Goings-on Going on this Summer…

51p4EQDkYPL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_This will be an interesting summer for me, as I won’t be attending any major conferences. Instead, I have been and will be spending my time engaged in various projects here in town, as well as visiting relatives and friends in North Carolina.

New Music on the Bayou held its fourth annual summer festival last week, and as always it was a fantastic celebration of contemporary composers and their works. Mel Mobley and I performed the world premiere of Ken Davies  Crystal Kaleidoscope for horn and marimba, and Black Bayou Brass performed Finding Resolution, a brass trio by Brandon Dicks. *NB: Because of severe weather, we were not able to perform the premiere of Davies’ piece back in April. However, our performance at New Music on the Bayou went very well.

During the month of June I am teaching a course for our new summer Master of Music Education degree. We are very excited to be offering an MME program, and enrollment for this first session has exceeded our expectations. My course is Applications of Music Technology, and is designed to introduce music educators to a variety of technologies they can incorporate into their classrooms and rehearsal halls. Having taught an undergraduate introduction to music technology course for the past several years, I had a good foundation to begin developing the course. However, I obviously wanted to make it different from the undergraduate level class, as well as tailor it to meet the needs of current educators. After some searching, I decided to use a book by Scott Watson, Using Technology to Unlock Musical Creativity. Although it was published in 2011, much of the material on technology is still relevant, but even more valuable is the pedagogical and philosophical approach. I highly recommend it!

This summer I’ll also be working with the IHS Online Music Sales editorial team (Gina Gillie, Dan Phillips, Daren Robbins, and Jeffrey Snedeker) to prepare and make available in digital format numerous works by Douglas HillThe Music of Douglas Hill Collection on the IHS site already has several of Hill’s compositions and method books, and we plan to add more very soon. Perhaps the most significant of these is a digital version of  Extended Techniques for the Horn, complete with the original audio examples composed and performed by the author. For more information on this project (and much more), check out this interview with Doug in the June 2019 IHS E-Newsletter.

After June I’ll be teaching an online music appreciation course, and preparing for a recital tour this September to several universities. I’ll post more on this as the fall gets closer, but the program is going to be a mix of both old and new, including works by Gina Gillie, Paul Basler, Hermann Neuling, Jan Koetsier, and B. Ed. Müller.

 

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Upcoming Performance: Crystal Kaleidoscope for Horn and Vibraphone by Ken Davies

IMG_20190320_141315964In addition to the Dana Wilson song cycle performance mentioned in my earlier post, I’ll be performing another brand new work in April at the Society of Composers, Inc. Region VI Conference at Texas A&M University—Commerce. The composition is by Ken Davies, and is entitled Crystal Kaleidoscope for horn and vibraphone. My colleague Mel Mobley and I commissioned it with assistance from the International Horn Society’s Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Fund. This is a fantastic initiative by the IHS, and well worth applying for and supporting! As of this writing, the fund is on hiatus from January 2019 through December 2019. Be on the lookout, however, for future funding opportunities.

Getting back to Crystal Kaleidoscope, Ken Davies is a very fine composer, and the works I’ve performed by him have been interesting and rewarding to play. The horn and vibraphone combination is pretty unique, and there are only a handful of other works in the repertoire for horn and mallet percussion, let alone this specific instrumentation. The first one that comes to mind is HornVibes: Three Duos for Horn and Vibraphone, by Verne Reynolds. For more information on this and other works for horn and mallet percussion, refer to Dr. Casey N. Maltese’s A Performance Guide of Selected Works for Horn and Mallet Percussion, D.M.A dissertation, the University of Miami, 2011. In my estimation, Crystal Kaleidoscope holds up very well when compared to the Reynolds, though it is quite different. Here is the composer’s note:

Look into the kaleidoscope. See the variously shaped colored crystals, their reflections producing continuous changing patterns. Each crystal has a unique structure, shape, and color—its own symmetrical, ordered, three-dimensional aggregation of atoms or molecules.

As the title suggests, this work is based on “crystals.” Though the sectional sub-titles may be whimsically named for gemstones, the musical crystals are pitch sets consisting of a few notes which are spun out into transformed patterns of melodic and harmonic variety. While the theorist/musicologist may want to delve into set analysis, I hope that others may simply enjoy the aural ride along the surface, letting the notes, chords, and timbres provide a worthy repeatable listening experience.

The writing is fun and challenging, but not unreasonably so, with lots of rhythmic and melodic interplay between horn and vibraphone. As the composer implies in his preface, there are some complex compositional operations at work, but the melodies and timbres are interesting enough in and of themselves without deep analysis. As I’ve found in other works by him, Ken likes to throw in periodic references to other styles such as funk and jazz. For instance, this short line for the horn in the final movement, “Crystal Collage,” has a pretty fun groove to it. Tempo is quarter note=92-104 or faster.

Davies Excerpt

If this post has piqued your interest in the music of Ken Davies, take a look at his website for a complete list of his many works. Here is a short list of works with horn, taken from his website.

  • Brain Fantasies for horn and two-channel audio
  • Sensuous Images for horn and pre-recorded soundscape
  • Waterscape for horn and digital media
  • Loose Connections – horn alone
  • Three Roads Diverged – brass trio – tpt, hrn, tbn
  • Concert Piece for Brass Quintet and Organ
  • Bayou Sketches – soprano, French horn, piano
  • Veiled Places for Woodwind Quintet
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