Trillium Ensemble | Silent Spring

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Silent Spring

by Trillium Ensemble

Powerfully emotional music for flute, clarinet, and piano that explores concrete and abstract concepts, such as astronomy, cosmology, nature, the future, the unknown, humanity’s quest for knowledge, and the role of mankind in the universe.
Genre: Classical: Chamber Music
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  Song Share Time Download
1. A Citizen of the 21st Century Looks Back
8:13 album only
2. Sonata Deus Ex Machina: 1. Deus Ex
5:54 album only
3. Sonata Deus Ex Machina: 2. Machina
6:54 album only
4. Borealis: 1. Reflection
6:49 album only
5. Borealis: 2. Dance
6:07 album only
6. E to the X
8:05 album only
7. Silent Spring
11:02 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
All of the music on the Silent Spring album was recorded in the summer of 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the home-studio of pianist Katie Palumbo. Katie's home was transformed into a recording studio thanks to the creativity and talent of sound designer Don Maue and producer Jason Allison.

This album inspired the creation of The Silent Spring Project, a concert which premiered in April of 2016 as part of the 2015-2016 season of the New Hazlett Theater’s Community Supported Art (CSA) Performance Series. The Silent Spring Project is an immersive musical experience, surrounding the audience with sound, light, music, and storytelling. The writings of Rachel Carson and Buckminster Fuller influenced this project, which explores our ideas of environmentalism, sustainability, and humanity’s role in the natural world.


MARK FROMM is a composer, musician, teacher, and artist who is fascinated and inspired by science, nature, astronomy, cosmology, and the unknown: ideas which he strives to bring to life in his work.

His best work has come from commissions and the resulting collaboration with performers and conductors, including The Pittsburgh Philharmonic Orchestra, for whom he wrote the tone poem Frick Gates; the Baltimore ensemble Symphony Number One, writing his own Symphony No. 1; Carnegie Mellon University's incredible Contemporary Music Ensemble, writing his contrabassoon concerto Lingua Cosmica, which, as a bassoon player, was a dream come true; and the Pittsburgh trio Trillium Ensemble, writing Silent Spring, based on ideas from Rachel Carson's landmark book of the same name.

Fromm was born and raised in Pittsburgh and received his BFA in Composition from Carnegie Mellon, studying with Nancy Galbraith, Leonardo Balada, and Efrain Amaya. He then moved to Montreal to earn his master's degree at McGill University, studying with John Rea, before returning to Pittsburgh and earning his PhD at the University of Pittsburgh, studying with Amy Williams, Mathew Rosenblum, and Eric Moe. He now teaches music theory, composition, solfege, and rock orchestra at the Creative and Performing Arts School for grades 6-12 in downtown Pittsburgh to some of the most creative and motivated young musicians in the area.

The 2014-15 school year was a whirlwind of activity with the commissioning, composing, and premiering of his contrabassoon concerto and his first symphony, both longer than any other pieces he had ever written. In 2016 he is looking forward to the performance of an ongoing collaboration with Trillium Ensemble; they are putting together a performance of five of his chamber pieces called The Silent Spring Project, which will be brought to life with live electronics, lighting, projections, and geodesic domes as part of the New Hazlett Theater's CSA series.

TRILLIUM ENSEMBLE is Pittsburgh’s only professional chamber music trio with the unique instrumentation of flute, clarinet and piano. Members Elise DePasquale, Rachael Stutzman Cohen, and Katie Palumbo are dedicated to performing a wide range of musical styles at the highest artistic level, while maintaining a special passion for recently composed music and collaboration with composers to create new works. Since its inception in 2010, the trio has premiered and commissioned works by composers Fernando Benadon, Christopher Catone, Mark S. Fromm, Federico Garcia, Nathan Hall, Matthew Heap, Scott Steele, and David B. Thomas.

Embracing chamber music’s unique ability to intimately engage audiences, Trillium Ensemble seeks out creative ways to connect with its listeners. Performances include discussions about music and invitations for active audience participation. The ensemble enjoys collaborating with composers, visual artists, and videographers to present contemporary music in fresh and innovative ways. Outreach and education are also very important to the members of the trio. Katie, Elise and Rachael instruct music students individually and in group master classes. The trio conducts classes for young musicians and workshops for non-music students to help them understand and appreciate music and how it can enhance creativity. Trillium Ensemble’s educational commitment extends to student composers by offering opportunities for them to have their pieces performed by professional musicians.

Other notable concerts include a residency at American University (D.C.) where the ensemble read and performed student compositions, held a masterclass for students performing contemporary chamber works, and performed a concert of which included the music of American University faculty, Heap and Benadon. In Pittsburgh, the ensemble has performed in several of the city’s concert series including Bach, Beethoven and Brunch, Friday Afternoon Musicale Series at Chatham University, and Artful Wednesdays Series at the University of Pittsburgh. Trillium has also participated in the 2014 Pittsburgh Festival of New Music’s Soundpike and often performs live on Pittsburgh’s classical music station, WQED 89.3 FM.

Future projects include another performance in the 2016 PFNM Soundpike and a collaboration with composer Patrick Burke in 2017.


A Citizen of the 21st Century Looks Back (2009) - Flute, Clarinet, Piano and Percussion
This work was inspired by Buckminster Fuller's book "Utopia or Oblivion: The Prospects for Humanity". The piece pairs off the instruments in two separate, unrelated rhythmic worlds; the piano and percussion provide a flexible, fluid fabric over which the flute and clarinet play a sinewy duo. The instruments eventually lock into the same tempo, only to break away into their own rhythmic worlds again. Trillium Ensemble is joined by guest percussionist, Scott Christian, on crotales and vibraphone.

Sonata Deus Ex Machina (2006) - Bass Clarinet and Piano
Deus Ex Machina is a Latin phrase meaning "God from the Machine". It was the name given to a device used in Greek and Roman theater, in which an actor playing a god or goddess would be lowered onto the stage by a machine and then resolve a hopeless situation. It has come to refer to any seemingly hopeless circumstance in a story which is resolved through unlikely or impossible means. This piece refers to both the literary and linguistic implications of the phrase. The two movements are quite different in character, though they share some thematic and harmonic ideas. The first movement, Deus Ex ("God from..."), is slow, lyrical, introspective, and questioning, with broad musical gestures. It is a meditation on the existence and implications of a higher power, with no real conclusion. As the movement fades away and dies out without resolution, a musical deus ex machina occurs: the second movement begins abruptly (the machine is lowered into place), allowing the music to continue on its course. This movement, Machina ("The Machine"), is fast, asymmetrical, jagged, and declaratory, with short, minute musical gestures. It flows steadily and mechanically with constant motion throughout. The bass clarinet cadenza towards the end of this movement is a mechanical wind-up of the themes and ideas presented earlier in the movement, which accelerate and culminate in a statement of the Deus Ex theme, signaling the lowering of the God into place.

Borealis (2005) - Flute and Piano
"Borealis" (Latin for "North") was written during a time of transition in composer Mark Fromm's life, when he moved north from Pennsylvania to Quebec. Both movements use the same melodic seed which grows into long, soaring melodies; both movements also try to reconcile the dissonant tritone interval in ways that negate its dissonance. The first movement ("Reflection") begins quietly and pensively, with the flute melody gradually growing more assertive and dominant before ebbing again to its initial state. The second movement ("Dance") takes the same melody to a more lively and rhythmic place, with the flute and piano continually trying to reconcile whether the B's should be flat or natural.

e to the x (2013) - Alto Flute, Bass Clarinet and Piano
e to the x consists primarily of fast, rhythmic, undulating, angular melodic lines whose range begins in the bottom register of the piano and, over the course of the piece, climbs to the high extreme register. This range expansion happens exponentially (mathematically, this is described by the function f(x) = e^x); the range stays mostly in the bottom register for the first half of the piece, with almost all of the ascent occurring at the end of the piece. The lowest points in the piano melody follow this curve, while the woodwind lines swirl around it.

Silent Spring (2012) - Flute, Clarinet/Bass Clarinet and Piano/Soprano
In 1962, Pittsburgh-native Rachel Carson published her landmark book "Silent Spring", which exposed the ecological impact of releasing man-made chemicals into the environment, in particular the negative impact that the insecticide DDT had on birds and also humans. The title of the book was inspired by a line from the poem "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" by John Keats:
The sedge is wither'd from the lake
And no birds sing
In this piece, the singer sings that line from the poem, while other text fragments of the poem are whispered under the flowing music; the sounds and text together conjure up peaceful visions of the wilderness. The singer then vocalizes a soaring melody representing singing birds. When this melody returns later in the piece, it is played by the flute blowing air through the instrument without tone, representing the absence of the singing birds.



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