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Asplund, Baker, & DeLaurenti | Northwest Triptych: New Music for Orchestra

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Northwest Triptych: New Music for Orchestra

by Asplund, Baker, & DeLaurenti

The three works brought together for this orchestral recording reflect the diverse and eclectic nature of the Seattle new music scene. These works share a sense of immediacy in their exploration of new formal principles and sonic landscapes.
Genre: Classical: Contemporary
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  Song Share Time Download
clip
1. Symphony #4
34:03 album only
clip
2. Negative Space
17:52 album only
clip
3. Three Camels for Orchestra
5:09 album only

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Christian Asplund is a Canadian-American composer whose teachers have included Alvin Curran, Thea Musgrave, John Rahn, and Stuart Dempster. His music has been described in the press as "inscrutable," "creepy," and "absolutely beautiful." He arrived in Seattle in 1993, and soon after co-founded the Seattle EXperimental Opera, which has produced five of his operas. Asplund has also performed regularly in northwest jazz festivals and clubs as an out-jazz violist and harmoniumist. His music appears on several CDs and is broadcast regularly. He is the recipient of several grants and awards, and two of his articles have appeared in "Perspectives of New Music." Asplund currently lives in Norman, Oklahoma with his wife and three daughters, where he is assistant professor and chair of the composition department at the University of Oklahoma. Contact Christian Asplund at asplund@ou.edu.

About Symphony No. 4

Symphony No. 4 is a large-scale work for chamber orchestra with four percussion soloists. Asplund's writing contrasts the typical percussion timbres (wood, metal, stretched skins, etc.) with the more unusual percussive sounds of paper. In one section, three of the percussionists slap, rattle, and strike paper bags, while another rhythmically tears pages out of a phone book. Asplund mixes these percussive textures into the orchestral sound, creating a new sound that flows and turns and pulls the listener along with it. This symphony, like much of Asplund's music, explores contrasts: loud, unrelenting, repetitive sections are juxtaposed with long-tone glissando passages; extended percussion cadenzas fade into bombastic melodic lines.


Tom Baker has been a prominent composer and performer in Seattle since arriving in 1994. As co-founder of the Seattle EXperimental Opera (SEXO) and curator of the Seattle Composers' Salon, he is dedicated to composing, producing, and promoting the new music for which the region is fast becoming known. Tom's works have been performed throughout the United States and Canada, as well as in Europe. He has been guest conductor for the Seattle Creative Orchestra, composer-in-residence for the Esoterics, and has received awards from the Jack Straw Foundation, the Washington State Arts Commission, and Artist Trust. Tom completed his Doctorate of Musical Arts in 1996 at the University of Washington and has studied composition with Chinary Ung and John Rahn.
Contact Tom Baker at tom@presentsounds.com.

About Negative Space

Negative Space is a musical mobile of floating sounds that circle one another while seeming somehow to remain unaware of each other's presence. It relies on a sparse texture and long, fluid gestures to create a world of sound that seems to fold into itself and become a static object, free of time. Musical events are elongated through slowly evolving textures, extensions and collisions of sound. The foreground and back-ground relationships of these events become blurred so that the musical gesture may be both figure and ground in the context of the larger sonic environment. Often, the listener must choose his or her own focus; which is the musical event, and which is the negative space around it?



Christopher DeLaurenti is a composer and new music rabblerouser. A vital presence in the Northwest new music scene, Christopher has performed at many leading experimental music festivals, including OmniMedia v0.5, the 4th Olympia Experimental Music Festival, as well as on Sonarchy, broadcast live on KCMU-FM in Seattle. He serve's as Ship's Sturgeon aboard the Tentacle, a bi-monthly print magazine that chronicles adventurous and experimental music in North America's Pacific Northwest. Christopher is also part of "rebreather," who improvise live electronic music from the digital glossolalia of sabotaged consumer electronics, homebrew circuits, and obsolete devices. Christopher's music has been heard in countries around the world, from England's BBC Radio 3 to Latvian Radio, as well as across the United States and Canada. Contact Christopher DeLaurenti at chris@delaurenti.net.


About Three Camels for Orchestra

Three Camels for Orchestra scrambles and reinvigorates the syntax of symphonic music through the riotous deployment of triumphant cadences, arctic blocs of sound, tuttis, and sonic homophones. It is a work of sharp edges and quick turns; it creates a musical world that is at once both familiar and alien. Working with recorded sounds and "secret" tape splicing techniques, DeLaurenti weaves together diverse musical material into a distinctive texture, resulting in a dense, fast-moving, rather lucid collage of instrumental sounds. The musical fragments are like the spokes of a wheel; they are meaningless until combined together, each part contributing to the whole. When the piece is moving at full speed, there is no time for reflection upon the spokes; only the wheel itself is perceived.

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Reviews


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Gavin Borchert is a critic for the Seattle Weekly.


Gavin Borchert is a critic for the Seattle Weekly.


Northwest Triptych: New Music for Orchestra
Present Sounds Recordings (www.presentsounds.com)

* * *

Seattle’s reputation in the world of classical music recording is dominated by the prolific Seattle Symphony and its devotion to the mainstream American symphonic tradition. Northwest Triptych, the debut disc on the Present Sounds label, seems to deliberately challenge this reputation by spotlighting orchestral works from adventurous local composers rather than from conservative East Coast ones. It includes two works played by the Seattle Creative Orchestra conducted by Roger Nelson, and a concrete piece made up of orchestral sounds.

Christian Asplund's half-hour Symphony No. 4 is cinematically episodic, a suite of "hooks," a series of little obsessions, in each of which Asplund sets up ostinatos and keeps them percolating much longer than a less courageous composer--one with less faith in the intrinsic interest of his or her material--would dare to. How good it is to hear musical ideas allowed to have their full say, especially in an age in which orchestral composers are preoccupied with "accessibility," a doctrine that usually indicates an insulting distrust of a listener's attention span. Only composers whose aural imagination is less rich than Asplund's (paper bags as percussion instruments!) have to worry about this. Asplund is also known for his music-theater pieces, reflective and unconventional works unapologetically designated "operas." Asked about his use of this term in an interview, he responded, "That's part of the reason I chose it, because it's so loaded. . . I'm always interested in reclaiming things that have become useless." Thus, too, his use of the term "symphony," with all its cultural baggage, for this idiosyncratic work.

There's a similar pomo irony in Chris DeLaurenti's title, a familiar nomenclature: _____ _____s for Orchestra, in this case Three Camels, as others have used Two Movements, Four Etudes, Six Pieces. This recycling spirit (to be expected from environmentally-conscious Seattle composers?) extends into the music; Three Camels is a dense, fast-moving, rather lurid tape collage of sounds. Among the fragments of other recordings heard here, bits from Mozart's Symphony No. 40, Adams' Harmonielehre, Rhapsody in Blue and the waltz from Swan Lake leap out, in addition to the E-minor chord, a split-second long but unmistakably recognizable, that opens Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms. The listener’s challenge is not to let the Name-That-Quote game distract from DeLaurenti's brilliantly skilled control of pacing and texture. The piece ends with a compilation of endings--climactic final notes from other pieces that tumble over each other like exploding fireworks.

In Tom Baker's Negative Space, the solo guitar (Michael Partington) and the instruments of the orchestra float back and forth through a sonic void, creating uneasily, constantly shifting contexts for each other—a sense of mutual distance not just spatial but psychological. This effect is most chilling at the work's end, as the solo guitar noodles woozily along, ignoring the melodramatic orchestral screams which collapse out of exhaustion into convulsive shudders.
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