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yale percussion group

Robert van Sice, Director November 20, 2014 • Sagamore Ballroom, Indianapolis

Robert Blocker, Dean


Yale School of Music • Robert Blocker, Dean

yale percussion group Thursday, November 20, 2014 • 10:00 am • Sagamore Ballroom, Indianapolis Robert van Sice, director

James Wood b. 1956

Village Burial With Fire Yifei Fu Matt Keown Kramer Milan Georgi Videnov

Steve Reich b. 1936

Sextet Yifei Fu Matt Keown Kramer Milan Jeff Stern Terrence Sweeney Georgi Videnov

The Yale Percussion Group would like to thank Adams/Pearl and Vic Firth for their extraordinary continued support.


Notes on the Program

Founded in 1997 by Robert van Sice, the Yale Percussion Group has been called “something truly extraordinary” by composer Steve Reich. It is composed of talented and dedicated young artists who have come from around the world for graduate study at the Yale School of Music. Members of the YPG have gone on to form the acclaimed percussion quartet Sō, and to perform with the Oslo Philharmonic and Auckland Philharmonic, and are percussionists in America’s great chamber music ensembles including Chamber Music at Lincoln Center, and the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble. Currently, alumni of YPG teach at the University of Miami, Michigan State University, Baylor University, Bard College, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Cornell, University of Alabama, Notre Dame, and Dartmouth University, and the University of Kansas. Robert van Sice, percussion, has premiered more than one hundred works, including concertos, chamber music, and solos. He has made solo appearances with symphony orchestras and given recitals in Europe, North America, Africa, and the Far East. In 1989 he gave the first fulllength marimba recitals at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and has since played in most of Europe’s major concert halls, many of which have been broadcast by the BBC, Swedish Radio, Norwegian Radio, WDR, and Radio France. He is frequently invited as a soloist with Europe’s leading contemporary music ensembles and festivals, including the London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Contrechamps, and L’Itinéraire and the Archipel, Darmstadt, and North American new music festivals. From 1988 to 1997 he headed Europe’s first diploma program for solo marimbists at the Rotterdam Conservatorium. Mr. van Sice has given master classes in more than twenty countries and frequently visits the major conservatories in Europe as a guest lecturer. He joined the Yale faculty in the fall of 1997.

james wood Village Burial with Fire (1989) Paul Klee used to refer to his own work as “abstract with memories.” I hope he will allow me to borrow the term, at least in this instance. Here the memories are of a Hindu, princely funeral ceremony - for two months the villagers have been making preparations - hundreds have turned out wearing their most lavish and colourful clothes, and carrying offerings of food on their heads. First there is the noisy procession down to the river for purification of the soul, then a short ceremony, and then the vast funeral pyre is set alight. At this moment it seems as though the whole village has exploded into music and dancing - soon, some go into trance. Gradually the physical form of the pyre disintegrates, and the spirit of the deceased is formally set free to mingle with the spirit world. In the evening, when the festivities have moved on to another place, some mourners lament beside the glowing embers. Village Burial with Fire was commissioned by the Hungarian percussion group Amadinda for the 1989 Arts Council Contemporary Music Network, with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain. The first nine performances were given by Amadinda during their Arts Council tour of Britain during November 1989 in London, Leicester, Winchester, Cheltenham, Bristol, Manchester, Durham, Sheffield and Huddersfield. — James Wood


Notes on the Program

steve reich Sextet Sextet is in five movements played without pause. The relationship of the five movements is that of an arch form, A-B-C-B-A. The first and last movements are fast, the second and fourth moderate and the third, slow. Changes of tempo are made abruptly at the beginning of new movements by metric modulation to either get slower or faster. Movements are also organized harmonically with the chord cycle for the first and fifth, another for the second and fourth, and yet another for the third. The harmonies used are largely dominant chords with added tones creating a somewhat darker, chromatic, and more varied harmonic language were suggested by The Desert Music (1984). Percussion instruments mostly produce sounds of relatively short duration. In this piece, I was interested in overcoming that limitation. The use of the bowed vibraphone, not merely as a passing effect, but as a basic instrumental voice in the second movement, was one means of getting long continuous sounds not possible with piano. The mallet instruments (marimba, vibraphone, etc.) are basically instruments of high and middle register without a low range. To overcome this limit the bass drum was used doubling the piano or synthesizer played in their lower register, particularly in the second, third, and fourth movements. Compositional techniques used include some introduced in my music as early as Drumming in 1971. In particular the substitution of beats for rests to “build-up� a canon between two or more identical instruments playing the same repeating pattern is used extensively in the first and last movements. Sudden change of rhythmic position (or phase) of one voice in an overall repeating contrapuntal web first occurs in my

Six Pianos of 1973 and occurs throughout this work. Double canons, where one canon moves slowly (the bowed vibraphones) and the second moves quickly (the pianos), first appear in my music in Octet of 1979. Techniques influenced by African music, where the basic ambiguity in meters of 12 beats is between 3 groups of 4 and 4 groups of 3, appear in the third and fifth movements. A rhythmically ambiguous pattern is played by vibraphones in the third movement, but at a much faster tempo. The result is to change the perception of what is in fact not changing. Another related, more recent technique appearing near the end of the fourth movement is to gradually remove the melodic material in the synthesizers leaving the accompaniment of the two vibraphones to become the new melodic focus. Similarly, the accompaniment in the piano in the second movement becomes the melody for the synthesizer in the fourth movement. The ambiguity here is between which is melody and which is accompaniment. In music which uses a great deal of repetition, I believe it is precisely these kinds of ambiguities that give vitality and life. Sextet was commissioned by Laura Dean Dancers and Musicians and by the French government for the Nexus Percussion Ensemble. – Steve Reich

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Yale Percussion Group, Nov 20