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Sam Kohler New Music Ensemble | Synchromy

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Synchromy

by Sam Kohler New Music Ensemble

Contemporary chamber music that explores such diverse ideas as color-music, war, death, and love.
Genre: Classical: Chamber Music
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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Synchromy No. 1 for Chamber Ensemble: I. Purple
7:52 $0.99
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2. Synchromy No. 1 for Chamber Ensemble: II. Red and Black
6:23 $0.99
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3. Synchromy No. 1 for Chamber Ensemble: III. Green and Blue
4:38 $0.99
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4. Synchromy No. 1 for Chamber Ensemble: IV. Orange and Yellow
7:22 $0.99
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5. String Quartet No. 3 in C Minor
7:38 $0.99
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6. Siddhartha
10:07 $0.99
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7. Hymns of Haze: I. Movement I
1:51 $0.99
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8. Hymns of Haze: II. Movement II
3:18 $0.99
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9. Hymns of Haze: III. Movement III
7:01 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Synchromy was an art movement in the early 20th-century, led by Americans Stanton MacDonald-Wright and Morgan Russell. Their concept was that color and music are very closely related, and that this could be interpreted through painting. While it is considered to be an offshoot of the larger abstract expressionist movement, the important aspect that sets it apart (and doomed its chance at popularity) is the inclusion of non-abstract elements.

I first discovered their work in August 2012 when I was at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) with my dad. I walked into a room where MacDonald-Wright's work "Synchromy in Purple" was showing and I stopped in my tracks. The painting was stuck in my head for the rest of the day. It was, to me, what a person would look like in a world of pure color. What, then, would music of pure color sound like? Music that sought to describe the color purple, or red, as it is? Imagine listening to an orchestra play a piece that literally made you see the color purple.

The relation between color and music is nothing new; there is a sensation some experience called 'synesthesia', where they hear notes or tonalities and see colors that correspond to those notes/tonalities. There are also types of synesthesia that do the same for letters or numbers. Messiaen famously wrote works based on his synesthesia (such as the second movement in the Quartet for the End of Time that contains "blue-orange chords"), and on the other end Kandinsky painted based on his experiences with synesthesia.

When I sat down to actually compose pure color music, I decided to take it less literally. Because I was not born with synesthesia, I instead experience color-music in terms of scenes. I have been attracted to the medium of film my entire life, and the connection between film and music is, in my opinion, similar to the connection between color and music. Thus, the Synchromy as I compose it is, in a sense, a film score: one for a film where color is central to the story line, and carries a metaphorical weight.

In Synchromy No. 1, there is no indication as to what these metaphors are, and so it seems as though the piece is literal. This was intentional, as I wished to have the listener create their own story to the color-music so they could experience it in a way unique to themselves. This has, I must admit, backfired in some ways, as listeners who actually do have synesthesia often come up to me after performances and guiltily admit that they saw all the wrong colors during the piece.

In future Synchromies, I will continue to explore the idea of pure color-music. It is my hope that the openness of the Synchromy as a musical form will lend itself to a lot of new music from different composers who all have different concepts and approaches to the form.

My uncle, Leonard Read Kohler, is not only one of my favorite composers; he has also a huge influence on my music since when I began composing. Lee’s music has the mark of his decades of experience as a church organist. All of his music, especially his landmark works with his bands In Flight and This World, reflect a spiritual sensibility that alludes to religious devotion and divine love but refrains from feeling exclusive or assertive. His First Symphony is subtitled “For a World at War,” and this is a very apt description for his String Quartet No. 3 in C Minor as well. The work, composed for the Cascade String Quartet in Great Falls, Montana, moves from a funereal elegy to a quick and tense section that evolves into a jubilant song that seems to signify the conclusion of war and the beginning of peace. The work then ends on a note that is as delicate and fragile as peace tends to be.

Siddhartha began as a commission from my good friends Lucy Tucker and Judy Watts, two incredibly talented dancers. We had many conversations about the piece, and it evolved from a purely music-dance work to an exploration of a deeply profound poem by Mary Oliver. The poem, entitled “The Buddha’s Last Instruction,” ponders the meaning of the words the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama said just before he died. The structure of the piece is in three parts. The first is expository, giving context to the beauty of the man, his ideas, and the scene around him. The second part, dense and upset, has an almost mourning quality to it. The finale is the emotional climax of the work. Listening to it, I think the Buddha is represented in the voice. As the voice leaves, the Buddha too passes on, leaving us with his memory, his teachings, and this thought: “Make of yourself a light.”


Jamie Koffler’s Hymns of Haze is, in the composer’s words, “pure in conception and composition.” The purity comes through his method of composing using his intuition and critical ear. Musically speaking, the result is a specific style of repetition and complex harmonic motion, a trait of minimalist music. However, this work introduces Koffler’s harmonic and rhythmic sophistication, which has reached new heights in his latest works. Conceptually, he says, the work is “an expression of attempting to figure out love.” Indeed, the work seems to go through many stages, from the ethereal and sustained movement to the pulsing second movement, which is essentially a variation on a theme provided by the first. The third movement, then, is the true journey, led by the various sonorities of the solo violin, which leads the ensemble all the way through to a softly fulfilling ending.

A lot of thought and care went into the creation of this album. I would like to give a special thanks to the people who made it all happen:

-To all the donors to our fundraising campaign, this couldn’t have happened without every single one of you!
-To all the musicians and composers who make up the Sam Kohler New Music Ensemble. You all turned a dream into a glorious reality, and your collective abilities and musicianship inspire me every day.
-To Michelle, Rob, Wesley, Maja, Kate, and Marjorie Kohler
-To Judy Watts and Lucy Tucker
-To Matt Wood and all of our friends at St. Paul Lutheran

I would like to dedicate this album to the color Green, and to all those who love it.

Thanks for listening,
Sam Kohler

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