In a Treeless Place, Only Snow - John Luther Adams
American Contemporary Music Ensemble
Live at (le) Poisson Rouge
March 14th, 2010
Timo Andres - celeste
Nuiko Wadden - harp
Haruka Fujii, Chris Thompson - vibraphones
Caleb Burhans, Yuki Numata - violins
Nadia Sirota - viola
Clarice Jensen - cello
The entire show, including more John Luther Adams and Kevin Volans, is streaming on Q2 here.
This whole post is an excuse to put up a couple recently uncovered drum corps related items. Here's some context:
Traditions have a way of sticking for years or decades in drum corps, be they emotional or borderline psychotic. For one, there's a lot of tradition related to the way the corps moves around before and after the show; 128 people need to get from place to place and on/off the field without breaking character. Stay in step in this situation, walk casually focused in that situation, don't let people break the ranks, don't run in uniform, hold your hat this way not that way, it can get pretty military-ish (blah). But the post show playoff is a cool moment of charming simplicity. Drumlines have been playing parade-ey cadences for ever and ever (some are so great), but I'm not exactly sure when the post-show playoff became the specific responsibility of the bass drum line. Here is the most famous one, if only because of its weirdly ominous simplicity. But here is the classic Santa Clara Vanguard playoff, which has walked the corps off the field for no less than 35 years straight in one form or another, and is referred to by the line as simply "SCV."
I wanted to post this because I finally got around to uploading a video I've been hanging onto for a while: the 1995 bass line, who loved to grab attention in any way they possibly could (it was a long, difficult summer), used to park in front of the stands and extend that cadence into a little post-show. This is the last half of it:
SCV Bass Drum Line 1995 play "Strange Purple Orangoutans" by Ryan Stohs after an early season show in California.
Apologies about embarrassing over-excited drunk guy superfan. That tends to happen. After that summer I had an inspired moment and wrote a playoff of my own, also set up with the classic "SCV" riff, but for the whole drumline. I'm sure nobody ever saw it. I threw it into a box, which I just discovered the other day, omg 15 years later? Crazy. I remember the feeling of writing drumline music back then; it was so exciting to be creating music of my own (I knew next to nothing at that point about writing for pitched instruments, only drums) but also frustrating because I just had to imagine what it might have sounded like. Because of the time involved in learning music and getting 20 kids to play it well enough to be even just recognizable, there just weren't opportunities for "readings" back then.
Playoff (1995, after "SCV")
But NOW! My computer is full of tiny magical robots that can read music and also play the drums! So all I have to do is put the notes in to the lefty software Sibelius (also crucial here is Tapspace's "Virtual Drumline," sample library, which every composer should know about because in addition to having the only library of realistic marching percussion samples, it also has some of the best orchestral percussion samples as well), and I can hear just what that piece of music would sound like, played by a live drumline. And so can you!
(audio file above! If you are using google reader, you have to click through to listen)
If you want to see how this all works on the score, here it is!
I plan to write more drumline music but need to figure out a possible scenario in which that might be appropriate in my life today. I'm open to suggestions.
a) ...have a listen to Daníel Bjarnason on Q2. The full recording of his recent show at LPR is now available streaming on the WQXR website here. Daníel is from Iceland and writes contemplative music that features bowed things, absolutely great use of percussion, and gorgeous orchestration.
For example, here's my favorite bit of Spindrift; the soloist slips into the background and you get a simple pairing of vibe and clarinet with piano and tuned gongs gently hovering above and below. It's Orchestration We Can Believe In:
Spindrift - by Daníel Bjarnason (Featuring Vicky Chow, pianist)
And that's also Alicia Lee playing clarinet and Mike Truesdell playing gongs, who has a recital Friday that you should totally go to! (note: if you are using google reader, there is an audio file above you are not seeing, click through to the post to listen).
b) ...check out Alex Ross' followup post on drum corps/marching bands doing Shostakovich. Apparently there were others who wanted to make sure the Phantom Regiment wasn't overlooked (and also point out a Shostakovich 5 from the mid-70s I literally had NO IDEA EXISTED. Warning: those 70s bugles are a little intense). I realize I could have definitely been clearer in my post about my main point, which is simply that it isn't just about Shostakovich; these groups have been doing seriously adventurous repertoire by lots of different 20th century composers since at least the early 90s. For example, the group I marched with's 2010 show is Bartok's CONCERTO FOR ORCHESTRA. !!! Bring. It. On. dotcom. Alas, there are not videos yet. But here's their plan.
c) ...watch some dudes in haz-mat uniforms play crotales made out of saw blades. I feel this requires no further explanation.
"Breathing Out," by Doveman: Thomas Bartlett, Sam Amidon, Bryce Dessner, Brian Devendorf, and Oren Bloedow. From the new album.