Organon Novus

Organon Novus

Contemporary organ works by American masters, 1990-2015
Samuel Adler
Matt Darriau
Michael Daugherty
Lukas Foss
Jennifer Higdon
Tom Johnson
David Lang
Libby Larsen
John Anthony Lennon
John Liberatore
Alvin Lucier
Ursula Mamlok
Nico Muhly
Larry Polansky
Shulamit Ran
Erik Santos
Jonathan Schwabe
Roberto Sierra
Augusta Read Thomas
Joan Tower
Aaron Travers
Ken Ueno
George Walker
Christian Wolff
John Zorn
Randall Harlow
Matthew Andreini
Stephen Burns
Randy Grabowski
Catalog Number: 
new classical

Cedar Falls, IA

Release Date: 
Sep 25, 2020
Liner Notes: 
3 CD
One Sheet: 

The “King of Instruments,” the pipe organ, has a long and storied history. Its long association with the church has been a source of strength but also, in recent times, led to its seeming neglect by contemporary concert composers. Organon Novus is a monumental effort to bring together this hidden slice of American music. Clocking in at over three hours of music, and running the gamut from Adler to Zorn, it includes 25 works from the past 25 years by 25 celebrated composers – composers not often associated with their organ oeuvre.

With 8,565 pipes in 132 ranks available to them, the 1928 E.M. Skinner symphonic organ in Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago is no modest resource for a composer’s imagination (not to mention a player’s active limbs). Randall Harlow, in this marathon tour de force, reaches them all.

Compositional approaches range from the sonic tapestries of Thomas and Zorn, to the linear complexity of Adler and Mamlok; from the full-bodied symphonic approaches of Ran and Tower, to the eclectic and unique voices of Lang, Johnson, Lucier and Wolff.

The album concludes with the premiere of Aaron Travers’ monumental Barlow Prize work, Exodus. Exploring the extremes of what is possible on the organ, the work offers a way forward for the instrument in contemporary art music, an exit from the common modern associations of the organ with churches and staid liturgical Gebrauchsmusik.

Organon, “the device”: the original Greek word for the pipe organ from the third century BCE.

Novus, “the new.” From its beginnings as a noise maker to its apotheosis as a contrapuntal keyboard-controlled orchestra, all coupled with the acoustic and architecture of its location, the organ can be many things. This musical snapshot is both a chronicle and a revelation.

Performer-scholar Randall Harlow has long dodged conventional expectations. As a performer, he eschewed the competition circuit, choosing instead to explore the outer reaches of the organ repertoire. A specialist in contemporary music, Harlow was the first organist to be awarded a coveted New Music USA Project and an Aaron Copland Fund Recording Grant. His numerous firsts include the North American premiere of Karlheinz Stockhausen's Himmelfahrt, the First Hour of KLANG; premieres of solo works by John Anthony Lennon, John Liberatore, Shulamit Ran and Aaron Travers; and works for organ with live-electronics by Steve Everett and Rene Uijlenhoet. Also an avid collaborative musician, his concerts include extemporization on mechanical Baroque organs with the Cornell Avant Garde Ensemble (CAGE). Harlow is currently Associate Professor of Organ and Music Theory at the University of Northern Iowa.