This impressive disc by the Arkansas Tech University Symphonic Wind Ensemble features two premieres: James Syler's Symphony No. 2 and Roy Magnuson's the softest breath. Under the direction of Daniel A. Belongia, Director of Bands, and recorded by Christian Amonson, engineer and producer, the Symphonic Wind Ensemble plays with heart and precision. Syler writes: "When you write this kind of symphonic music you have a mental-aural sound in mind, and this performance and recording is very much the way I imagined it."
Recorded by Christian Amonson
Produced by Christian Amonson, Jim Daughters,
Roy Magnuson, TJ Perry, James Syler
Mastered by Neil Brown
Recorded November 22-23, 2019
Arkansas Tech University, Russellville, AR
SYMPHONY NO. 2 (2019) | JAMES SYLER (b. 1961)
James Syler was born in Hyde Park, NY and raised in New York and Florida. He was educated at Northern Illinois University, the University of Miami, and the University of Texas at Austin. He has studied composition privately with composers Alfred Reed, Karl Korte and Pulitzer prizewinner Michael Colgrass. Equally at ease with modern and traditional techniques, his compositions have been noted for their lyricism, energy, and drama. He has developed a personal style that is eclectic and innovative, yet able to communicate with a variety of audiences. His chamber, choral, orchestral, and wind ensemble works have been performed throughout the world. Awards include the National Band Association Composition Award, two grants from the American Music Center, the Arnald Gabriel Composition Award, the 2016 College Band Directors National Association Young Band Composition Contest, and more than 40 guest residencies.
The foundation of this music is an ascending three-note motive of C-Ab-B. This motive is the basis for the primary 12-tone theme heard at the beginning. Because there is no narrative, the structure of the work is held together by three traditional musical forms.
Movement I is a modified sonata form with a mood of foreboding. It may feel nervous, alarming, comical at times, and militaristic. Movement II is an ABA form built on an excerpt of the original theme from movement I. The zenith of the movement is a quiet chorale. This movement may feel like it is traveling and looking back with nostalgia. Movement III. is a passacaglia and eight variations followed by a double fugue featuring two subjects heard simultaneously. The themes of the previous two movements reappear as the music develops into a dissonant texture that transitions to the opening bass ostinato. As the brass build tension, the music pushes towards its
inevitable new tonic of G major.
This music was commissioned by a consortium of 15 universities organized by Dr. Timothy Shade, Director of Bands, Wichita State University, Kansas. The first performance was given September 26, 2019 by the Wichita
State Wind Ensemble, Dr. Timothy Shade, conducti
the softest breath (2019) ROY MAGNUSON (b. 1983)
The music of Roy David Magnuson has been performed throughout the United States and Europe at venues such as the World Saxophone Congress, WASBE, CBDNA, the RED NOTE New Music Festival, and the Robb Composers’ Symposium. Roy is also the creator of the virtual reality composition software solsticeVR, and is a member of ASCAP. His music is recorded on Albany Records and NAXOS.
the softest breath was written to memorialize the music and teaching of David Maslanka. David was a tremendously important artist to many, myself included, and I was lucky enough to have spent several weeks with him and his family at his ranch in Missoula, Montana. During these visits, I would spend the morning writing, either in his studio if he was out running errands or doing chores, or in a practice room at the University of Montana music building.
David did not give me much direction for these composing sessions, other than to write, and spend time with traditional four-part texture. Composing in this strict style, derivative of Bach, was at the core of David’s practice. To him, it was meditative, pure, simple, and perfect. To me, as a young student, it was an assignment: restrictive, prescribed, purposeful.
When David passed away suddenly in 2017, I didn’t know what to do. It felt right to pay homage to his memory by making something, but nothing felt correct. In truth, I started the process of creating what has become the softest breath many, many times. Each time, there was a block. What I was trying to make happen did not want to happen. It wasn’t until I began the piece with the process David taught me so many years ago in Montana that, finally, the music poured out.
the softest breath is a pastiche, written in a quasi-Maslanka style, with several subtle quotations and references to many of his works laced throughout. It is a synthesis of his teachings through his music and how they have helped create my voice as a composer. There is a brief chorale at the close, echoing so many of David’s works and reminiscent of my time writing in his studio in Missoula, to remind me to continually center on the meditative, the pure, and the beautiful perfection of the simplest, softest moments in life.
Christian Amonson is a recording engineer and producer specializing in symphonic music. Christian’s recording philosophy is based on his ability to see sound, and he aims to create an immersive soundstage that is both natural and vivid. He served as the Recording Engineer for the “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band from 2014-2019. His recording of the “All-Star Band” with Gerard Schwartz won an Emmy, and his recordings have been found on NPR, APM, BBC, and TIME. He lives in Los Angeles and leads the team at Arts Laureate (Baltimore, MD).
Daniel A. Belongia is Professor of Music and Director of Bands at Arkansas Tech University. Previously, Dr. Belongia served on the faculty of the Illinois State University School of Music, and as a public school band director at the middle and high school levels in Florida and Texas. He holds the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in wind conducting from Michigan State University, where he was a Kenneth G. Bloomquist Fellow, and served as teaching assistant in wind conducting at the University of Miami Frost School of Music, where he earned the bachelor and master's degrees in music education and performance.
As trombone soloist, he can be heard on the University of Miami Wind Ensemble compact disk, New Music for Winds and Percussion, and he is conductor, editor, and producer of the Naxos “Wind Band Classics” recording Point Blank.
His research has been published in the Journal of the World Association of Symphonic Bands and Wind Ensembles, the Journal of The International Society for the Investigation and Promotion of Wind Music, the National Band Association Journal, the Instrumentalist Magazine, Keynotes Magazine, and multiple volumes of the Teaching Music through Performance in Band and Teaching Music Through Performance in Beginning Band reference series.
Dr. Belongia has presented concerts and clinics at diverse events such as the regional and national conventions of the College Band Directors National Association, state and regional music educator conventions, as well as Bands of America Grand National Championships. He is an active guest conductor, adjudicator, and clinician throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe.
Professional affiliations include the Arkansas School Band and Orchestra Association, the College Band Directors National Association, the National Band Association, The Conductor's Guild, the National Association for Music Education, Phi Beta Mu, and he is proud to serve as an Educational Clinician for the Conn Selmer Corporation.
He is most proud to be husband of Jill Belongia, a certified yoga therapist, and father of Jennifer, Allison and Jack Belongia.