Of Radiance & Refraction

Of Radiance & Refraction

A shining debut
Claude Baker
Sven-David Sandström
Dominick DiOrio
Igor Stravinsky
John Gibson
Aaron Travers
Dominick DiOrio
Zorá String Quartet
Catalog Number: 
#1 002
new classical

Bloomington, IN

Release Date: 
Sep 28, 2018
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

As it approaches its fortieth birthday, it is high time NOTUS put out its first record. Founded in 1980 and based in Bloomington, Indiana, the choir is known for its commitment to new music and has premiered over 150 works. Five of their commissions are featured here. Of Radiance and Refraction, their debut album, demonstrates the wealth of talent found in the student ensemble led by Dominick DiOrio, as well as the remarkable works written for them by composition teachers at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, some tackling choral music for the first time. 

In Virginia: The West, Aaron Travers sets the quick moodshifts of Walt Whitman’s battlefield poetry for unaccompanied choir. Claude Baker takes another “Claude” as his inspiration as he reimagines a work from Claudio Monteverdi’s 1638 Madrigals of War and Love, “Hor che’l ciel e la terra,” amplified by Baker with a battery of percussion that suggests and brushes just as often as it beats and bangs. 

The album is anchored by John Gibson’s substantial work for chorus and electronics, In Flight. His music is paradoxically dark and brooding, light and airy, witty and sardonic. While Icarus is already drowning and half-submerged in Brueghel’s painting of the same name, Gibson’s first movement paints the entire story: an opening pastoral scene transforms into the moment of melting “wings’ wax,” with Icarus’ death “quite unnoticed” by the surrounding folk. The goldfinch of the second poem is drawn with harmony out of jazz and sound effects reminiscent of white noise, while the third poem’s constellations swim through a more molecular and symmetrical harmonic world. The fourth movement moves toward the most fulfilling cathartic peak on the word “love”—a love which is short-lived, as the emotional crash of the poet is met with music of equal divisiveness. The fifth movement concludes the set with an atmosphere of smog and metal, of stuttering voices and desolate remains.

Sven-David Sandström and Dominick DiOrio are certainly no strangers to choral writing. Sandström’s The Giver of Stars, is a beautiful meditation on Amy Lowell’s evocative words. DiOrio sets another strikingly different poem by Lowell in Stravinsky Refracted, where the poet responds to Igor Stravinsky’s Trois pieces pour quatuor à cordes (1914). The Zorá String Quartet—Grand Prize winners of the Fischoff Competition—perform Stravinsky’s original three pieces on this album, followed immediately by DiOrio’s dimensional refraction, a bombastic and fitting finale for this radiant album.

NOTUS is one of the country’s most prestigious collegiate vocal ensembles, with a dedicated mission to championing the music of living composers through the commissioning, programming, and recording of new works. Led by its fourth director Dominick DiOrio, NOTUS has performed across the U.S., from regional and national choral conferences to Carnegie Hall. 

Dominick DiOrio led NOTUS with ebullience, weaving a tapestry of golden sounds.” – Jeffrey Williams, New York Concert Review

Under Dominick DiOrio’s leadership, NOTUS stood out for the polish and dynamism of their performance.” – James Knox Sutterfield, Sequenza21



"this crew shows it's very much in the head of the contemporary classical fan that wants to explore still as yet uncharted territories." [FULL ARTICLE] - Chris Spector


"As NOTUS's first commercial recording and a collection of significant new music, this disc will be a welcome addition to the collections of choral aficionados, and a reminder of the benefits (and challenges) of encouraging "non-choral" composers to write for our ensembles." [FULL ARTICLE] - David Rentz


"As I was listening I had to keep reminding myself that I was listening to a student ensemble. The quality of the performances, and the commitment to the music are obvious here." [FULL ARTICLE] - Mel Martin


"Notus, a 40-year-old student ensemble from Bloomington, IL, has finally released its first album, Of Radiance And Refraction. Well worth the wait, it is a fascinating assemblage of five world premiere choral works by composers with whom I was completely unfamiliar...Diorio also leads Notus and should be commended for bringing polish and passion to the student performances. All the works are of more than passing interest" [FULL ARTICLE]


"One of the more appealing aspects of the recording is that in addition to a cappella performances of the pieces by Travers and Sandström, those by Baker, Gibson, and DiOrio augment the chorus with other musicians, percussion for Baker, electronics for Gibson, and organ, strings, and percussion for DiOrio. Not that a full album of chorus-only settings wouldn't be rewarding, but having the other sounds included makes Of Radiance & Refraction all the more engrossing." [FULL ARTICLE]


"The vocal ensemble, NOTUS, demonstrates great precision, execution, excellent intonation and a sure mastery of the difficulties inherent in all of the compositions.” [FULL ARTICLE] - Luciano Feliciani