Thursday, January 22, 2009

What "inspires" us?

I wish to thank David Steffens and the Bass School of Music at Oklahoma City University for coordinating yesterday's lecture session and concert by Steven Schick.

As I sat and listened to Professor Schick's discussion of some of the monuments of solo percussion music (Xenakis, Ferneyhough, Globokar), as well as the artist's masterfully-communicated performances, I found myself continually pondering, "What is it about this experience that is inspiring me?" For of course, it most certainly was.

Inspiration seems to come in many forms, at least for me, many of which might find a more suitable home in the motivational category. After all inspiration, on a practical level, is essentially a motivation to do or act toward that which we think may restore a once-beloved activity or endeavor (or germinate a new one). Simple enough, but what I struggled with, throughout this recent experience with Mr. Schick, was trying to evaluate and get to the very heart of this reactionary feeling.

Was I responding to the sincerity of the artist's devotion to his craft? How could he possibly spend that much time learning these complex pieces? If so, perhaps I was questioning my own dedication. I waste so much time during practice. Questioning my very motives. Do I like this music enough to pretend to like it as much as he does? Should that matter at all? Questioning whether or not I possess the "mettle" to study such music for the necessary length of time to achieve such a level of understanding. He's been playing some of this music for 30 years. I can't fathom that right now. Is it worth it for me to even think in such terms of proficiency?

Such a line of thought is, admittedly, embarrassingly superficial. We percussionists are known for that. Even so, what immediately strikes me about Steven Schick is not his technical prowess, or even his seemingly limitless capacity for accurately committing complex music to memory, but rather the way that his being seems to eminate artistry -- not simply externally, but from the deepest reaches of his soul. Schick lives and breathes this music on such an organic level that one can truly hear the mind of the composer speaking through artist -- the medium.

For me, in my warped mind (supposing that all artists' minds are blissfully warped), all of this questioning does indeed provide true inspiration -- if only the inspiration to question further. At its simplest, an experience such as this one can serve as a rejuvinator toward achieving at a higher (or at least more dedicated) level, and far be it from me to attempt to rob anyone of that very real gift. But I wonder if perhaps I'm only beginning to learn what truly drives me as an artist, and how that will inevitably change over the course of my life.

At any rate, thank you Steven.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Blake Tyson Recording Session

Happy New Year to All!

I had the recent pleasure of working on Blake Tyson's current solo recording project in Norman, OK. Blake is a former teacher of mine, as well as a dear friend and colleague, and truly one of the finest marimba artists in the country.

He is also a composer of wonderfully energetic and soulful music for percussion and chamber instruments, and this recording will feature several of his newest works, including Cloud Forest for solo marimba and percussion quartet (which I was honored to "produce"). To learn more about Dr. Tyson, or to contact him, check out his website.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Thom Hasenpflug Project

Yes, it does indeed sound like a progressive rock band from the 1970s.

Thom Hasenpflug is quickly becoming one of the most well-respected composers of percussion and chamber music in America. His unique voice, an intellectual marriage of harmonic complexity and rhythmic voracity, presents a gratifying challenge to any performing percussionist.

I am extremely excited to have embarked on a recording project with Thom, to be released in the Fall of 2009. This recording will feature two of his more challenging (and seldom performed) works for marimba, Six Bagatelles and All Hallow's Eve, as well as his first vocal/percussion contribution, a duet for vibraphone and soprano entitled Cardinal Directions.

I may be the most excited about the multi-percussion solo Thom is writing for me, to be premiered in April and subsequently recorded. This will be his first multi-percussion solo, and if his existing catalogue of percussion ensemble works is any indication, it promises to be an instant-classic.

The back half of this project, a possible lecture-performance at PASIC 2009 in Indianapolis, has yet to be determined, but we should receive notification from the PAS Executive Committee in the coming months. If you'd like to learn more about Dr. Hasenpflug, check out his website, or visit his ISU faculty page.