1 year ago

4BY4 for Percussion Quartet

by John Psathas | Percussion Quartet

concerto, Zahara, which

concerto, Zahara, which he first performed with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Atherton, at the Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, New Zealand on 22 September 2006. In 2008, Chamber Music New Zealand commissioned Psathas to write a string quartet, A Cool Wind, for the world renown Takács Quartet, who presented the first performance in the Auckland Town Hall, Auckland, New Zealand on 23 July 2008. Psathas’ recent career highlights include the creation of key ceremonial music for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and more recently Zeibekiko, an entire programme of music celebrating the heritage of Greek music from antiquity and the present day. Zeibekiko was commissioned by the Eduard van Beinum Foundation at the request of the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble and toured Holland in 2004. It was a highlight of both the 2004 Bath Festival (UK) and the 2006 New Zealand International Festival of the Arts. Psathas’ inclination to work in a collaborative capacity with artists from a wide range of musical genres and backgrounds has resulted in projects such as Elect the Dead Symphony with Serj Tankian, and Pounamu with New Zealand roots musician Warren Maxwell. In 2011, Psathas produced his first film score for the feature-film, Good for Nothing, and further film music followed with White Lies in 2013. Psathas’ involvement with Booktrack—a company focused on developing synchronised soundtracks for eBooks—saw the opportunity to write music for the Salman Rushdie novel, In the South. Psathas has received a number of awards and honours, including twice winning the SOUNZ Contemporary APRA Silver Scroll Award (2002 and 2004) for individual works and taking three Classical CD of the Year awards (2000, 2004 and 2007) in the NZ Music Awards. In 2003 he was made a New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate and in 2005 was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM). In 2014 Victoria University of Wellington awarded Psathas a Higher Doctorate in the degree of Doctor of Music (DMus) for the immense body of work he has contributed to his field. Latest information about the composer may be found at PE178 – iv

4BY4 (2012) Written for four drum kits, 4BY4 is an exciting reminder of the unique compositional possibilities available within a percussion ensemble. While each player is assigned a unique combination of instruments, the quartet is connected through the use of kick drums. The kick drums underpin this work’s momentum, providing an uninterrupted heartbeat that shifts between the stability of a unison ‘four-on-the-floor’ beat and interlocking polymetric flutters of three-over-two or four-over-three. However, it is the intricate interplay found in the quartet’s foreground material, dancing above the pulse of the kick drums, that makes 4BY4 such a challenging and entertaining work. Players are required to relay small rhythmic fragments between one another to construct characterful rhythmic phrases, while occasionally a single player is lifted out of the interlocking rhythmic bed with a slightly longer, more soloistic phrase. Elsewhere, the ensemble locks into groove-like figures overlaid with syncopated accents that seem to fill every rhythmic space with the tick of a hi-hat, the crack of a snare drum or the pop of a conga drum. Each player’s sense of balance and feel will be finely honed as the ensemble must negotiate dense, simmering textures that rise in intense waves before breaking into new passages of rhythmic complexity. Dr. Omar Carmenates, Assistant Professor of Percussion at Furman University, South Carolina, USA, who led the commissioning of 4BY4, writes: “I’ve admired Psathas’ music for years, for its incredible sense of energy, its ability to defy categorization, and its cultural pluralism. With 4BY4, John delivers on all counts and then some. If Dave Weckl, Christopher Lamb, Steven Schick and Giovanni Hidalgo—all percussion virtuosi from widely different genres—were to have a jam session, I can’t help but think that it would sound something like 4BY4. Psathas manages to take culturally different instruments, each with different playing techniques, and link them together with a common element – the kick drum. It is cultural pluralism at its best, with each voice maintaining its unique sound and identity, but seamlessly integrated into a common whole.” PE178 – v

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