Music of Belinda Reynolds

Innova 653



1. COVER (1996-98)               [9:38]

      New Millennium Ensemble


2. SOLACE (1999-2000)          [9:17]

      American Baroque


3. YAWP (1995)                     [7:37]

      Sergio Puccini, guitar


4. PLAY (2003)                      [6:43]

      Teresa McCollough, piano;

      Thomas Burritt, Peggy Benkeser; percussion


5. TURNS (2000)                   [9:40]



6. DUST (2001)                      [6:44]



7. CIRCA (1996)                    [7:49]

      American Baroque


                                    total: [57:31]


The Emotional Realism of Belinda Reynolds

By Kyle Gann


         Belinda Reynolds’s music is impressive for its craftsmanship.  I hate to say that — “well-crafted” was the faint praise we used to damn a thousand late-20th-century pieces that no one wanted to hear again.  A piece distinguished for nothing beyond its craftsmanship soon becomes of interest only to musicologists.

         But Reynolds’s music has much more to say for itself.  She comes from a generation for whom the musical world became young again, a generation free to play rather than support pretensions.  After decades in which the construction of music seemed more akin to science projects than inspiration, minimalism burst in and wiped the slate clean.  Tonality returned, the steady beat re-emerged, pop music was given its danceable due.  The minimalists gave deafening all-night concerts with only a few pitches; that attention-challenging aesthetic wasn’t going to wash well outside the psychedelic ‘60s of Manhattan and San Francisco.  But the younger composers picked up what they needed from minimalism, its steady beat, its playful counterpoint, its delight in ever-changing rhythmic pulses.  These they brought back to the world of chamber music, reinvigoratingit.  They wrote music that was once again vivacious, atmospheric, mesmerizing, followable, fun.

         In all these aspects, Reynolds — Texan by birth, San Franciscan by adoption, and a member of the Common Sense Composers’ Collective — is much of hergeneration.  What raises her above the rest is the level of her attention to detail.  Each work gives the feeling that every beat has been calculated for maximum effect.  The energy never flags.  Just before each phrase ends, another rhythm enters to grab the attention.  The music is not complex in the usual sense, but every point of the surface is filled in, and the variety is kaleidoscopic.  The music is likable for materials that many composers use today: its tantalizingly ambiguous tonality, its whirlwind of syncopated rhythms.  But it is gripping because her detailed technique creates a fine-tuned emotional realism.

         Take Cover (1996/'98). The piece starts in a mystic E minor, then goes to C minor, then B minor, G major, A-flat major, and so on.  No two tonalities are defined the same way; the E minor is set off-balance by a frequent A-sharp, the B minor has a persistent G in the bass.  No two key changes are alike: the first comes after a climactic crisis point, the second is a subtle modulation, the next is little more than a change of emphasis, the next is a dramatic shift to a new footing.  Within each passage, similarities return.  There’s something about the way quarter-notes and dotted quarter-notes alternate, a tendency to build meters from varied accretions of 2 and 3, a cycling through each tonality to gradually bring new pitches into prominence.  These internal processes are the theme of the music.  There’s no tune to follow, but you hear the same things happen in each new context.  No one’s ever asked you to listen quite this way before.  That’s why, though it’s just a conventionally notated tonal piece for flute, cello, and piano, the music really is new and original.

         It is also organic in a way that most postminimalist music isn’t.  The processes of minimalism have tended to encourage, for many composers, a mechanical approach to composing.  Not so in Cover: the continual variety, the differing emotive impact of each new shift, makes the piece feel like it’s thinking, like there’s a psychological process going on.  There are even allusions to the piece’s beginning that sound like attempts to focus and regroup, and after the last one, the piece suddenly dies with only a split-second warning.  It’s difficult to name another artist who has achieved such psychological fluidity in the postminimalist style.  And Reynolds does it because she never takes the easy way out, never “composes with a ruler” (to use Charles Ives’s phrase), never winds the music up and lets it run, but individually calculates every dramatic twist and delicate turn.

         Solace (1999-2000) provides similar pleasures at a more leisurely rate.  This is one of two works here (Circa being the other) written for a Baroque music ensemble — Baroque flute and oboe, viola da gamba, harpsichord — and Reynolds preserves something of the character of the Baroque idiom by recasting its ornaments and scales as postminimalist patterns.  From an austere open fifth the music builds up slowly, in waves of recurring phrases that lead to polyphonic textures in Baroque 16th-notes, and even to cadenzas for the individual instruments.

         The opening notes of Yawp for guitar are classically postminimalist, but listen how carefully Reynolds avoids any note becoming predictable, and builds up a counterpoint of rhythmic layers from what is basically a steady pulse.  The most recent work, Play (2003) evolves from a game that Reynolds plays with the children she teaches, making melodies from the letters of words.  The marimba part is built on the word CABBAGE, the piano chords on BED and EDGE, and these motives run through the work in a set of double variations.  At first the piece does sound childishly simple, but it is enlivened by an array of underlying rhythmic tics, like groupings of five and seven beats within the basic 4/4 meter.

        Turns for woodwind trio (2000) starts out as simply as possible in steady 8th-notes, but, before you realize it, moves into three tempos at once, with triplets in the bassoon against duplets in the clarinet (and later vice versa), and a more wilful theme in the flute. In this piece, the theme does come back, in the clarinet and then the flute again. In Dust (2001), an elegy for clarinet and cello in memory of September 11, the different, smoothly fused sections are marked, as in many of Reynolds’s scores, by emotive terms - “Deferential,” “Reflective,” “Resolute,” “Soar,” “Calm.”  These correspond to new rhythmic characters, moving from the mournful quarter-notes at the beginning to an acquiescent flow of 16th-notes at the end.

         Like Solace, Circa (1996) starts out with a spare perfect fifth, but one articulated by the harpsichord, and, like Cover, the piece is an exercise in illusion.  It asks the ear to accept each new texture as a static permutation of the same notes, but actually, each passage subtly transforms itself through gradual shifts of harmony and register, lending a sense of inner motivation to the more dramatic key and momentum changes that keep occurring.  Simmering without coming to a boil, Circa finally cools back to the interval with which it opened.  Like all of Reynolds’s works, it is not exactly serene or undramatic, but has a natural restraint covering a sense of underlying urgency that is entirely her own.  Others have employed the basic materials of minimalism to create a music of rhythmic intricacy, liveliness, and elegance.  Hardly anyone has done so with as much natural emotional realism as Reynolds.

Kyle Gann, a composer, has been new-music critic for the Village Voice since 1986, and teaches at Bard College.  His books include The Music of Conlon Nancarrow, American Music in the 20th Century, and Music Downtown: Writings from the Village Voice.


Over the past ten years I have developed a way of writing that invites the performers into the composing process of my music.  This approach grew out of my involvement with the Common Sense Composers’ Collective.  I have found that collaboration creates a tighter, more vibrant piece of music than when I compose in an isolated environment.  Likewise, there is some ineffable joyous sense that is imbued to a work that the performers helped create.  A sense of shared ownership comes into the music, and the players feel more freedom and confidence in performing the piece.


It is in this spirit that I embarked upon doing a CD of my own music.  Throughout the process of rehearsing, recording, and editing the pieces each of the players brought to the project his/her unique talents and personalities.  Similarly, I was blessed to work with equally talented engineers, editors, and producers whom were able to fully realize the quality of the performances in the finished recordings.  Thus, it is because all these expert artists came together that I have an album that reflects not only my artistic vision, but also stands as an example of my beliefs in the power of collaboration in the artistic process.  For this I am truly lucky. I hope you will feel the same.


Raised in a Texan Air Force family Belinda Reynolds now considers herself an ‘adopted native’ of California.  Ms. Reynolds completed her Doctorate at Yale University and received her M.A. and B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley.  She has worked with a number of performing organizations throughout the Americas and Europe, iincluding Da Capo Players, California EAR Unit, Essential Music, Seventh Chapter Brass (Australia), WIREWORKS (Germany), ELECTRA (Amsterdam), and Ensamble Rosario (Argentina).  Her music has been featured in such festivals and venues as Lincoln Center’s Great Performer Series and the Spoleto USA Music Festival.  She has received grants and awards for her work from the International League of Women Composers and the New England Foundation for the Arts, among others.  As an organizer, Ms. Reynolds is Vice-President of the composers’ collective, Common Sense.  Now in their tenth year, the main objective of the group has been to explore alternative ways of conceiving and presenting new works.  Their CD, Shock of the Old  received the CMA/WQXR 2003 Record Award.  Ms. Reynolds’ is also very involved in music education.  Her duets for children, For Me With You, has received international acclaim from the pedagogy community and was featured in the journal for the Suzuki Association of the Americas.  She is also the creator of the innovative commissioning program, CUSTOM MADE, which enables student musicians and teachers to commission pieces written just for them.  Ms. Reynolds’ works are published by HeShe Music, Dover Editions, and Kithara Editions.



Founded in San Francisco in 1986, American Baroque brings together some of America’s most accomplished and exciting Baroque instrumentalists, with the purpose of defining a new, modern genre for historical instruments.  The group’s adventurous programs combine 18th-century music with new works, composed for the group through collaborations and commissions of American composers.   American Baroque has been recognized through grants and awards from the Aaron Copland Foundation, Chamber Music America, the Mikhashoff Foundation for New Music, and the Zellerbach Family Fund, and won first prize for the 2000 ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming.  The ensemble has done numerous recordings, including SHOCK OF THE OLD, which features works from its collaboration with Common Sense Composers’ Collective.  The CD, (on Santa Fe New Music) received a CMA/WQXR 2003 Record Award for one of six “best new chamber music” albums for that year.


Peggy Benkeser has been a catalyst for new music in Atlanta since her arrival from Illinois in 1985.  As co-founder and artistic director of Thamyris, New Music Group she commissioned and premiered over 85 new compositions from composers including Alvin Singleton and Steven Mackey.  Ms. Benkeser currently performs with Hammers and Sticks, is active as a performance artist and writer, and is a teaching artist for the Georgia Council for the Arts and Cliff Valley School.



Active in the creation of new music for the marimba, Thomas Burritt has commissioned several new works for repertoire by composers such as Stephen Barber and Joseph Harchanko. Burritt is currently principal percussionist with the Barbwire Music Ensemble, and has recorded for guitarist Eric Johnson and recording artist David Byrne.  Dr. Burritt is currently Assistant Professor of Percussion and Director of Percussion Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.



Citywinds, San Francisco’s premier new music wind quintet for 14 seasons, has been frequently featured on concert series in and beyond the Bay Area.  Hailed as “an excellent ensemble” by Kronos Quartet violist Hank Dutt, Citywinds is renowned for presenting new and unusual works in a truly “listener-friendly” way.  Recipient of a Chamber Music America Commissioning Grant for a new work by award-winning composer Chen Yi, Citywinds maintained a long tradition of commissioning new quintets by both established and emerging composers with a range of cultural influences.  The quintet was on the California Arts Council’s Touring Roster, and also toured and performed residencies nationally.  In 2002, the ensemble collaborated with Contemporary Music Ensemble Korea in a program of commissions and premieres; a similar collaboration occurred in 2004 with Melody of China and a group of young composers.  Citywinds’ performances have been heard on numerous radio programs, including KQED’s West Coast Weekend, KPFA’s “Music of the World”, as well as on The Discovery Channel.


In 1998, Lara Turner and Jason Gresl formed Claricello to explore the sonic and musical possibilities of clarinet and cello in an interactive format that engages audiences and blends multidisciplinary elements into the performance.  Currently Ensemble-in-Residence at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, Claricello continues taking advantage of a variety of concert opportunities, performing contemporary classical works as well as their own arrangements. Claricello has been featured on the Pendulum New Music Series in Boulder, CO and at the Loon Lake Live! Chamber Music Festival in Upstate New York.  In 2004 they were resident artists at the Banff Centre’s Chamber Music Program and recently were guest performers at the first WorldBass Clarinet Convention in Rotterdam, Netherlands.



Pianist Teresa McCollough, has developed an international reputation for her dynamic and expressive playing.  Her solo CD Teresa McCollough: New American Piano Music (Innova 552), has received critical acclaim and been played on radio stations around the world.  Her most recent project, Music for Hammers and Sticks (Innova 630) featuring new commissions for solo piano and percussion was released in 2004.  McCollough teaches at Santa Clara University, where she is Associate Professor of Music.



New Millennium Ensemble is a mixed sextet of winds, strings, piano and percussion. Winners of the 1995 Walter W. Naumburg chamber music award and a CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, the group is fully committed to the promotion of new American music.  They have appeared at Merkin Hall, Miller Theatre, the Ethical Culture Society, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, on WNYC’s Around New York, and at Harvard, Columbia and Princeton Universities.  Past performances include appearances at the Radio León Festival in Monterrey, Mexico, the American Academy in Rome, the Eastman School of Music, Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society, and Alice Tully Hall.  Three of the members of New Millennium Ensemble are featured in this recording of COVER by Belinda Reynolds.  They are Tara Helen O’Connor, flute; Gregory Hesselink, ‘cello; and Margaret Kampmeier, piano.



Sergio Puccini was born in Rosario, Argentina, in 1958 and began playing the guitar at age ten. As a soloist and guest artist he often plays concert and recital programs through the Americas and Europe with such groups as San Francisco Camerata Americana, the Orquesta Nacional de Música Argentina, and the Czech-Moravian Chamber Orchestra.  Interested in both new music and classical standard repertoire Mr. Puccini has done premieres of works by important composers such as Faye-Ellen Silverman, Paul Nash, and Elmer Bernstein.  Further engagements include premieres of Concierto para Guitarra y Orquesta by Salvadorean composer Germán and the premiere of “Convergence” (Guitar Concerto) by Belinda Reynolds.  Since 1990, Mr. Puccini has been serving as Dean of the Instituto Provincial del Profesorado de Música de Rosario (IPPM) in Rosario, Argentina.


Album produced by Belinda Reynolds

Mixed and mastered by Gonzolo X. Ruiz


1.      COVER (1996-98)

New Millennium Ensemble:

Tara O’Connor, flute; Greg Hesselink, cello; Margaret Kampmeier, piano

Commissioned by Continuum Contemporary Music (Toronto)


Produced, engineered, edited, and mixed by Judith Sherman

Engineering and editing assisted by Jeanna Velonis

Recorded March 24, 2003 at the American Academy of the Arts, New York, NY




2.      SOLACE (1999-2000)

American Baroque:

Stephen Schultz, Baroque flute; Gonzolo X. Ruiz, Baroque oboe;

Roy Whelden, viola da gamba; Katherine Shao, harpsichord

Commissioned by American Baroque


Produced by Belinda Reynolds

Engineered by Martins Hildebrants

Edited and mixed by Gonzolo X. Ruiz

Recorded September 6, 2003 at Skyline Studios, Oakland, CA




3.      YAWP (1995)

Sergio Puccini, guitar

Commissioned by David Nadal and Kithara Editions


Produced by Sergio Puccini

Engineered, edited, and mixed by Gabriel Data

Recorded October, 2003 at All Audio Studio, Rosario, Argentina



4.      PLAY (2003)

Teresa McCollough, piano;

Thomas Burritt and Peggy Benkeser; percussion

Commissioned by Teresa McCollough

Also appears on the CD, HAMMERS AND STICKS (Innova 630)


Produced by Belinda Reynolds

Engineered, edited, and mixed by Tom Carr

Recorded June 2004 at the Center of Performing Arts Recital Hall,

Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA



5.      TURNS (2000)

Citywinds: Esther Landau, flute; Bruce Foster, clarinet; Charles Moehnke, bassoon

Commissioned by the California Association of Professional Music Teachers/MTNA


Produced by Belinda Reynolds

Engineered by Martins Hildebrants

Edited and mixed by Gonzolo X. Ruiz

Recorded October 26, 2003 at Skyline Studios, Oakland, CA



6.      DUST (2001)

Claricello: Jason Gresl, clarinet; Lara Turner, cello

Commissioned by the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble

In memory of the events of September 11, 2001


Produced by Belinda Reynolds

Engineered by Martins Hildebrants

Edited and mixed by Gonzolo X. Ruiz

Recorded December 20, 2003 at Skyline Studios, Oakland, CA





7.      CIRCA (1996)

American Baroque: Stephen Schultz, Baroque flute; Elizabeth Blumenstock, Baroque violin;

Roy Whelden, viola da gamba; Katherine Shao, harpsichord

Commissioned by American Baroque and Common Sense Composers’ Collective

Originally on the CD, SHOCK OF THE OLD (Santa Fe New Music, SFNM000513)


Produced, engineered, and mixed by Jack Vad

Edited by Stephen Schultz

Recorded January 26, 1999 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Belvedere, CA


Special thanks go to: Djerassi Artists Colony, The MacDowell Colony, Dan Becker of Common Sense Composers’ Collective, Philip Blackburn of Innova, John Kennedy and Matthew Walters of Santa Fe New Music, Bryan Matheson of Skyline Studios, and all the numerous friends, colleagues, and performers I have had the immense pleasure to have in my life.


Dedicated to the memory of Barbara Shearer (1936-2005)

Pianist and beloved teacher for many of us in the music world…




Belinda Reynolds, HeShe Music

4348 26th Street

San Francisco, CA 94131-1810


• American Baroque:

• Peggy Benkeser:

[email protected]

• Tom Burritt:

[email protected]

• Citywinds:

[email protected]

• Claricello:


• Teresa McCollough:

• New Millennium Ensemble:

• Sergio Puccini:


innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.

Innova Director/design: Philip Blackburn

Operations Manager: Chris Campbell