Hammers and Sticks
At the Abyss
4. Greed Machine
7. Heavy Circles
8. Wu Ji
At the Abyss
As I composed this music, threatening and violent events throughout the world offered proof of the fragility of humans and of our planet. Politically. Ecologically. Ethically. I titled this piece At the Abyss because as members of a species which remains too savage for its survival, we're staring directly into a crevasse that is our future. We are poised to plummet to its depths if we do not react accordingly. Observe. Reflect. Act. My three-step approach to life... and hope. This work was written for Teresa McCollough, who recorded my Sonata for Piano so beautifully and continues to be an inspiration for my muses.
Alex Shapiro (b. NYC, 1962) is a familiar face in southern California’s new music community, as a well known composer, activist and event moderator. Published by Activist Music, her works are heard weekly in concerts and broadcasts across the U.S. and abroad, and can be found on the Cambria Master Recordings, Innova and Oehms Classics labels. Educated at The Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music as a student of Ursula Mamlok and John Corigliano, Ms. Shapiro has received honors and awards from The American Music Center, ASCAP, the American Composers Forum, Mu Phi Epsilon, The California Arts Council and The MacDowell Colony, among others. Alex resides in Malibu and Santa Barbara, California, and when she's not sailing or exploring the tide pools, she updates her website, www.alexshapiro.org, with concert information and audio clips of her pieces.
Greed Machine is a mysterious, Zen-like work for vibraphone and piano, featuring the Singleton signatures of extreme contrasts, quiet drama, repetition, and great economy of means. Long silences follow loud outbursts and long-held chords alternate with quicksilver scampers. In spite of the relative simplicity of materials, the composer's obvious joy in playing with and against listener expectations and his well-known gift for timing render the work highly suspenseful.
Alvin Singleton has emerged over the last two decades as one of the most accomplished and sought-after American composers of symphonic and chamber music. Born in Brooklyn, New York, he attended New York University and Yale. As a Fulbright Scholar, he studied with Goffredo Petrassi at the Accademia Nationale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. After working for more than a decade in Europe, Singleton returned to the United States to become Composer-in-Residence with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (1985-88). He subsequently served as Resident Composer at Spelman College in Atlanta (1988-91), as UNISYS Composer-in-Residence with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (1996-97), and was the 2002-03 Composer-in-Residence with the Ritz Chamber Players of Jacksonville, Florida. In addition, he served as Visiting Professor of Composition at the Yale University School of Music.
His awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Kranischsteiner Musikpreis by the City of Darmstadt, Germany, twice the Musikprotokoll Kompositionpreis by the Austrian Radio, the Mayor's Fellowship in the Arts Award by the City of Atlanta, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Singleton has composed music for the theater, orchestra, solo instruments, and a variety of chamber ensembles. His Music is published by European American Music Corporation and Musica Mista and is recorded on the Albany Records, Elektra/Nonesuch, and Tzadik labels.
Busted begins by exploring two elements: a loose, relaxed gesture of dropping the mallets on the drumhead and allowing them to bounce, contrasted with taut, tense, forceful attacks. These elements unfold in an odd, bumpy 7/4 time, which flirts with an elusive groove. The forceful attacks gradually take over with an increasing sense of desperation and "bust" through the complex patterns to a funky 4/4 groove (albeit with a subtle subtext of "7-ness"). The title first occurred to me when I felt the need to derail a runaway groove with a police whistle. It also seemed appropriate to the way I imagined Peggy busting through the drumheads with primal two-fisted attacks.
Steven Mackey was born in 1956. His first musical passion was playing the electric guitar in rock bands based in northern California. He later discovered concert music and has composed for orchestras, chamber ensembles, dance and opera. Since the mid 1980’s he has resumed his interest in the electric guitar and regularly performs his own work, including two concertos as well as numerous solo and chamber works.
Mackey is Professor of Music at Princeton University where he teaches composition, theory, twentieth century music, improvisation and a variety of special topics. As co-director of the Composers Ensemble at Princeton he coaches and conducts new work by student composers as well as twentieth century classics.
Play is the first work of a suite for pianists Teresa McCollough and Kathleen Supové. For Play, I applied a process I use in teaching: make up music by creating words from the music alphabet (A-G). In Play, the music’s two opening themes come from the ‘words’ C_A_B_B_A_G_E , B_E_D, and E_D_G_E. Resulting variations evolve, with the words dispersing into new forms. Knowing Teresa's love of reading with her daughter, Emma, I felt this would be a fitting way to create a piece that reflects both her intellectual appetite and her sense of fun.
Raised in a Texan Air Force family, Belinda Reynolds now considers herself an 'adopted native' of California. She is an active composer, organizer, and teacher who focuses on bringing new music to a variety of audiences and communities.
Her music has been performed throughout the Americas and Europe by ensembles including the Da Capo Players, The New Millennium Ensemble, WIREWORKS, ELECTRA, and Ensemble Rosario. It has also been highlighted at the Spoleto USA Music Festival, Lincoln Center’s Great Performers Series, the Portugal New Music Festival, and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall.
As an organizer, Ms. Reynolds is Vice-President of the composers’ cooperative, Common Sense. Their award-winning CD, Shock of the Old, was released in 2002, featuring works written for American Baroque.
Ms. Reynolds is also very active in music education. Her work has been acknowledged by the Suzuki Association of the Americas and the National Music Teachers Association. Ms. Reynolds is the Director of HeShe Music in San Francisco.
Heavy Circles was inspired by the Wassily Kandinsky painting by the same name. The circles in the painting suggest a sort of playfulness against the very dark and somber background, creating a dynamic interplay of fiery motion and forceful gravity. Much of the material also exhibits a circular quality of “looped” segments repeating with slight variation and the overall form of the piece suggests the arch of a circle. Heavy Circles was written as a tour de force for the virtuosic abilities of Thomas Burritt, to whom the piece is dedicated.
Joseph Harchanko has written extensively for traditional instruments, large ensembles, and digital media. His music has been described as both “explosively dramatic” and “mystically alluring.” Although a cellist by training, his interest in percussion music was sparked while working as a percussion mover to support himself through graduate school. His works now include numerous compositions for percussion that are available through Keyboard Percussion Publishing.
Originally from Huntsville, Alabama, Joseph Harchanko is currently an Assistant Professor of Theory and Composition at Ball State University in Indiana. He received his D.M.A. in composition at the University of Texas and holds masters degrees in cello and composition from Florida State University. He has been awarded fellowships from ASCAP, the Aspen Music Festival, the Lilly Endowment, and UT. His works have been performed across North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.
Wu Ji was originally composed for piano and tape in July of 1987. The title is extracted from ancient Chinese philosophy: "Wu" means 'nothing' or "the lack of...” "Ji" means "polarity" or "the extremity." The use of the word "extremity" here refers to "the infinity" which is beyond time and space, its presence precedes that of anything in the universe.
The version for Piano, Zheng and Percussion was completed at Yaddo during the fall of 1991, premiered by Music From China in October 27, 1991, at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City. It is available on CRI - CD679. The Piano and Percussion version was first written in the summer of 2002, then revised for this recording, and premiered at Weill Recital Hall in April 2004.
Zhou Long (b. 1953, Beijing) is internationally recognized for creating a unique body of music that brings together the aesthetic concepts and musical elements of East and West. His creative vision has resulted in a new music that stretches Western instruments eastward and Chinese instruments westward, achieving an exciting and fertile common ground. Zhou Long is currently Visiting Professor of Composition at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music. In 2003 he was recipient of the Academy Award in Music, a lifetime achievement award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His works have been recorded on many labels, including BIS, EMI, and Teldec. His music is published exclusively by Oxford University Press.
Pianist Teresa McCollough, has developed an international reputation for her dynamic and expressive playing. As a leading interpreter of contemporary music, she has premiered many new works for solo piano, and piano and ensemble, and has commissioned new scores that represent the very best music being written by today’s emerging and established composers. Her solo CD Teresa McCollough: New American Piano Music (innova 552), has received critical acclaim and been played on radio stations around the world. In 2002 it was one of the top-selling independent classical CDs on Amazon.com and was also voted “Top 5 CDs of the Year—the Tommies” on Womanrock.com. Dr. McCollough has performed around the world, and appeared on both local and national television and radio. She has appeared with orchestras across the United States, and in festivals including the Aspen Music Festival, the New American Music Festival, the Aki Festival of New Music, April in Santa Cruz, the Festivale Internationale di Cremona, Spoleto Festival-USA, and others. This most recent project, Music for Hammers and Sticks, represents new commissions for solo piano and percussion that reflect her own interest in that sound combination. McCollough writes, “While there are many pieces for two pianos and percussion, there are not as many for one piano and percussion, which led me to commission these new works. The challenge of combining piano with any combination of percussive instruments results in an exciting pallette that is equal only to the diversity of the styles written for this CD. It was an incredibly fun project to work on, and it broadened my awareness of the sound possibilities for those instruments.”
McCollough has lived in the SF Bay area for the past 13 years where she is a frequent performer in the new music scene. She teaches piano and a variety of music courses at Santa Clara University, where she is Associate Professor of Music.
Thomas Burritt was born in 1971 in Buffalo, New York. He began his musical studies on piano at the age of six, and percussion at the age of ten. He received degrees from Ithaca College School of Music (BM – Education and Performance), Kent State University (MM), and Northwestern University (DM).
Burritt has presented recitals, masterclasses, and clinics throughout the United States and abroad. He has taught at the Chautauqua summer music program and is faculty at the Round Top Festival Institute summer program. Burritt has appeared as marimba soloist and clinician at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004. More recently Burritt has been active performing percussion concertos by Steve Mackey, Joseph Schwantner, Michael Dougherty and James MacMillan.
Active in the creation of new music for the marimba, Burritt has commissioned several new works to the marimba 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. Burritt is a clinician for KP3 LLC/Malletech Instruments, Malletech Mallets and Zildjian Cymbals.
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 from 1985 – 2000, she commissioned and premiered over 85 new compositions for mixed chamber ensemble and solo percussion from composers including Alvin Singleton, Steven Mackey, Pauline Oliveros, Janice Giteck, David Liptak, Wendell Logan and Stephen Paulus. Through her grant writing and leadership, Thamyris received funding for performances and recordings from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Copland Fund for New Music, Meet the Composer, Chamber Music America, the American Composers Forum and numerous state and local funding agencies.
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. She lives in Atlanta with her husband Paul, their three children, two dozen goldfish and one happy dog.
Recorded, Edited, and Mastered by Tom Carr
All works except Heavy Circles were recorded June, 2004 at the Center of Performing Arts Recital Hall, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California
Heavy Circles was recorded in Wolfe Recital Hall, Delmar College, Corpus Christy, Texas, by Paul Bissell
Edited and Mastered at The Annex, Menlo Park, California
Production assistance: Trevor Hunter, Dustin Callahan
Marimba provided by KP3 LLC /Malletech Instruments
innova Director/layout: Philip Blackburn
innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation. www.innova.mu