Tangled Roots (2017)
for string quartet and playback - 12'
Tangled Roots is a slow lament and meditation in a single dramatic arc. The quartet is accompanied
by an audio track featuring a slightly manipulated recording of a church
hymn from Clemson, SC acting as a kind of fog on top of which a quartet plays increasingly
lyrical and intense counterpoint. This piece is a meditation on Southern music traditions, and specifically commenting on how Southern music is African American music. This underlying theme
became even more salient as the tragedy in Charlottesville, VA in August, 2017 unfolded
as I finished the piece.
The recording embedded in the accompanying audio track is part of the John and Ruby
Lomax “Southern Mosaic” archive housed in the Library of Congress, an archive that I
have drawn on in many pieces recently. The recording is titled “Communion Hymn”* and
it is performed by Brady Walker, Thomas Trimmer, William Grant, Mary Lee, and Phil Butler
at the home of Ben Robertson in Clemson, SC in June 1939.
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
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.
Awake, Awake (2014)
for voice, alto flute, banjo, pedal steel guitar, electric guitar, and cello
This piece is a combination of two musical ideas. The first is the vocalist’s part, which is essentially a transcription of North Carolina ballad singer Dillard Chandler’s rendition of the song “Awake, awake.” This song is no. 57 in Cecil Sharp’s collection English folk songs in Appalachia. There are many versions of this song, but I was struck by both Chandler’s performance and the specific lyrics that his version utilizes. I placed this transcription against a pulsating, repetitive, and spacey accompaniment in the instruments. The two elements (song and accompaniment) are not synchronized exactly. It was my goal to present the ballad very plainly and set it against an accompaniment that is both complimentary and argumentative.
Abandoned & Forgotten Places (2011)
for flute, viola, and guitar - 11'
Much of the music I write is inspired by the music, people and places of Appalachia. Abandoned & ForgottenPlaces centers around my fascination with the architecture of ramshackle and decrepit barns found throughout the Southeast US. These shacks are simple structures architecturally, but the dirt, rust and age that they acquire through the years yields amazing textures. This piece employs straight forward structures, melodies and harmonies while adding "dirt" that keeps the music slightly off-kilter.