TERMINALS PART 1: DEPARTURES

by Bobby Previte

  • Record/Vinyl

    "Growing up I was an avid reader of comic books. I remember one issue in particular that presented the paradox “what happens when an irresistible force meets an immoveable object?” which has fascinated me to this day. This tension, plus the one inherent in the concerto form, has led me to TERMINALS - pitting the chaotic, “irresistible” improviser against the precise, “immoveable” percussion ensemble. In TERMINALS, the meeting of the classical percussion ensemble and the uncontrollable master improviser will dramatically heighten this paradox." - Bobby Previte

    TERMINALS PART I: DEPARTURES - five concertos for percussion quartet and improvising soloist.

    SO PERCUSSION and soloists:
    Nels Cline - electric guitar
    John Medeski - piano
    Greg Osby - also saxophone
    Zeena Parkins - harp
    Bobby Previte - trap drums

    For tuned gongs, thundersheet, vibraphone, tam tam, crotales, tom toms, timpani, brake drums, amglocken, flexatones, roto toms, talking drum, surdu, steel drums, agogo bells, triangles, bongos, timbales, maracas, trap drum set, crash cymbals, wood bars, metal pipes, anvils, steel bowls, rice bowls, police siren whistle, rainstick, glockenspiel, lion’s roar, quica, snare drums, bass drums, chimes

    All music composed and arranged by Bobby Previte © Open World Music/ASCAP
    Additional percussion: Danny Sadownick Additional whip cracks: Sean Perham Female voice: Andrea Kleine
    Produced by Bobby Previte
    Executive Producers: Anthony B. Creamer and Monika Rucker
    Recorded by Paul Geluso at James L. Dolan Music Recording Studio at NYU, January/February 2014.
    Assisted by Aybar Aydin, Shao-Ting Sun, Mike Tierney, and Dave Stoecker.
    Additional Recording by Fabian Rucker at Dolan Studio, and by Bobby Previte at Three Horses in a Wood (mobile) Mixed by Fabian Rucker at Three Horses in a Wood, Claverack, New York, March, 2014
    CD master by Scott Hull at Masterdisk, assisted by Kevin Peterson.
    Artwork by Corban Walker
    Design by Graham Schreiner
    So Percussion plays Pearl/Adams Instruments, Zildjian cymbals, Vic Firth drumsticks, Remo drumheads, Black Swamp Accessories, and Estey organs
    Bobby Previte strikes his Paiste cymbals and Evans drumheads on his DW drums with Regal Tip drumsticks.
    Scores and parts for TERMINALS are published by Bachovich Music Publications bachovich.com
    For Cantaloupe Music:
    Executive producers: Michael Gordon, David Lang, Kenny Savelson and Julia Wolfe Label manager: Bill Murphy
    Cantaloupe sales manager: Adam Cuthbert

    This recording of TERMINALS was supported by Art of Franza Inc. and New Music USA, made possible by annual program support and/or endowment gifts from the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Helen F. Whitaker Fund, Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc. And with help from Pledgemusic.

    The creation and premiere performance of TERMINALS was made possible in part by Art of Franza, Inc., the Composer Assistance Program of the American Music Center, and with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency.

    A note on the spoken text of Terminal 2:
    Throughout the 60s and 70s Buffalo was arguably the American epicenter for what was then called New Music,
    largely through the work of the Creative Associates, a rotating collection of musicians and composers whose mandate was simply to come together and “create.” Conceived by Lukas Foss, the group presented concerts all over the world. Their main season offering, however, was “Evenings for New Music,” staged at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, and then usually repeated some days later at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Jan Williams, to whom this work is dedicated, was a seminal member of that group. On Tuesday, November 9, 1965, they were at Carnegie, preparing for that evening’s concert. Finished by mid-afternoon, Williams decided to go back to the hotel to take a short nap, planning on returning to the hall just before the concert. Waking in the late afternoon, he went to turn on his bedside lamp but it didn’t work. Ditto the bathroom light. He opened the door and looked out into the hallway - no lights there either. Groping for the phone he called downstairs to the desk to report the situation and ask what was going on. The answer is embedded in the ensuing cryptic exchange with the hotel operator.

    A very, very special thank you to Anthony Creamer.

    TERMINALS Part I: DEPARTURES premiered at Merkin Hall, New York on March 31, 2011, a joint production of the Ecstatic Music Festival and New Sounds Live, curated by John Schaefer for NYC, and feaured the So Percussion group and soloists Zeena Parkins, harp, John Medeski, piano and organ, Jen Shyu, voice and er hu, DJ Olive, turntables, and Bobby Previte, trap drums. There was a subsequent performance May 27 at The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, MA.

    Previte graduated from the University of Buffalo and studied under the legendary percussionist Jan Williams. It was here he was first introduced to the music of the composers he considers in the Pantheon of percussion ensemble writing - among them Edgard Varèse, John Cage, and Lou Harrison. Writing primarily for non-pitched percussion sounds (and many objects which were not even thought of as musical instruments at all, like car brake drums and flower pots), these composers imagined an expanded melodicism, emancipating percussion from it’s then subordinate role in orchestras and ensembles and elevating it to a music which at times outstripped traditional ”pitched” music in complexity and emotional impact. This elevation was achieved precisely because of the use of non-pitched instruments, as opposed to the traditionally pitched mallet instruments (vibes, marimba). These composers and many others showed that percussion music is not bereft of melody – but rather can be the most expansive melodic music conceivable.

    TERMINALS uses the classic orchestral percussion instruments, timpani, snare drum, triangle, etc, as well as brake drums, metal cans, and other non-conventional instruments, to create a landscape suited to each improviser and their respective instruments. The vocal concerto for Jen Shyu will feature dueling flexatones, a police siren, and bowed crotales. The concerto for DJ Olive’s turntables will make use of shifting tempi - a staple of the turntable art – and will use processed samples of recorded percussion works, stacked on top of each other in a kind of “super sample.” The piece for Zeena Parkins’ acoustic and electronic harps features a lyrical steel drum section and a pitch shifted, processed vibraphone, and John Medeski’s piano and organ concerto will have a drum machine part, an abstract melodic component from the amglocken and brake drums, and a triple forte section with a virtual composite trap drum set intended to match the power of the Hammond. For his own trap drum concerto, Previte modeled the entire work on elements integral to the history of that instrument he knows so intimately: everything from cascades of falling sticks to five hi hats to a development of the simple drummer “count off” leading to a set-up of an entire drum set in real time within the piece, not to mention the appearance at a strategic point of a bullwhip. Motifs and orchestrations re-occur and are re-orchestrated and transformed from concerto to concerto, unifying the separate sections into one meta-form.

    LINER NOTES by ADAM SLIWINSKI of SO Percussion":

    Bobby Previte’s Terminals proposes a simple idea: that the percussion ensemble is actually an ideal vehicle for the 21st century concerto. Writing for percussion allows the composer free reign to grab the flotsam of sounds and ideas that have floated through his life. He’s a drummer, and so the choice of percussion seems natural. But anybody who knows Bobby’s music knows that drums are just a part of the equation, the instrument that spoke to him earliest and strongest.

    Terminals is a compendium of ideas that – though the percussion ensemble itself is young in the context of western music history – also have sentimental resonance. The sheer magnitude of orchestration recalls the huge mid-century novelty percussion orchestras, or the clashing and wailing of Edgard Varese’s Ionisation. Bobby knows these references well, and he celebrates the spirit of joy and chaos that they conjure. Some of his compositional choices – a swing-era drum battle, an abrupt break into slow blues, VERY long rhythmic vamps – would feel awkward or contrived in the hands of other contemporary composers. But Bobby has lived these musical moments deeply: in Terminals, they form a coherent viewpoint.

    We half-joke with him that he is our favorite marimbist of all time because of his inspired contribution to Tom Waits’ song “Clap Hands” on the album Rain Dogs. His career spans an incredible breadth, including collaborations with the soloists on this record. But Terminals also intersects with an earlier phase of his life, as a student of the influential percussion teacher Jan Williams at the University of Buffalo. Jan opened the door for Bobby to a whole world of avant-garde concert music: the percussion experiments of John Cage and Lou Harrison from the 1930’s, the hard-edged modernism of Pierre Boulez, the uniquely serene assemblages of Morton Feldman.

    This early exposure seems to have had an impact on him: Terminals is an ambitious statement in the vein of those bold composers. This big statement is made using percussion, but not in the way Cage and Varese used it for their youthful radical gestures. Bobby’s percussion statement feels more like a summation than a revolution, a repository of decades of thinking about these instruments.

    “How much of that did you make up, and how much was written down?”

    This is the question we are asked at almost every So Percussion concert, one we’re happy to answer. That ambiguity means we’re doing our job. It comes at the threshold where predetermined and spontaneous ideas blend together. A good classical performer, though he or she is often playing prescribed notes, is striving for that balance with every performance.

    In Mozart and Beethoven’s time, the concerto soloist was partially an improvising soloist. The cadenza was a bravura display not only of technical ability, but also of imagination and spontaneity. The way that Bobby weaves masters of contemporary improvisation into the fabric of Terminals may at first seem like another cross-genre experiment. But actually, his combination of sturdy, crafted ensemble writing with careful curation of the soloists’ talents is one of the oldest formulas we have.

    And what soloists! The first time we performed Terminal 3 with Nels Cline, I actually forgot to play for a few bars because I was so enraptured by what he could do. In live shows, John Medeski’s climactic entrance on the organ always electrifies the room. It is a credit to Bobby’s composition and the soloists’ artistry that I’m always listening to this record wondering “what is improvised, and what is fixed?” The happy truth is that it hardly matters, because in this universe good ideas are simply good ideas, no matter whether they jump off the page or directly out of the fertile minds of the musicians.

    Working with Bobby on Terminals was exhilarating and revelatory. Traipse out in front of the audience to perform a clichéd, deadpan stick-clicking routine? Not on your life, but for you Bobby ok, because somehow it will work. Learn to crack a bullwhip, because that’s what the Buddy-Rich-Gene-Krupa drum battle section requires? You’re insane, but yes, we trust you. Interrupt the fourth movement with a duet between washboard and spoons, or spend ten minutes performing no other action than setting up a whole drum kit on stage? Why the hell not, at this point?

    Bobby pushed us beyond our boundaries. In preliminary meetings about Terminals we told him we’re a touring group, so really he should stay away from instruments like chimes, timpani, huge drum setups, and a thousand pesky accessory instruments. This is of course exactly what he ended up using.

    His winning combination of dogged conviction and convivial humor always helped us jump over the next hurdle. Very few composers can ask so much while also making you feel so invested.

    Adam Sliwinski, Sō Percussion

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Master improvisers John Medeski, Nels Cline, Greg Osby, Zeena Parkins and Bobby Previte team up with the legendary SO Percussion in five concertos for percussion quartet and soloists

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released October 10, 2017

released on Cantaloupe Music, 2014
Cover art and design: Corban Walker

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