shiftingcellsShifting Cells
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New works for percussion ensemble written between 1993 and 2009 are performed by the Columbus State University Percussion Ensemble on this recording. Offering a unique listening experience, two of the works are for saxophone solo with percussion ensemble and one is for organ and percussion ensemble. The recording and two of the works came as a result of a residency program that commissions a new work for the CSU Percussion Ensemble each year. Directed by Paul Vaillancourt, the CSU Percussion Ensemble performs and records music from the traditional percussion ensemble as well as commissioning and premiering works by internationally known and emerging composers. Saxophonist Amy Griffiths is on the faculty at Columbus State University and has made countless appearances as a soloist, chamber musician, and recitalist.

Charles Griffin, composer
Fist Through Traffic
Amy Griffiths, saxophone, Columbus State University Percussion Ensemble

James M. David, composer
Shifting Cells
Columbus State University Percussion Ensemble

Nico Muhly, composer
I Shudder To Think
Columbus State University Percussion Ensemble

Brian Cherney, composer
In Gottes Gärten schweigen die Engel
Columbus State University Percussion Ensemble, Matthew Price, conductor

Robert Rumbelow, composer
Soundscape for organ & percussion ensemble
Jonathan Ryan, organ, Columbus State University Percussion Ensemble, Robert Rumbelow, conductor

James M. David, composer
The Locomotive Geryon
Amy Griffiths, saxophone, Columbus State University Percussion Ensemble

“Clearly Georgia’s Columbus State University has a percussion program of which to be proud. This is a release that any fancier of percussion music will want to explore.” (Fanfare)


– by Kathy Valin

On a chilly Cincinnati evening – December 4, 2012 – in the company of two friends, I ascended Mount Adams after being picked up from Over-the-Rhine. We were in search of a dose of seriously diverse and hopefully thought-provoking art and culture: specifically, an evening of percussion, dance and photography, set in two separate venues, presented by the Cincinnati Art Museum and FOTOFOCUS.

And that’s exactly what we found: yet another example of the abundance of art offered regularly in Cincinnati.

But let’s begin at the beginning.

It was already dark and it had been raining on and off all day when our little trio skittered across the parking lot off St. Paul Place into the relative windlessness of the vestibule of the adjoining Holy Cross-Imaculatta Monastery. Wearing clear goggles issued to protect our eyes from the contrast of a brilliant carbon arc lamp directly ahead of us in the unheated, abandoned void of a decaying monastery, we entered and strolled among other visitors taking in the Cincinnati Art Museum’s off-site “Gravity of Light” by Mike and Doug Starn, while watching live dance from MamLuft&Co. Dance said to be inspired by the exhibit.

Giant photographic reproductions were hung on each of four huge walls, illuminated by the aforementioned single source of light so bright one knew better than to stare directly at it. I guess “blinding” light would be my attempt to convey it.

On the information sheet I was handed before this performance, I noticed that the Starns had quite a lot more to say about light in addition to its traditional use as metaphor for spiritual and intellectual illumination. For them, it is also about “the enormity of all of our past experiences, combining with all that is our present and our future, the conscious and the unconscious, external and internal factors that drive our lives . . . and renders each of us conductors, absorbers and emitters of the universe’s energy.”

Whoa, pretty heavy stuff. Did I feel this had all been conveyed to me? Not really, but for me the installation was indeed a seismic shift from my normal daytime routines, almost as if I had traveled several times zones away. The spatial enormity and the enormous depictions of a tree, a leaf laced with decay, a Renaissance model for the underlying anatomy of a human face and a Buddha gave me a jolt, but the whole perception was anchored by the disorienting presence of the arc lamp.

Around this eerie light source ten couples danced. Director and choreographer Jeanne Mam-Luft (who also credits Susan Honer, Ashley Powell and all her performers) is a fan of “post-modern” dance, which dates from the rebellious 1960’s and espouses the notion that modern dance does not need to be traditionally theatrical in presentation or performed by highly trained dancers, among other strictures.

For Mam-Luft and her collaborators, this theory has resolved into a fairly spartan movement vocabulary of steps that are more typically pedestrian than virtuosic although her company members are intrepid trained dancers, who are to be admired for their focus, stamina and skill in executing them.

Here ten couples, dressed in street clothes (and wearing the aforementioned goggles), seemed taken with each other to the exclusion of any awareness of their surroundings or the specific emotional weight of their moves, although that did not mean that there was no meaning to be found among the partnerships. I think the idea (and here I’m referring specifically to something Jeanne said to me several years ago) is that we are primally connected, and our bodies’ expression of memories, thoughts, joy and conflicts are so basic and so human that they can reflect everyone’s stories.

For instance, one dancer in a couple seemed to have an obsession with raising one leg to the side and then throwing herself against her partner repeatedly. This action was sometimes soft, sometimes more violent. The momentum of the endeavor was sometimes repelled, but her partner often caught her weight and she was lifted and manipulated in different configurations. What this might mean to any particular person is up for grabs, but I certainly discerned a dynamic between them that reminded me of a number of real life scenarios.

Another dancer tenderly explored the face of her partner with her hands. In a program note Mam-Luft explains that “point of contact,” is a seminal technique honoring the touch between dancing bodies, as a way of transmitting information and energy. She related this to the Starns’ acknowledgement that knowing comes from seeing, but that seeing may only come from touching. I supposed I’m glad I’ve been told all this, but as I’ve said, for me a little theory of composition goes a long way.

I think Mam-Luft’s acknowledgement of the Starns’ theoretical influence on her work is a bit stretched – the dance would have played the same with or without knowing about it – but certainly her response to the otherworldly setting had impact, especially since the arc-lamp’s presence was key to our perception of the movement. To consider the artwork hung on the walls, it wasn’t necessary to have the harshness of the light in your field of vision. However uncomfortable it could be, though, it was nearly impossible to watch the dancers as they circled around it (like planets around the sun?) without responding to the painfully high level of ultra-violet light. This effect seemed true to the spirit of the thing, especially since the lamp was designed to be not only a source of illumination both physical and spiritual, but a work of art in itself, an exemplification of a force both generous and cruel.

As this performance wound down, we hopped in our car and drove to the nearby Cincinnati Art Museum, where, in Fath Auditorium, we enjoyed the second part of our evening in a more traditional setting.

This time the MamLuft dancers (who had also relocated by then) appeared in “The So-Called Laws of Nature,” a performance shared with exploratory chamber ensemble Concert:Nova featuring four percussionists and five composers. The two groups had apparently been discussing a collaboration when the Cincinnati Art Museum invited them to create a performance around “Gravity of Light.”

The variety and creativity on display were impressive.

The auditorium stage was not large, and it often had to hold many instruments, musicians and dancers, but the configurations were imaginative and projected images from the Starns’ exhibit added to the mix.

The program opened in darkness as dancers wearing lights on their heads that illuminated the area in front of them moved through the aisles, integrating the ramp and bannister surrounding the stage as props. Once again, the connection to the Starns’ work seemed a little tenuous, but not overwhelmingly so. When I read the descriptions of the cross-influences in the program, I often had the distinct sense that I was reading the language of a grant proposal rather than a performance note.

Following were Charles Griffin’s “The Persistence of Past Chemistries,” David Lang’s “the So-Called Laws of Nature,” Thierry de May’s “Musique de Tables,” a show stopper with no accompanying dance, “Trio per Uno,” by Nebojsa Zivlovic and Paul Lansky’s “Threads.” I’m not a percussion expert, but it was no secret that the four musicians (Erica Drake, Matt Hawkins, Jeff Luft and Patrick Schieker) brought significant virtuosity, musicality and verve to a variety of styles.

As for exotic instruments – and here I’m cribbing from Rafael de Acha – they included melodic percussion instruments, cajon, guiro, tubular bells, woodblocks, drums, xylophones, vibraphones, marimbas, ceramic cups and bowls, a set of wooden logs, and, in “Musique” the performers’ own hands on tabletops.

And the dancers? Interwoven throughout, they gently explored each others’ faces and heads with their hands. They moved sinuously. They moved slowly and quickly, in duos and groups deftly on and off-stage, a Mam-Luft trademark. They took their weight into the floor. They mimicked the beat. They reached, they carved space, they spiraled, they jumped. They suspended their movements, they kicked, they divided themselves into opposing groups. They scooted on their butts. They moved forward and back in unison. Sometimes there were solos and there were duets with improbable lifts, and cartwheels.

When we finally drove off into the frigid night, it was with a clear sense that we had absorbed a lot. But somehow, I wanted something a little more specific for these dancers who were giving their all. Could be it’s just my personal bias, but I craved a clearer story line for them. I wanted them not to reflect everyone’s story, but their own – to have somehow a stronger sense of narrative to carry the beauty, and yes, the personality of their performance forward.

MamLuft dancers were Colleen Byrne, Stephanie Ann Danyi, Clint Fisher, Rebecca Fleisher, Susan Honer, Casey Monday, Mindy Nagel, Ashley Powell, Elena Rodriguez, Emily Scott, Amanda Sortman and Nicole Suzel.


concertnova-headerBy Louisa Shepherd, Concert:Nova

Have you ever wondered how many flowerpots it would take to put on a percussion quartet concert? My guess is—probably not, but audiences at concert:nova’s upcoming concert, The So-Called Laws of Nature, are sure to find the answer to that question and much more.

This collaborative concert will feature the concert:nova percussion quartet and the fabulous dancers of MamLuft&Co. Dance. We’re also very excited to be performing with our long time partner, The Cincinnati Art Museum, who will be presenting the highly acclaimed “Gravity of Light” exhibit in conjunction with our concert.

Last week I had the great pleasure of speaking with our very own Patrick Schleker, one of four talented percussionists performing in The So-Called Laws of Nature. The piece, The So-Called Laws of Nature, after which the concert is named features a range of sound that is “quite different than what most people are used to,” says Schleker, who also performs as timpanist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. This particular piece involves all types of equipment from pipes, to toms, and yes it even involves performers playing on teacups and flowerpots!

“Audiences can expect to get a pretty non-traditional concert-going experience,” Patrick says. “From a musical standpoint, the sound palate will be very different. We chose a program that will be very engaging to listen to.”

“Percussion instruments are very good at creating textures and moods,” as is the case with David Lang’s The So Called-Laws of Nature, “but this won’t be just a concert full of texture.” Charles Griffin’s The Persistence of Past Chemistries has a tune and may be the closest to what people are used to as far as melody is concerned. Thierry de Mey’s Musique de Tables, programed on the second half of the concert, is written just for hands on tables. “This piece emphasizes the visual aspect of percussion,” Patrick notes, “A big component of what we do is visual.”

“In all, I’m really excited to play each of the pieces on the program. We ‘re all looking forward to this concert,” says Patrick in reference to his fellow quartet members, Erica Drake, Matt Hawkins, and Jeff Luft. “We’ve all worked together in different configurations since 2006, but never as a percussion quartet.” Patrick actually met his colleague Jeff Luft while studying for a Master’s degree in percussion performance. “I went to graduate school at Cleveland State and met Jeff in school. He went to Carnegie-Mellon which was sort of a sister school to us. I’ve known him ever since.”

Be sure to catch Patrick Schleker all the members of the concert:nova percussion quartet at the Cincinnati Art Museum December 2nd and 4th for The So-Called Laws of Nature. It’s sure to be a show you don’t want to miss. For more details about the Cincinnati Art Museum and the “Gravity of Light” exhibit visit




Following on the success of her Juan Rulfo project, pianist Ana Cervantes has put together another multi-composer themed commissioning project entitled Song of the Monarch: Women in Mexico. Nearly 20 composers from around the world were commissioned to respond to the theme, which conflates the varied historical roles played by women in Mexican history and the annual autumn migration of Monarch butterflies into Mexico. This new collection of solo piano music includes my …Like Water Dashed From Flowers…, a piece that borrows elements from the folkloric song La Zandunga and Nahuatl poetry translated into Spanish. The piece is somewhat demanding and includes aspects of ritual and song, where the pianist is asked at times to recite text, sing, play a rattle, stomp her foot (wearing ankle bells), or utilize other extended techniques, often while playing the piano at the same time.

Ana premiered the piece at the Cervantino Festival in Guanajuato, Mexico last year, and has been invited to give the Mexico City Premiere at the Centro Nacional de las Artes on July 8 at 1:30 in the afternoon.


A lot of work is coming to fruition at the Orlando White House on April 29. The Central Florida Composers Forum, now nearly a year old, is getting its land legs. In late January, CF2 member works were included in UCF’s percussion-focused Collide Festival with great success, and the momentum from that concert has lead to a well-publicized and much anticipated multi-media event at the Timucua White House at 7PM on April 29. See the Orlando Weekly write-up here.

Two new works will premiere on this concert: local arts luminary and musical director of La Nouba (Cirque du Soleil) Benoit Glazer‘s Suite Circassienne #6 for brass quintet and percussion quintet and Full Sail University’s Rebekah Todia‘s The Solitary for soprano and piano.

Also on the concert will be Rollins College professor of composition Daniel Crozier‘s Winter Aubade, for piano solo and my Emergence, for flute quartet, prerecorded audio and video projection.

The composers will all be present and are joined by an impressive body of performers: Benoit Glazer & Mike Avila, trumpets; Kathy Thomas, horn; Jeff Thomas, trombone; Bob Carpenter, tuba; Jeff Moore, Matt Roberts, Wesley Strasser, Thad Anderson & Garth Steger, percussion; Julie Batman, Soprano; Heidi Louise Williams & Rebekah Todia, piano; and Elsa Kate Nichols, Nicholas Buonanni, Adriane Hill, Anielka Silva, flutes.

Sing Into Your Sixties… And Beyond!

Soprano Sangeetha Rayapati has included my setting of Emily Dickinson’s Heart! We will forget him! for soprano and piano as part of her vocal pedagogy textbook recently made available by Inside View Press.

Here is the description of the textbook from their web site:

A manual and anthology for group and individual voice instruction

Original Edition (ISBN: 978-0-9755307-7-1) 220 pages

Sangeetha Rayapati, DMA


Sing Into Your Sixties… And Beyond breaks new ground in the pedagogic literature for singing. While information about the aging voice is plentiful in the disciplines of speech language pathology and audiology, few resources have been available that focus on voice training for mature singers—despite the fact that a major demographic shift is about to occur in our nation! Dr. Rayapati’s background in anatomy, physiology, and psychology, ranging from nurse’s training to her graduate specialization in voice pedagogy, makes her the perfect person to fill this void. In addition to her experience with aging singers as a conductor and chorister, she has provided voice instruction in group and one-on-one settings to people of all ages. These experiences helped her create this ideal new user’s manual for senior-singers: Sing Into Your Sixties… And Beyond!

Equally well-suited to singers and singing teachers, the volume is divided into three main sections. It begins with a manual for singers, Fundamental Vocal Principles: Anatomy, Physiology, and Vocal Techniques, which provides clear and concise descriptions of the challenges often faced by older singers, along with specific exercises to help maintain the best possible singing voice. It concludes with a teacher’s guide, designed to help both teacher and student come to a deeper understanding of the aging process and its impact on the voice. Between these pillars comes an extensive anthology of songs. Nearly 50 musical selections, custom picked with the interests and abilities of senior singers in mind, provide exceptional motivation to keep singing!

Folk and Traditional Songs without Accompaniment
Aamulla varhain (Finnish)
Ajde Jano (Serbian)
Alouette, gentil Alouette (French)
Iskat me, mamo (Bulgarian)
Nuz my sdais krzescijani (Polish)
Sikon (Greek)
Tin Tin Tini Mini Hanm (Turkish)
This Land was made for You and Me (American, by Woodie Guthrie)
This Little Light of Mine (American)
Folk and Traditional Songs with Piano Accompaniment
Auld Lang Syne (Old Scotch Air)
The Blue Alsatian Mountains (Stephen Adams)
The Last Rose of Summer (Thomas Moore)
The Loreley (F. Silcher)
Oh dear! What can the matter be? (Traditional)
Oh, Shenandoah (David Horace Davies)
Sing Ivy (Traditional, arr. Holst)
Slumber my Darling (Stephen Foster)
The Storm (John Hullah)
There’s Music in the Air (George F. Root)
From the Great American Songbook
Ain’t Misbehavin (Thomas “Fats” Waller)
Cry Me a River (Arthur Hamilton)
Don’t Get Around Much Anymore (Duke Ellington)
My Funny Valentine (Richard Rogers)
Sacred Solos
Ah, Holy Jesus (Richard Walters)
I Wonder as I Wander (David Horace Davies)
The Lord is my Shepherd (Robert Leaf)
O Holy Night (Adolphe Adam)
Pie Jesu (Gabriel Fauré)
Simple Gifts (David Horace Davies)
Sacred Duets & Trios
Befiehl dem Herrn deine Wege! (Max Reger)
Commit Thy Ways to the Lord (Max Reger)
Jesus Lover of my Soul (David Horace Davies)
Laudate Dominum (Lorenzo Perosi)
Magnificat (Peter Benoit)
Out of Your Sleep Arise and Wake (R. Mather)
Puer Natus in Bethlehem (Josef Rheinberger)
Secular Solos
An die Musik (Franz Schubert)
Finding Home (Ricky Ian Gordon)
Three Emily Dickinson Songs (Charles B. Griffin)
Waiting (William Campbell)
What can we poor Females do (Henry Purcell)
Secular Duets & Trios
Erano I capei d’oro (Alessandro Kirschner)
Mägdlein auf die Weise gingen (Anton Rubsenstein)
My Dearest, My Fairest (Henry Purcell)
Wanderers Nachtlied (Anton Rubenstein)

The Boston Conservatory Women’s Chorus, directed by Beth Willer, will perform my El Paso de la Siguiriya, a flamenco-inflected setting for women’s voices of the poetry of Federico Garcia Lorca.

The concert will take place on Friday, April 13, at 8:00pm in Boston Conservatory’s Seully Hall.

The Women’s Chorus will join the Conservatory Chorale, directed by Michael McGaghie, and their combined program will also include:

SCHÜTZ: Selections from Kleine geistliche Konzerte
SCHUMANN: Romanzen
KOPPEL: Sour Grapes
ARGENTO: The Choirmaster’s Burial; Autumn (WORLD PREMIERE)
BARBER: Sure on this shining night; A Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map; Heaven-Haven

On Wednesday,February 29, 2012 at 7:00 p.m, the Furman University Percussion Ensemble (Omar Carmenates, Director), will reprise their performance of my
Twisting Magnetic Spins (percussion quartet: vibraphone, timpani, brake drums, gongs, cymbals, etc.) The ensemble gave an excellent performance of the piece last month as part of UCF and CF2’s Collide Festival. This performance will take place in Furman’s Daniel Recital Hall, in Greenville, South Carolina.

On January 28, 2012 at 8:00 p.m, the Central Florida Composers Forum (CF2), together with Furman University Percussion Ensemble (Omar Carmenates, Director), UCF Percussion Ensemble (Thad Anderson, Director) and KnightWinds Ensemble (Dr. Nora Lee Garcia-Valazquez, Director) will come together to perform an array of works by Central Florida Composers.

Robert Raines – A Quickening (Concerto for Flutes and Percussion)
Christopher Marshall – Birds of a Feather
Thad Anderson – Lines: Withheld (percussion quartet for tuned metals)
Charles GriffinThe Persistence of Past Chemistries (percussion quartet: marimba,xylophone, log drums, cajon, caxxixxi, claves)
Charles GriffinTwisting Magnetic Spins (percussion quartet: vibraphone, timpani, brake drums, gongs, cymbals, etc.)
Two UCF student composers works will be presented.


All events will take place in the UCF Rehearsal Hall Auditorium.
4000 Central Florida Blvd.

The Riga Saxophone Quartet, comprised of Artis Sīmanis, Ainārs Šablovskis, Arvīds Kazlausks, and Gints Pabērzs, is including my Panta Rei in performances in Italy, the Netherlands and Latvia in November, along with works by J.S. Bach, Rihards Dubra, Nick Gotham, György Ligeti, Russell Peck, Antonio Vivaldi and others.

Their concert appearances in November include:

    November 7 at 6PM: Conservatory of Udine, Udine Italy;
    November 9 at 8:30PM: Tartini Conservatory, Trieste, Italy;
    November 15 at 6PM, Royal Conservatory of the Hague, Netherlands;
    November 30 at 6PM, The Promenade Hotel in Liepaja, Latvia