Composer Marc Mellits’ music contains driving rhythms, soaring lyricism, and colorful orchestrations, which might seem difficult to capture with just five instruments. In the case of his first work for reed quintet–formed in short miniatures like almost all of Mellits‘ music–the listener experiences repetitious motives which, through subtle harmonic changes, create elongated phrases and broader musical structures. Even among the identical openings of movements 1 and 6 (as well as a few bars of directly transplanted content in movements 5 and 8), the listener gets a broader sense of the greater architecture in the work, even as motives continue to drive, repeat, and subtlety evolve. Mellits‘ musical upbringing was varied, including rock and electronic music influences, which became a part of his musical instincts early on and make a thrilling contribution to his classical compositions today.
Seed to Snag
Composer Theo Chandler has a diverse musical and educational background for a traditionally-trained classical composer (Oberlin, Juilliard, Rice), and so he explores textures in more ways than other composers might think to in Seed to Snag. If we define texture in music as the way two or more instruments’ sounds combine to create new sounds, Chandler is able to do this not just through various registers and chords, but through rapid scalar runs which weave different instruments together in the first movement, through layers of loud and quiet sounds such as in the second movement bassoon solo, and in the third movement through a playful but unorthodox canon. Seed to Snag was commissioned by Akropolis and the I-Park Foundation.
For All We Know
“For All We Know” was originally published in 1934 and written by J. Fred Coots and Sam M. Lewis. The version performed by Akropolis is arranged from Nina Simone’s performance on her 1959 record, Nina Simone and Her Friends. On this track, Simone accompanies her voice on piano with classical-style, contrapuntal music that weaves itself in and out of the music’s lyrics, making an arrangement for reed quintet a natural fit. The individual, but blended sounds of the oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and bass clarinet play the role of the piano, while saxophone carries the melody: “But tomorrow may never, never come, for all we know.”
Rites for the Afterlife
After Akropolis and two other reed quintets chose Stacy Garrop as winner of the 2018 Barlow Prize for music composition, she was granted the Barlow Endowment’s prestigious prize to compose her first reed quintet, Rites for the Afterlife. It was the first time the Endowment chose the reed quintet to award this prize for a new composition. Stacy chose for her subject matter the Egyptian’s beliefs about the afterlife. The piece follows the soul into and through the afterlife, including the spells and enchantments contained in The Book of the Dead, the funery barque which tows the soul through the Netherworld, its arrival in the Hall of Judgement to be weighed against a feather from Maat—the goddess of truth—and its final resting place at the field of reeds where it is united with family members, harvesting plentiful crops along the Nile under a brilliant blue sky forever. Rites for the Afterlife was commissioned by the Barlow Endowment on behalf of the Akropolis Reed Quintet, Calefax Reed Quintet, and Brigham Young University reed quintet.