About this Recording
8.572529 - MACKEY, J.: Strange Humors / DAUGHERTY, M.: Raise the Roof / Brooklyn Bridge / SYLER, J.: The Hound of Heaven (Rutgers Wind Ensemble, Berz)

Strange Humors:
John Mackey (b. 1973): Strange Humors
Michael Daugherty (b. 1954): Raise the Roof • Brooklyn Bridge
James Syler (b. 1961): The Hound of Heaven


John Mackey (b. 1973): Strange Humors

The original version of Strange Humors dates from 1998 and was for string quartet and djembe. Mackey wrote it while pursuing his graduate degree at The Juilliard School. It was soon adapted for use by the Parsons Dance Company, with choreography by Robert Battle. In a review of this performance, The New York Times found the piece to be “a sultry score.” It represents a merging of musical cultures. According to Mackey, the work attempts to merge pseudo-African hand-drumming and pseudo-middle eastern folk-music. Mackey was commissioned to transcribe it for band by the American Bandmasters Association, and this version was given its première in March 2006 by the Baylor University Wind Ensemble, conducted by Richard Floyd, to whom the work is dedicated.

Michael Daugherty (b. 1954): Raise the Roof • Brooklyn Bridge

Michael Daugherty is one of the most frequently commissioned, programmed, and recorded composers on the American concert music scene today. His music is rich with cultural allusions and bears the stamp of classic modernism, with colliding tonalities and blocks of sound; at the same time, his melodies can be eloquent and stirring. Daugherty has been hailed by The Times (London) as “a master icon maker” with a “maverick imagination, fearless structural sense and meticulous ear.” Daugherty first came to international attention when the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Zinman, performed his Metropolis Symphony at Carnegie Hall in 1994. Since that time, Daugherty’s music has entered the orchestral, band and chamber music repertoire and made him, according to the League of American Orchestras, one of the ten most performed living American composers.

Born in 1954 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Daugherty is the son of a dance-band drummer and the oldest of five brothers, all professional musicians. He studied music composition at the University of North Texas (1972–76), the Manhattan School of Music (1976–78) and computer music at Boulez’s IRCAM in Paris (1979–80). He received his doctorate from Yale University in 1986 where his teachers included Jacob Druckman, Earle Brown, Roger Reynolds, and Bernard Rands. During this time, he also collaborated with jazz arranger Gil Evans in New York, and pursued further studies with composer György Ligeti in Hamburg, Germany (1982–84). After teaching music composition from 1986–1990 at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Daugherty joined the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance in Ann Arbor, Michigan where, since 1991, he has been a mentor to many of today’s most talented young composers. Daugherty is a frequent guest of professional orchestras, festivals, universities, and conservatories around the world, where he participates in pre-concert talks, teaches composition master-classes, and works with student composers and ensembles. Daugherty has been the composer-in-residence with the Louisville Symphony Orchestra (2000), Detroit Symphony Orchestra (1999–2003), Colorado Symphony Orchestra (2001–2002), Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music (2001–04, 2006–08), Westshore Symphony Orchestra (2005–06), Eugene Symphony (2006), Henry Mancini Summer Institute (2006), Music from Angel Fire Chamber Music Festival (2006) and Pacific Symphony (2010).

Daugherty has received numerous awards, distinctions, and fellowships for his music including a Fulbright Fellowship (1977), Kennedy Center Friedheim Award (1989), Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1991), fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1992) and the Guggenheim Foundation (1996), the Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (2000) and the Michigan Governor’s Award (2004). In 2005, Daugherty received the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra Composer’s Award, and in 2007, the Delaware Symphony Orchestra selected Daugherty as the winner of the A. I. duPont Award. Also in 2007, Daugherty was named “Outstanding Classical Composer” at the Detroit Music Awards and received the American Bandmasters Association Ostwald Award for his composition Raise the Roof for Timpani and Symphonic Band. His music is published by Peermusic Classical and since 2003 by Boosey and Hawkes.

Raise the Roof was composed in 2003 for timpani and orchestra, on commission by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Daugherty adapted the work for band in 2007. That version received its premier by the University of Michigan Symphony Band on 30 March 2007 at the National Conference of CBDNA held in Ann Arbor. Daugherty writes that the piece was inspired by the construction of grand architectural wonders such as the Empire State Building. The score features a photograph of that building under construction.

Daugherty says that he composed music that “gives the timpanist the rare opportunity to play long expressive melodies, and a tour de force cadenza.” A wide variety of performance techniques are employed, including extensive use of foot pedals for melodic tuning, placement of a cymbal upside down on the head of the lowest drum to play glissandi rolls, and the use of many different kinds of mallets (regular mallets, wire brushes, maraca sticks, and bare hands).

The work is based on two themes. The first is heard almost immediately in the solo tuba. The second theme, which immediately follows the tuba solo, is somewhat reminiscent of a medieval chant and is presented first in the flutes. The two themes are then developed in a great many ways. As the work continues, the two themes are eventually combined. “The music is a cascade of major and minor triads, like laying down bricks and stones to build up a ‘wall of sound’.” Eventually the work “rises toward a crescendo of urban polyrhythms and dynamic contrasts, allowing the timpani and symphonic band to create a grand acoustic construction.”

The University of Michigan Symphony Band with Michael Wayne, solo clarinetist, gave the première of Brooklyn Bridge on 25 February 2005 at the national CBDNA conference held in New York. (The Rutgers Wind Ensemble also performed at the conference.) Daugherty has provided the following note:

As I have lingered and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge over the years, the stunning vistas of the New York skyline have inspired me to compose a panoramic clarinet concerto. Like the four cables of webs of wire and steel that hold the Brooklyn Bridge together, my ode to this cultural icon is divided into four movements. Each movement of the clarinet concerto is a musical view from the Brooklyn Bridge: I. East (Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights); II. South (Statue of Liberty); III. West (Wall Street and the lower Manhattan skyline which was once dominated by the World Trade Towers); IV. North (Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, and Rockefeller Center). In the final movement of the concerto, I also imagine Artie Shaw, the great jazz swing clarinetist of the 1940s, performing with his orchestra in the once glorious Rainbow Room on the sixty-fifth floor of the Rockefeller Center.

James Syler (b. 1961): The Hound of Heaven

James Syler was born in Hyde Park, NY and raised in New York and Florida. In 1983 he received a B.M. degree from Northern Illinois University and in 1988 a M.M. degree from the University of Miami. In 1991 he continued his studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He has studied privately with composers Alfred Reed, Karl Korte and Pulitzer prizewinner Michael Colgrass. His awards include a 2002 commission from the American Composers Forum in New York to compose the String Quartet No. 1 for the Artaria String Quartet of St Paul, MN and the 1993 National Band Association Composition Award; two grants from the American Music Center in New York, and the 1993 Arnald Gabriel Composition Award. He has been on the adjunct faculty at the University of Texas at San Antonio since 2001. From 1998–2001 he was on the faculty at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida and from 1995–1998 at Flagler College in St Augustine, Florida.

The Hound of Heaven is a programmatic work based on a poem of the same name by British poet Francis Thompson. The allegorical title describes God as the loving hound who is in pursuit of the lost hare, the individual soul. The work is in six sections: “I Fled Him, Down the Nights,” “The Gold Gateways of the Stars,” “Within the Little Children’s Eyes,” Nature’s – Share with Me,” “And Smitten Me to My Knee,” and “I am He Whom Thou Seekest!” An antiphonal trumpet speaks between each section and serves as the musical voice of “The Hound of Heaven.” James Syler explains further:

Section I depicts the fearful attempt to flee from God knowing all the while that he is being pursued. Section II tells of how the fugitive hare tries to escape in his imagination to the beauty of the heavens. He finds it pointless and in section III he decides to turn to the little children. He believes he can find happiness here, but just as the children begin to respond they are suddenly taken away by death. He is now a desperate soul who, in section IV, in one last attempt turns to nature for repose. But nature, as beautiful as it is, is unable to fill the void in his heart and again he hears the footfall of his pursuer. There is nothing left now. He has tried everything and in section V he is smitten to his knees. In a dream he sees his past life wasted on foolish pursuits, none of which has given him love and happiness. The chase is over. In section VI the loving Hound of Heaven stands over him and the gloom which he thought would follow this surrender is only the shade of God’s hand coming down to embrace him. He realizes his foolishness and now knows he has true love and happiness as his pursuer speaks to him with the words, “I am He whom thou seekest!”

William Berz

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