castaneda (14:49)
8. What the Train Remembered… (1:29)
9. Brujo (2:31)
10. Chuck to Now (0:47)
11. ‘Strange Days’ (1:55)
12. Seeping Borders I (1:33)
13. Apologies (0:34)
14. Dying Cowboy (1:42)
15. Seeping Borders II (0:51)
16. Con Dios (1:28)
17. Second Coming (1:57)
from the Augustine Foundation
Guangxi Impression (11:24)
(Gao Hong, pipa)
18. Tiaodan Dance (2:56)
19. Summer Cicada (6:18)
20. Celebrating the Harvest (2:09)
from the Jerome Foundation
Total Time = 67:27
Ghetto Strings is a work for guitar quartet, in four movements, each movement a musical description of a city I have lived or spent time in. These places are or have been urban “ghettos”, but my application of that word in the title is one of ownership and reflection, rather than a derogatory comment. I live and work in New York City, and the vibe and essence of my fellow Harlemites’ walking rhythms (our strut!), food, and culture are reflected in the syncopations of the first movement, Harlem. I was raised in South Florida and spent most of my teenage years in Liberty City, a volatile mix of cultures, heat, humidity, and the ever-present need for dance music, tinged with Cuban and Spanish persuasions. Detroit was my home for formative years in graduate school, studying in Ann Arbor, but driving every day to and from that great Motor City. I wanted this movement to express the hypnotic pace you feel when that uniquely American tradition of music, motor, pavement, and peace, all coalesce into private moments of reflection on the day – and the days coming. Finally, my parents were both born and lived in Haiti, and I’m proud to visit once a year, returning to those places where my parents might have walked as young children. Embedded into the score is a traditional Haitian folk song, Merci Bon Die, or “good, merciful God”. It’s a fisherman’s tune that my father often sang to me.
Poet Donald Hall writes of finding a box of scraps in the attic with the label: “string too short to be saved.” The title of this work plays with the thrumming sound a guitar inevitably makes, but also with the notion of string as a bit of thrum. I had in mind the process of weaving bits together to make a sturdy but colorful fabric.
I am not a guitarist. But in my exploration of the instrument over several solo and chamber works I found that comfortable hand positions lead to sweet harmonies. Thrum reflects that relaxed harmonic language. A quartet of guitars has a unified sound, like a big, 24-string instrument. But I was equally interested in creating a concertante work, with opportunities for individual display, and the repartee of opposing groups.
After a brief, lyrical introduction, a perky theme proposes a buoyant concerto movement, with figurative episodes in between statements. In time, there is a second, more lyrical idea, later the principal theme in longer notes, and finally the two themes together.
The slow movement is part philosophy lesson, part stroll to a garden of little bells, where the first notes of the work are recalled as if in memory. The recessional is leisurely. On the way out of the garden, a developing motive suggests a subject for the final movement’s fugue. A vigorous coda reconciles the guitar’s melodic and chordal natures.
David Evan Thomas
The process of composing Cinema Castaneda began as a retracing of Copland’s steps through John Lomax’s 1918 collection of cowboy songs. Strumming on my guitar, I imagined these tunes set for guitar quartet, four guitarists gathered like ranchers around a campfire after a day traversing vast spaces, crossing borders, horse-trading, etc. I was jolted from this storybook nostalgia by news of the day: angst about the Mexican border, the legal and illegal passage of people and goods, news of trade both fair and unfair. On one hand there is a positive desire for commerce, self-actualization and betterment, on the other: only violence, self-destruction, and exploitation. Once these timeless and conflicting themes took hold in my imagination, the composing became a dizzying journey through frontier ballads, rancheros music, narcocorridos, as well as music by Chuck Berry, the Doors, Velvet Underground, and Kurt Cobain.
The guitar as an instrument of the road crosses boundaries both real and imagined: boundaries of time, place, culture, language, memory, and states of mind. Patterns idiomatic to an incredible variety of music are shaped by the lay of the hands on the instrument. Cinema Castaneda explores (and blurs the distinction between) various American voices as they map naturally to the guitar’s grid of open and fretted strings. The titled sections of the one continuous movement give some hint of the morphing voices of cowboys, wanderers, and traffickers – seekers of escape, comfort, or ecstasy.
Guangxi is a province in southern China that sports a population rich in diversity that embraces 48 different ethnic groups. Guangxi Impression is in three movements without pause. The first movement, called “Tiaodan Dance” 挑担舞, depicts Tiaodan people as they carry goods on their shoulders with bamboo sticks. The music describes the people as they work happily in the field. People come one-by-one from far away with the bamboo sticks on their shoulders, creating “biandan” up and down movements that mimic dancing. The second movement is called “Summer Cicadas” 夏蝉. In Guangxi, the weather is very hot and the cicadas are very noisy. But in the Dong minority culture, the most famous love song is inspired by the sounds of the cicadas. The music describes a hot summer day, with young men and women looking for lovers during work breaks in the field. They initially sing in an antiphonal style, but when they find their lovers they dance and sing together. In the end, they quietly leave the field as couples. The third movement is “Celebrating the Harvest” 庆丰收. A bountiful harvest is cause to celebrate in Guangxi, and I depict this celebration with sounds of percussion bands and people yelling with excitement as they dance. Near the end of the movement I use celebratory words to express the joy and happiness of the people as they celebrate.
Daniel Bernard Roumain
Daniel Bernard Roumain’s acclaimed work as a composer and a performer has spanned more than two decades, and has been commissioned by venerable artists and institutions worldwide. Proving that he’s “about as omnivorous as a contemporary artist gets” (New York Times), DBR is perhaps the only composer whose collaborations span the worlds of Philip Glass, Cassandra Wilson, Bill T. Jones, Savion Glover and Lady Gaga.
DBR made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2000 with the American Composers Orchestra performing his Harlem Essay for Orchestra, a Whitaker commission. He would go on to compose works for the Albany Symphony (Harvest for Baritone Voice and Orchestra); the American Composers Orchestra (Call Them All: Fantasy Projections for laptop, orchestra, and film); the Boston Pops Orchestra (Woodbox Violin Concerto); the Dogs of Desire Ensemble (Grace for Two Sopranos and Chamber Orchestra); Carnegie Hall (Five Chairs and One Table); the Library of Congress (Numerical Music); and the Stuttgart Symphony (We March!: Concerto for Guitar and String Orchestra premiered by Eliot Fisk). Additionally, DBR’s music has been performed by the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Cincinnati Symphony, Des Moines Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Memphis Symphony, New World Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, Noord Nederlands Orkest, and the Vancouver Symphony, among many others. His most recent orchestral work, Dancers, Dreamers, and Presidents, is a 2010 Sphinx Commissioning prize and will be performed by the Detroit Symphony, Nashville Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic, Virginia Symphony, and other member orchestras of an esteemed consortia.
DBR earned his doctorate in Music Composition from the University of Michigan under the tutelage of William Bolcom and Michael Daugherty.
David Evan Thomas
The music of David
Evan Thomas has been praised for its eloquence, power and craft. In addition to
awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the McKnight Foundation
and the American Guild of Organists, Thomas has received commissions from the
Minnesota Orchestra, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra,
The Schubert Club and the American Composers Forum.
Thomas’s music is published by ECS, Augsburg Fortress and MorningStar, and has been performed by the Minnesota Orchestra, London’s Westminster Cathedral Choir and the trio of Gil Shaham, Truls MŅrk and Yefim Bronfman. He has served as composer-in-residence with Westminster Presbyterian Church (Minneapolis), the Cathedral of Saint Paul, and from 1997-2005, The Schubert Club.
Born in Rochester, New York in 1958, David Evan Thomas graduated with honors in trumpet from the “Prep” Department of the Eastman School of Music, and received degrees from Northwestern University, Eastman and the University of Minnesota. His teachers have included Dominick Argento, Samuel Adler and Alan Stout, with further study at the Aspen Festival and with David Diamond at the Atlantic Center for the Arts.
Thomas lives in Minneapolis, where he is also active as a program annotator, choral singer, pianist, conductor and page-turner.
Music by Van Stiefel (b. 1965, Atlanta) is music in which lyrical voices are often teased out of unusual instrumental combinations: electric guitar quartets, laptop ensembles, turntables, as well as more conventional ensembles.
Trained as a classical guitarist at an early age, Stiefel attended the Centro Flamenco Paco Pena in 1983, studying with guitarist John Williams. He was later the Andres Segovia Memorial Fellow at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada, and while there, was drawn to contemporary music and the electric guitar. He has collaborated with a variety of artists and ensembles including: artist Caroline Lathan-Stiefel, improvisation trio maison vague, Ursula’s End, guitarist Eliot Fisk, Nurit Pacht, Dan Lippel, the Vega String Quartet, choreographer David Dorfman, the Nash Ensemble, Thamyris Contemporary Music Ensemble, the Talujon Percussion Ensemble, and the Macon Symphony.
Between 2000-03, he performed with the Sap Dream Electric Guitar Quartet, with works featured on the New York Guitar Festival and the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. He has performed with and written music for guitar legend Benjamin Verdery, whose CD compilation of new music for classical guitar entitled Soepa features music by Stiefel. Significant commissions include those from the Atlanta Olympic Festival, Arts Festival of Atlanta, and the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. Stiefel has a B.A./M.Mus from Yale University; in 2003, he completed the Ph.D. in music composition from Princeton University. After teaching counterpoint and musicianship at McGill University in Montreal, Stiefel became Assistant Professor of Music Theory and Composition at West Chester University School of Music in Pennsylvania. He co-directs New Music at West Chester University and the WCU Laptop Quartet.
Gao Hong, a master of the pear-shaped Chinese lute, the pipa, began her career as a professional musician at age 12. She graduated with honors from China’s premier music school, the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, where she studied with the great pipa master Lin Shicheng. Gao has performed throughout Europe, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, China, and the U.S. in solo concerts and with symphony orchestras, jazz musicians, and musicians from other cultures. She has performed at many major festivals worldwide. Her performances have included those at the Lincoln Center Festival; Carnegie Hall; the San Francisco Jazz Festival; the Smithsonian Institution; the Next Wave Festival; Festival d’Automne ą Paris in Paris and Caen, France; the International Festival of Perth, Australia; and the Festival de Teatro d’Europa in Milan, Italy. Her performances of pipa concerti with symphony orchestras include several world, U.S., and regional premieres and performances with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Pasadena Symphony, Heidelberg (Germany) Philharmonic, the Women’s Philharmonic in San Francisco, the Portland (Maine) Symphony, and the Minneapolis Pops Orchestra among others. In addition, she performed with the Lincoln Center production of “The Peony Pavilion.”
As a composer, she has received commissions from the American Composers Forum, Walker Art Center, the Jerome Foundation, Zeitgeist, Ragamala Music and Dance Theater, Theater Mu, IFTPA, and Twin Cities Public Television for the six-part series “Made in China.” In addition to Gao Hong’s own solo performances of her compositions worldwide, her music has been performed internationally by many world-class musicians.
Minneapolis Guitar Quartet
Joseph Hagedorn – guitar by Stephen Kakos, 1992
Ben GateĖo – guitar by Edgar Mönch, 1953
Wade Oden – guitar by Manouk Papazian, 1976
Steven Newbrough – guitar by Paul Jacobson, 2006
Recorded 2011-2012 at Wild Sound, Minneapolis, MN.
Produced by Jeff Lambert.
Recording engineer: Matthew Zimmerman.
Edited, mixed and mastered by Jeff Lambert.
Graphic Design by Ann Wempner.
Cover Art: Tracery, 2012, by Caroline Lathan-Stiefel.
Pipe cleaners, fabric, plastic, pins, wire, and thread;
65 x 48 x 4 in.; Photo by Colourworks.
Innova Director: Philip Blackburn
Operations Manager: Chris Campbell
Publicist: Steve McPherson
Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.