Concerto for Percussion Quartet
Instrumentation: 2 flutes (both doubling piccolos), 2 Bb clarinets, 1 bassoon, soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax, bari sax, percussion quartet soloists, 2 Bb trumpets, 2 F horns, 2 trombones, 1 tuba, piano, 3 section percussion, double bass.
I have tremendous respect for renewable energy initiatives and the commitment to creating a new, better reality for us all. Re(new)al is a percussion quartet concerto that is similarly devoted to finding unexpected ways to breathe new life into traditional ideas, and the solo quartet therefore performs on several “found” instruments, including crystal glasses and compressed air cans. And while the piece also features more traditional instruments, such as snare drum and vibraphone, I looked for ways to either alter their sounds or find new ways to play them. For instance, a single snare drum is played by all four members of the quartet, and certain notes of the vibraphone are prepared with aluminum foil to recreate sounds found in electronic music. The entire piece was conceived in this way, and even the accompaniment was written these ideas in mind.
Cooperation and synergy are also core themes of the piece, as I believe we all have to work together to move forward. All of the music played by the solo quartet is comprised of single musical ideas that are evenly distributed between the four soloists (for those interested, the fancy musical term for this is a hocket). The music would therefore be dysfunctional without the presence and dedication of all four members. For example, the quartet divvies up lightning-fast drum set beats in the second movement and then shares one glockenspiel in the last movement. But perhaps my favorite example of synergy in the piece is in the very opening, where the four soloists toast crystal glasses. We always toast glasses in the presence of others, and oftentimes to celebrate new beginnings. This is my simple way of celebrating everyone who is working together to create a cleaner, more efficient world.
Re(new)al is constructed of three continuous movements, each inspired by the power of hydro, wind, and solar energies. The hydro movement transforms tuned crystal glasses into ringing hand bells as the wind ensemble slowly submerges the soloists in their sound. The second movement turns each member of the quartet into a blade of a dizzying wind turbine, playing seemingly-impossible 90’s-inspired drum and bass patterns. The closing movement simulates a sunrise and evokes the brilliance of sunlight with metallic percussion instruments. This piece was originally written with a sinfonietta accompaniment, and in its original form was commissioned for the 2017 American Music Festival by David Alan Miller and the Albany Symphony’s Dogs of Desire in partnership with GE Renewable Energy. A full orchestra version was commissioned in 2018 by the Albany Symphony, a wind ensemble version was commissioned by a consortium of universities and community ensembles in 2019, and this chamber winds version was commissioned in 2021 by Thomas Verrier and the Vanderbilt Wind Symphony. Heartfelt thanks to everyone who has been involved in any of the four versions of this piece.