Nathaniel Eschler’s Purlieu

Noria by Brooke Joyce: The famous Norias of Hama are a set of 17 wooden water wheels positioned along the Orontes River in the city of Hama, Syria. These magnificent structures, which can be almost 70 feet in diameter, were originally built to carry river water to residents of the city. The oldest date from the 14th century, though all have been more recently restored. In addition to their physical beauty, they also make an unearthly sound, as the wood is continually subjected to varying degrees of stress, expansion and contraction. This musical ode to one of the smaller norias, al-Bisriyya, tries to capture the sense of cyclicity, majesty, and transcendence that these wheels possess. This work is an expansion of a companion work for organ, Noria al-Hagibiyya.

Sydne by Elizabeth Comninellis-Foster was comissioned by the Driscoll family in honor of their beloved pet. In preparation for writing the piece, the family sent me photos and stories about her life. I tried to capture her sweet, serene and playful personality in the piece, as well as the sad feeling experienced by the Driscoll family at her loss.

Tutta Forza was written for the Durward Ensemble by Martha Horst.  It is roughly in ABA’ form.  The work was inspired by the quote below that went viral on social media shortly after the 2017 election of President Donald Trump.  The quote was attributed to celebrities such as Michael Moore and Madonna; the actual author is now thought to be Ms. Aimee Van Ausdall:

This morning I have been pondering a nearly forgotten lesson I learned in high school music. Sometimes in band or choir, music requires players or singers to hold a note longer than they actually can hold a note. In those cases, we were taught to mindfully stagger when we took a breath so the sound appeared uninterrupted. Everyone got to breathe, and the music stayed strong and vibrant. Yesterday, I read an article that suggested the administration’s litany of bad executive orders (more expected on LGBTQ next week) is a way of giving us “protest fatigue” – we will literally lose our will to continue the fight in the face of the onslaught of negative action. Let’s remember MUSIC. Take a breath. The rest of the chorus will sing. The rest of the band will play. Rejoin so others can breathe. Together, we can sustain a very long, beautiful song for a very, very long time. You don’t have to do it all, but you must add your voice to the song. With special love to all the musicians and music teachers in my life.

Textures in this piece are directly inspired by this quote and by the meaning of tutta forza, which means “full force” or “to play as loudly as possible” in Italian. – MCH

Forbidden Alchemy by Aaron Kirschner

Twister by Lisa Neher:
This piece was commissioned by Durward ensemble of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and its writing marks the end of my eighth year living in the Midwest. In light of these facts, I wanted to write something in celebration of the natural world of the American heartland. I was inspired by the raw power and terrifying beauty of tornadoes. “Twister” delves into the tornado as a shadowy force to be reckoned with, a display of the awesome might and supremacy of nature. The piece opens with a variety of sound effect noises that evoke gathering winds, hail, and thunder. At other moments, boisterous, asymmetrical melodies represent the strength of the tornado while flurries of activity evoke frenzied winds. These build to cacophonous clusters of chords that represent the raging storm and the sound of emergency sirens. The uproar cuts out abruptly in the middle of the piece, as if the listener is protected for a moment in the eye of the storm, but not for long…

For My Mother is dedicated to my mother Susan Boiko a breast cancer survivor. She lived through the start of me and my twin’s brass playing careers where when playing on the French horn we sounded like a couple of dying elephants. If the elephant sounds weren’t enough, when my mother was driving us to school we would take out our mouthpieces and surreptitiously buzz on them until she noticed and told us to stop. These two sounds, the soft buzz of a mouthpiece secretly played in the backseat and the bombastic enthusiastic brashness of twin middle school brass players, are the foundation of this piece. Mom, Thank you. Please enjoy this rendition of sounds you never thought you’d hear again, because you got us French horn lessons a week in to picking the instrument. ~ Laura Schwartz

Laura Elise Schwendinger wrote Eclipse for Durward Contemporary Music Ensemble. It is inspired by the recent Eclipse of 2017.

Starting with a large and wide chord progression, it develops in fast rhythms that explore bright colors through moving lines that flitter from winds to strings, to brass in a klangfarbenmelodie (sound-color melody)technique that involves splitting a musical line or melody between several instruments, rather than assigning it to just one instrument (or set of instruments), thereby adding color (timbre) and texture to the melodic line.The work ends with the chords from the opening, in a final return to the original material, as in the arc of the eclipse.

Zach Zubow’s Which Side of the Barrier?  Arnold Schoenberg described music as having barriers when reaching into the new realm of his 12-tone composition style: the barriers of learning from the past, thinking in the present, and working toward the future. Those barriers are still challenging composers today, but now in different ways. With the onset of so many styles in the 20th and 21st centuries, composers can work around and within these styles, including new styles that emerge even faster than during Schoenberg’s time.