for flute, bass clarinet, trombone, piano, violin, double bass, & playback - 8'
"David Kirkland Garner’s DwnByThRckyMtns is built around a recording from the John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern State Recording Trip collection, housed in the Library of Congress. Dated June 3, 1939, the recording was made at the Florida State Prison in Raiford, Florida, the current Union Correctional Institution. The facility housed Florida’s death row and among the executed on ‘Old Sparky,’ as it was known, were Giuseppe Zangara, the attempted assassin of President Franklin Roosevelt. Among the 63 songs recorded from the prisoners were several sung by James Richardson, including Home on the Range, Down By The Rocky Mountains and, as leader of an African-American quartet, two spirituals: I want to Main Right on Dat Shore and You Must Be Born Again.
In her field notes, Ruby Lomax wrote: “Having escaped from Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi penitentiaries, we are caught again in Florida. From where I am sitting we see only beautiful lawns and tress, and would never guess that a few yards away there are many hundreds of prisoners confined. Florida has a very fine superintendent, Mr. Chapman, who believes that every man should be at work, and here even the cripple have their jobs, every man who is not in the hospital…… With help of the recreational director and band leader, Mr. Lomax found some singers. We set up the machine in a room that had been used for an exhibit of arts and crafts of convicts. We set up our machine and worked several hours with a quartet who sang, with guitar accompaniment for some of the songs. James Richardson who sang Home on the Range said he had sung it for radio on some state official occasion.”
Garner’s composition acts almost like a chorale prelude, treating the recorded work as a ‘chorale.’ Garner writes: “it was important for me to present a non-destructed version of the actual song.” As Bach does, the phrases of the music are segmented and incorporated in the texture of the whole, filling in the space between each phrase with original material. The title of the work does the opposite, truncating the recording’s title, while retaining its primary features."
Notes by Todd Tarantino
i ain't broke (but i'm badly bent) (2009)
for string quartet - 17'
In 2005, I inhereted a banjo. Since then I have been absorbed in learning about music associated with the banjo --New Orlenas jazz, old-time, bluegrass, and Celtic to name a few. Most of the tunes I encountered while learning to play bluegrass banjo were fiddle tunes either American or Celtic in origin. More recently I have been studying fiddle tunes and techniques and travelled to Cape Breton to learn about the fiddle tradition of the island. This piece is a result of my initial interests in the fiddle. The piece is broken up into thirteen separate fiddle tunes taken from many fiddling traditions. I try to honor the traditions while experimenting with contrasting textures and techniques. For example, in the opening measures the quartet plays dissonant, atonal chords in traditional tune-opening fiddling bow patterns. In The Day Dawn and Chinquapin Hunting the fiddle tune becomes textural instead of melodic. In Red Haired Boy the tune is broken up between each of the four instruments. In addition, a few of the tunes borrow elements from related traditional instruments. In the Isle of Mull the cello plays a bagpipe tune and in Shady Grove the quartet imitates a clawhammer banjo. In my work, I seek to borrow and comment on elements of folk music while preserving its heart and soul.
Deepest Shade (2017)
for flute, bassoon, and piano - 12'
Deepest Shade is about the combination of two ideas that are woven together and developed throughout the piece: (1) the voice-leading from the shape-note Sacred Harp tune “Idumea” and (2) an asynchronous, flock-like gesture that speeds up then slows down. The title comes from one of the lines of the Sacred Harp tune: “A land of deepest shade, Unpierced by human though; The dreary regions of the dead, Where all thing are forgot!” This piece was written for my friends and colleagues Michael Harley, Jennifer Parker-Harley, and Philip Bush.
for double wind quintet & playback - 20'
Dapplegray is the second in a series of pieces drawing on field recordings made by John and Ruby Lomax in across the Southeast region in the "Southern Mosaic" series. The specific recording used in this piece is a version of the lullaby "All the Pretty Little Horses" recorded by Shirley Lomax Duggan (Alan and Ruby's daughter!) on May , near Comanche, Texas. I took this audio, processed it, reservesed it, and then chopped it up in to small pieces which became repetitive grooves that slowly shift throughout the piece. The winds essentially perform a transcriptions of those reversed vocal grooves with the recording, making the electronics and wind parts completely enmeshed. The material of the piece is the lullaby, but the larger issue explored is time. One aspect of time explored is the sort of trans-historical dialogue that occurs between the sounds of one moment in and modern day.
The grain and grit of the fuzzy recording is placed against the sound of sampling and a steady, four-on-the-floor bass kick drum. Time is also explored through the two alternating types of music heard--one "timeless" and free and the other strictly "in time" and pulsing with the electronic kick drum. Another idea of time explored is the flexibility of time represented in the precise tempo modulations that occur throughout the piece. In every
moment of the pulsed sections the tempo is subtely pushing forward or laying back by the kick drum metronome, creating these huge, mostly inaudible poco a poco accel. or rit. gestures. Finally, time is explored through the shifting micro-timings in the relationship between the vocals and instruments and the metronomic, steady pulse.
for soprano sax, clarinet, and two pianos - 15'
Zenzic is a mathematical term relating to the square of a number. I chose this term for the title because of how the opening musical material, a 15-beat syncopated chord progression, spins out in an exponential manner. This pattern repeats, shifts, repeats, accumulates, repeats, and gradually morphs into new terrain.
Soprano Sax Concerto (2014)
with wind ensemble - 22'
Commissioned by the Duke Wind Symphony with Verena Mösenbichler-Bryant; The Ridgewood Concert Band with Dr. Chris Wilhjelm, Director; Joseph Missal, Director of Bands at Oklahoma State University; Kennesaw State University Wind Ensemble; California State University, Los Angeles Wind Ensemble with Emily A. Moss, Conductor; Raul G. Barnes and Elon University; University of Wisconsin-River Falls with Dr. Kristin Tjornehoj; and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with Jeffrey Fuchs, Evan Feldman, and Matt McClure. Thank you to the Duke University Wind Symphony with Susan Fancher as soloist for giving the work a fabulous premiere on April 17, 2014 in Baldwin Auditorium at Duke University! Please check out the recording of the Kennesaw State University wind ensemble directed by David Kehler with soloist Sam Skelton below. Please contact me for inquiries about renting the piece.
Notes: As in many of my compositions, the Soprano Sax Concerto draws on traditional music as a starting point for a tapestry of quotation and experimentation. The musical building blocks for this concerto are taken from bagpipe traditions from around the world: Irish Uilleann piping, Scottish Highland piping and a curious form of bagpiping from Rajasthan, India. During the British occupation of India the instrument of the British army, the Scottish Great Highland Bagpipes, was spread across the country and eventually was absorbed into traditional Rajasthani music, essentially performing traditional songs and dances on the Scottish instrument! In addition to these fundamental influences, references to other musical genres, styles, and traditions also pop up throughout the piece.
The first movement revolves around an Irish Uilleann pipe performance of a jig titled Condon’s Frolics. The movement starts and ends with material that obliquely references the tune by passing the melody around the ensemble. After the opening, a clear version of the tune emerges and repeats while the ensemble builds around the soloist, eventually overshadowing the sax. In the second movement the soloist performs a slowly unfolding languid melody that nods to traditional music from Rajasthan. The final movement draws on a Scottish Piobaireachd (pronounced PEE-brock) titled Patrick Og MacCrimmon’s Lament as the musical material. The tune is heard throughout the movement in various forms sometimes clear and often transformed, with the most “bagpipe-like” version heard in the slower middle section of the movement. In the final minutes of the concerto the tune is pushed into new territory and, after a cadenza interruption, ends joyously.
for flute, piano, percussion, and violin - 13'
Like a mirage, this is not a color that can be assigned a specific reference in the living world. The color is more subtle, more fickle and more magical than that. Sometimes, surround by blue, the color appears green. Add a little yellow to the picture, and it goes ever so slightly grey. In the light of the day, the color will appear more blue, but still, not exactly. Not exactly green, or blue, or grey, Glasz changes it’s mood and demeanor in much the same way as the living world.
Lament for the imagined (2011)
for string quartet - 25'
Commissioned by the Kronos Quartet
Lament for the Imagined is a musical reflection on the Scottish Diaspora as I know it—through the traditional music of the American South and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Having only been to these two places of significant Scottish immigration, my understanding of Scotland depends entirely on an assemblage of the “never-never land” and of the Diaspora MacGregor mentions above. Working from this vantage point, I draw on traditional tunes to connect Scotland and the Scottish Diaspora existing in Appalachia and Cape Breton. Music, I believe, can connect these three Scotlands in a fundamental way where words, people, and geography fail.