Minnesota Contemporary Ensemble

180 Degrees from Ordinary


innova 513


“I have long been interested in incorporating both spatial and ritualistic elements into my work.  These elements are important aspects of Rituale.  {But Are} not intended to recreate any specific ritual practices.  Rather, they are meant to evoke the feeling of observing some sort of unnamed ritual. I thus view them as simply being additional elements applied within the overall design of the piece.  Working in conjunction with purely abstract, purely musical ideas.  Rituale was commissioned in 1991 by saxophonist Charles Young and is dedicated to Charlie Johnson, who hates boring music by dead composers.” – Paul Siskino


“A Black Roller is a burning wind and dust storm often experienced in the western United States.  Stories of Black Rollers tell of men and women driven to desperation by the parching of their skin, throats, and noses.  The music for this composition takes the point of view of a group of people watching the approach of black roller, feeling the deathly stillness, then the light, rippling wind, then the storm that engulfs them as they struggle to hold themselves and their possessions against the wind and the aftermath of the storm.  Robert Levine, principal violist of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, commissioned Black Roller.  The work was premiered at the Grand Teton music festival in Grand Teton Music Festival in Grand Teton, Wyoming in June of 1981.”


“In 1992, I began graduate work at the University of Minnesota with composition instructor Alex Lubet.  My first assignment was to write a work for limited forces that would develop in depth one musical idea, not dissimilar to a compositional study or etude.  While walking home across the Mississippi on Washington Ave. Bridge, and ostinato pattern began running through my head.  I stopped and wrote it down quickly and noticed that it seemed very idiomatic for the trumpet.  I decided to complete the movement by splitting the motive between two trumpets in one unbroken line of 16th notes.  This became the “Fast” Movement of my composition Two Trumpets which is in a standard Rondo Form (ABACAB) with a Coda.  Two Trumpets is dedicated to David Baldwin who has been an avid supporter of my music.” – Allen Gleck


“Commissioned by MCE, “Watch…Wait” was written specifically to match their 1996-97 tour instrumentation and close the ensemble’s programs.  “Watch…Wait” uses a combination of tape and live musicians, in a sort of episode/dialog between prerecorded sounds and instruments.  The composition is also an idea of perspective,.  A musical “Vignette” in which the main protagonist is a disembodied observer portrayed by the recorded spoken voice of Baritone Derrick A. Pennix who is reacting to the world around him.  He is a “Clean Slate:, stating his observations.


The music itself strives to give an impression of Jazz and Pop music influences without becoming Jazz or Rock, sort of the intrusion of the outside world into the bubble of innocence of the observer.  In addition, color is extremely important as the composition uses many non-traditional sound effects including Glass Harmonica {rubbing the rims of glasses filled partly with water}, excerpts of Alan Berg’s Wozzeck, Siren, Heartbeats, and Automobiles.  The most difficult part about a work such as this is creating a balance between live ensemble and tape, and color is one of the tools used to achieve this end.  In conclusion, “Watch…Wait” is a musical foray into the surreal, heavily influenced by the paintings of Salvador Dali and Joan Miro.”-Tom Trenka


180o   From Ordinary is dedicated to the memory of our friend, David Wernz.


MCE would like to thank our supporter whose generosity has helped make this cd a reality:  James & Mary Alice Palmer, Maestro Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Charlie Johnson, Phyllis N. Bullock, Wendy K. Adler, Isabelle Maquet, and Andy & Beth Ravenscroft.


MCE would also like to thank:  Libby Larsen, Philip Blackburn and the American Composers Forum, John Killacky, The Walker Art Center Performing  Arts Department (Philip, Julie, Doug, Becky and Eleanor), Robert Bitzen and the Weisman Art Museum Staff, Silvester Vicic and Minnesota Public Radio, The Madison Civic Center (Reynold, Carol, and Anna),  Wort Radio, Stone Savage and The Dallas Museum of Art, U.S. Internet for sponsoring the MCE Web Site, The Staff at Quicksilver (Mike, Tom, Tom, Bonnie, Rita, and Bob), George Nikolaidis, Gary and Linda Schulthess, Scott Robinson, Russell Platt, The City Pages, All Performers Past and Present  of MCE and (Most Importantly) The Wonderful MCE Supporters and fans.


In 1992, I arrived in the Twin Cities with the idea of starting a New Music Ensemble that would attempt to combine the artistry and structure of a contemporary chamber orchestra with the style and attitude of a post-punk rock band.  It has always been my most staunch position that great music, no matter how esoteric or “Difficult”, can be appreciated by anyone regardless of their knowledge or understanding of the technical aspects of composition.  I feel that what is most often lacking at classical concerts is the musician’s burning dedication to what they are performing.  It is the “from the gut” commitment to great music by the performer that translates to the audience not the work’s tone row inversion or its similarity to something by Mahler.

I am proud that MCE has always striven to grab the audience by the neck and drag them both emotionally and physically into the music.  In a day and age when orchestras reheat the German or the Russian Romantic war horses to generate audiences.  MCE continues to perform the most interesting cutting edge new music to sold out, standing-room-only audiences.  What is captured on this disc are some of the most shining, special moments of the past five years, the majority of which were recorded live in concert.


It has been one heck of a ride since our debut at the Walker Art Center in May of 1993.  I would personally like to thank everyone who has helped make MCE an organization with an exemplary past, and an auspicious future. –Duane Schulthess – MCE Executive Director