Dear Music Aficionado,
I would like to take a moment to thank you for supporting this project. This recording has truly been a labor of love for both Andrew and myself. Hopefully, all of our hard work, dedication and persistence have paid off, and you, the listener, find this to be a rewarding aural experience.
When Andrew asked me to write the liner notes for this project, I wasn't quite sure how to proceed. What is the best way to articulate the origins of these pieces? Should I try to come up with some story about a brilliant, reclusive, mad scientist-like composer and his struggles to be appreciated in an arid, soulless, pop culture landscape? Or, should I just tell the truth? Well, my mother always said that the truth would set you free…so here I go.
To best understand the impetus for these pieces, we need to travel back in time about thirteen or fourteen years…to the college days! Picture if you will, two twenty-year-old collegiate music students: Andrew, a double bass/composition major, and myself, a classical percussion/music education major. Both of us spending our days and nights developing the one skill that can only be honed to perfection at the collegiate level…arrogance! Andrew and I were fast friends. We shared many similar qualities. We were both extremely dedicated to our instruments, we liked the same music and we both had tremendous egos! I know what you are thinking, why would I mention the tremendous egos? Trust me, my dear connoisseur of fine contemporary art music; it is relevant to the story. So, along with my partner in musical pretentiousness and arrogance we set off to become the next great additions to the musical community. We played with any musical organization that would have us. We spent countless days and nights in New York City listening to the finest musicians perform works by the world’s finest composers…honing our elitist orchestral musician personas to a fine, sharp edge.
Somewhere around the peak of this elitist orchestral musician phase, Andrew and I began talking about how great it would be if we combined our extensive musical knowledge into a rock band, considering the fact that rock music was our first love and also our introduction to the world of music. It was as if light bulbs had gone on over both of our heads. How could the musical world ever handle the brilliance that would undoubtedly come from two such cultured and knowledgeable musical geniuses as us? And so began the progressive rock band "Eyes On Infinity"…ever hear of us? Didn't think so.
Reflecting on the "Eyes On Infinity" period now, I am pretty amazed at the amount of music we were able to create in a relatively short period of time. Before we knew it, we had a complete album’s worth of songs. Of course, because we were completely submerged in our orchestral musician pretentiousness, the songs were all linked together by repeating themes and motifs that weaved their way throughout the entire album. Many of the melodies we were using in our new "rock" format were taken from some of Andrews "legitimate, orchestral compositions". One piece in particular was cannibalized the most. That piece was “The Marimba Trilogy.”
One of the greatest advantages of being a composer still in college is the availability of musicians at your disposal to perform your music. Looking back at much of Andrew’s compositional output during this time it becomes quite obvious what instrumentalists he was hanging around with based on the instrumentation of the pieces he was composing. "Fantastic Adventure on Marimba" was originally written with me in mind. I remember Andrew hanging around the practice rooms observing my approach to the marimba looking for particular things that I may have played well, or, in many cases, things that I had more difficulty playing. Written in descending numerical order, where the third part is actually the first in sequence, as a homage to the rock band Rush's "Fear Trilogy", The Marimba Trilogy is a bit of an anomaly when compared to the traditional marimba literature currently in existence.
Traditionally, marimba concertos are written with a singular accompaniment - meaning, marimba and orchestra, or marimba and piano. The "Fantastic Adventure" is written for three completely different accompaniments. Part 3 (first in the sequence) was composed for marimba and piano. Part 2 is for marimba, flute (or violin) and cello. Part 1 (last in sequence) was written for the very unorthodox pairing of marimba and rock band rhythm section.
The role of the marimba also shifts with each part. Part 3 features the marimba prominently and is easily the most traditional of the three sections. The soloist is required to perform extremely fast, complicated passages while the piano plays a supportive role in the overall composition. Part 2 shifts the focus away from the soloist and to the overall ensemble. The challenge of this section lies in the interplay of the ensemble as opposed to any one particular display of pyrotechnic virtuosity. Part 1 (third in sequence) finds the marimba as the primary melodic voice in a rock style composition. It begins with slow, lush chords that give the listener a bit of a reprieve before the chaos that is to follow. Then, the marimba navigates through constantly shifting meters, while serving as both soloist and accompanist. In other words, the marimba goes on a "fantastic adventure" and gets a chance to play with a bunch of different musicians in a variety of musical styles. Although never performed in its entirety until the recording of this CD (over a decade later), The Marimba Trilogy provided Andrew with a variety of musical themes and motifs to borrow from for our "rock band".
Shortly after our graduation from college and our introduction to the humbling world of post college musical inactivity, Andrew received a phone call from his former double bass teacher asking if he knew of any good pieces written for the combination of rock band and orchestra. Throughout the years, the allure of combining the lush beauty and inherent intensity of an orchestra with the sheer brute force and power of a rock band has attracted numerous composers. Most notably, John Lord, the organist and composer from the iconic rock band Deep Purple, composed his "Concerto for Group and Orchestra" in 1969. With bands such as Metallica and Yes performing around the world with orchestras it was becoming clear that there was a market for this pairing. It was during this phone call that Andrew found out that his former professor had taken over as conductor and musical director for the Vermont Philharmonic Orchestra. And so begins the journey of "Fantasie for Rock Band and Orchestra"
The idea of composing a piece of music for both rock band and orchestra immediately appealed to Andrew. Considering the fact that he already had an entire album’s worth of "rock” material that was deeply influenced by his love of orchestral music, the initial draft of the "Fantasie for Rock Band and Orchestra" came together fairly quickly. However, there was one compositional goal that Andrew strongly felt he needed to achieve with his rock band and orchestral collaboration that was lacking in most of the other collaborations out there – he wanted to fully integrate the rock band into the orchestra as opposed to having the orchestra simply accompany the band. To achieve this, the rock band would in essence become another "section" in the orchestra, working hand in hand with the strings, winds, brass and percussion. The collaboration of theses seemingly divergent musical entities wouldn't be limited to the traditional approach of one playing while the other sat out. Instead, they were to be completely symbiotic to create a new hybrid orchestra and the composition could not stand alone without one of the elements present.
The "Fantasie for Rock Band and Orchestra" received its first performance in July of 2004 by the Vermont Philharmonic Orchestra. Several thousand people attended the outdoor concert, and the piece was a huge hit amongst those in attendance. Marred by less than ideal recording conditions, a satisfactory recording of the piece could not be captured. In the years following that performance, Andrew began refining his score and planning the recording sessions that would finally provide him with a definitive recording of the piece. Due to the overall difficulty of the music and the enormity of the ensemble required to perform it, the logistics involved in hiring, rehearsing and recording a full orchestra would most certainly prove to be cost prohibitive. Despite the assistance of a successful IndieGoGo campaign, this project remains almost entirely self-financed.
The sessions for this project were stretched out over the course of a two-year period. Complete sections were recorded instrument by instrument, and musicians were often asked to perform on several instruments per session. Despite the overwhelming and often times frustrating recording process, Andrew remained steadfast in his determination to complete the project. This CD is the realization of several years worth of Andrew’s hard work, dedication and persistence in one definitive recording of "Fantasie for Rock Band and Orchestra" – a genre bending piece of music that truly represents the spirit and bravado of youth, with the elegance and sophistication of a mature composer discovering his voice and place in the landscape of contemporary composition.
I can't tell you what an honor and pleasure it has been being a part of this musical adventure. The opportunity to revisit this music with the maturity and humility that comes from growing up has been a true delight. I hope you enjoy the ride as much as we have enjoyed creating it for you.