A LITTLE AMHERST MUSIC
As a pianist, Lawrence Axelrod has tried to marry his interests in travel and music in addition to performing closer to home.
He has performed recitals in Auckland (twice), Wellington (three times) and Christchurch, New Zealand; Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa; Stockholm, Sweden; Lahr, Germany and Havana, Cuba (twice). In each of these places, he has played works by local composers.
He has a keen interest in works for electronic media and piano as well as purely acoustic works. He performs often on concerts of the Chicago Composers' Consortium as both soloist and chamber musician.
1 Songbook Miniatures - Eric Sawyer
2 The Somnambulist - Timothy Dwight Edwards
3 Box of Surprises - Dylan Schneider
4 Piano Games - Lawrence Axelrod
5 from Piano Rags - Lewis Spratlan
I. Goose Eye Rag
II. Pelham Lake Rag
6 Journey/Dream - Lawrence Axelrod
Songbook Miniatures - Eric Sawyer
Songbook Miniatures draws on elements of the great tradition of American song launched on Tin Pan Alley. Each of the five pieces has a characteristic rhythm, some made of several layers, but melody is never far from the surface. The pieces are nostalgic by design, but also celebrate the continuing possibilities of this musical legacy.
The music of Eric Sawyer receives frequent performances on both coasts, including at New York’s Weill and Merkin concert halls and at Tanglewood, as well as in England, France, Germany, and most recently in Romania and Bulgaria. Recent performances include works on programs by the San Jose Chamber Orchestra, Brentano String Quartet, Seraphim Singers, Ensemble Phoenix, Radius Ensemble, Laurel Trio, Now and Then Chamber Players, Aurelius Ensemble, Opera Longy, Ives Quartet, Arden Quartet, Lighthouse Chamber Players, Earplay, and Empyrean. His opera Our American Cousin was staged in 2008, featuring the Boston Modern Orchestra Project . His opera, The Garden of Martyrs, received its premiere performance on September 20, 2013 with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra. The opera was named a finalist for The American Prize, a national prize in opera composition. Sawyer’s latest opera, The Scarlet Professor , which premiered in the fall of 2017, won The American Prize.Currently, he is a professor of composition at Amherst College.
The Somnambulist - Timothy Dwight Edwards
The Somnambulist explores the surreal confrontation between the realms of sleep and wakefulness. The electronic part is constructed mostly of modified piano sounds, but twisted to give an effect that extends the sound palette of the piano in sometimes surreal ways. As a compositional study the piece explores the acoustical benefits of treating octave equivalence as a falsehood.
Timothy Edwards is a versatile composer both in electronic and live acoustic music. His solo, chamber and choral music combines rhythmic, avant-garde, jazz and contrapuntal elements that cross boundaries between musical genres and styles to create a highly personal expression.His music has been performed by numerous ensembles such as Trio Solis, Dal Niente, the Lincoln Trio, Eighth Blackbird, Pinotage, New York Virtuoso Singers, Double Entendre, Quintet Attacca, Chicago Composers Orchestra, Chicago Trio, CUBE, Ahlert & Schwab, the Contemporary Chamber Players (Contempo), Chicago Chamber Collective, and has appeared at music festivals such as the Bowling Green, and FSU festivals of new music, Outside the Box festival at SIU, Sonic Impact at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Eurofest Zupfmusik in Bamberg, Germany.His electroacoustic music has been presented at numerous concerts, festivals and conferences including the Society for Electroacoustic Music in Sweden, Stockholm, Outside the Box festival at SIUC, the Florida Electroacoustic Music Festival, Spark Festival of Electronic Music and Art, SEAMUS, Roosevelt University Electronic Music Festival and Electronic Music Midwest. His piece Xcymbalum for metallic percussion, flutes and live automated processing was premiered in 2013 by Due East and performed again recently. Recordings of Edwards’ music can be found on the Naxos, Navona and Albany labels.Formerly in the department of Audio Arts and Acoustics, Timothy Edwards now teaches in the Music Department where he founded the Columbia College Chicago Laptop Ensemble in the fall of 2011.
Box of Surprises - Dylan Schneider
The piece employs a cyclic form. At the outset, a constellation of motives, sonorities, and gestures emerge in stark juxtaposition. Each of these minute musical seeds is developed and juxtaposed again, in a more evolved iteration of the cycle. Wash, rinse, and repeat. Before long, it starts to take quite a bit of time to make it through any one of these individual strains: they each sprout into entire sections of music, often interrupting one another as bits of one strain intrude on another. I make a significant distinction in this piece between linear music (forward moving) and more static moments that afford the listener opportunities to reflect on where we’ve come--and how we got there.
Dylan Schneider is widely recognized as a leading voice among today’s generation of composers. His work, praised for its innovative structure and dramatic flair, has drawn an international audience and has been performed by Grammy-Award-winning ensembles such as Eighth Blackbird, the Pacifica String Quartet, and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. His latest opera, STRIP-TEASE, a surreal critique of the modus operandi of totalitarianism, received its recent premiere at Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts. Schneider's music pioneers a new frontier in performance, traversing the diversity of human experience with a sense of lyricism and play. A dynamic instructor and mentor, Schneider is dedicated to the artistic development and future success of his students.
Piano Games - Lawrence Axelrod
These four short etudes are intended to explore a quirky corner of piano technique - that of only using certain fingers for an entire piece. So the first etude uses only 1 and 2, the second 1,2 and 3, the third 1, 2, 3, and 4 and the fourth all five fingers. I tried to make them very varied pieces in terms of mood.
A review in Opera News states that Lawrence Axelrod is “a … composer whose fresh and distinctive music deserves to be more widely known.” He is a composer, pianist and conductor. Mr Axelrod’s musical activities have taken him around the United States, Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Mr. Axelrod has had works done by ~Nois, the London Sylvan Ensemble, Clocks in Motion and The Chicago Composers Orchestra in recent seasons. His music for The Scroll of Morlok was included in the Sound of Silent Film Festival presented by Access Contemporary Music in 2018.Mr. Axelrod is a founder and current member of the Chicago Composers’ Consortium. He is also the creator of Opera Adventures.
Piano Rags - Lewis Spratlan
Each of these pieces is linked with a prominent geographical feature in New England. The first three are tied to notable locations in the Mahoosuc Mountains, running diagonally from New Hampshire into Maine. The second three rags celebrate prominent features in Western Massachusetts. The sense of the various locations provides the main tissue of each piece, with ragtime music woven into the fabric, sometimes generating notes used at large, sometimes self-contained. The music stands for the human beholder in nature. Goose Eye Mountain Rag: This is one of the two highest peaks in the Mahoosucs, is a perfect cone, and rises from a long bare ride. It seems always to have its own wisp of clouds hovering just above. Pelham Lake Rag: This is a small body of water in the town of Rosw, that has a beach of trucked-in sand, playground equipment, canoes, and kayaks. It is family friendly, but ringed with dark high spruces and firs.
Lewis Spratlan, winner of the 2000 Pulitzer Prize in music for his opera Life is a Dream (Act II, concert version), is a widely performed and much honored composer. Often praised for his music's high dramatic impact and brilliant scoring, Spratlan is the recipient of grants and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, among many. A native of Miami, he studied with Mel Powell and Gunther Schuller at Yale, and has taught and conducted at Tanglewood, The Yale Summer School of Music and Art, and Amherst College, where he was on the faculty from 1970 until his retirement in 2006.His music has been performed in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, Pittsburgh, Miami, London, Brussels, Milan, Moscow, Montreal, Toronto, and, perhaps most frequently, Boston, where he has received commissions and premieres from the Boston Musica Viva, Dinosaur Annex Music Ensemble, soprano Karol Bennett, and pianist John McDonald. Other New England-based ensembles, including the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, the Lydian String Quartet, the Windsor Quartet, and Ancora have performed his works as well.
Journey/Dream - Lawrence Axelrod
Journey/Dream is the result of a trip to Japan in November 2017. Before I left, I had this inkling that I might be hearing things I would want to record for later use in a composition. To my surprise, I wandered not only into amazing natural sounds - crows, ocean, birds - but also music. In Okayama, there was a folk dance group performing outdoors at the castle, and in the garden, there was a Noh Theater performance. Outside the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, there was a busker playing a sort of steel drum. In Takayama, a priest was chanting behind the altar screens of a temple. In Naoshima, a street procession with drumming and cymbals passed by. Many temples had various bells, gongs and temple blocks. I did have advance notice for the magical sixteen strikes of the enormous bronze bell of Todaiji in Nara that happens at 8 pm - the end of my piece. The recorded sounds provide emotional underpinning, rhythmic impulse and musical emphasis for the acoustic piano part. These sounds, like the musical elements of the piano part, return at various points during the piece. Most notable are the enormous black crows, whose raucous and slightly sinister presence was in evidence everywhere I traveled.