World premiere of two pieces at faculty recital this week at SHSU

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Sam Houston State University School of Music will host “Constellations”, a percussion faculty recital which will feature professor Joseph Millea, Friday, March 4 at 7:30 p.m.in the Recital Hall of the Gaertner Performing Arts Center.

The concert will feature five pieces, including two world premieres and one original piece composed by Millea.

The first piece Millea will play is called ‘Merlin’ written by Andrew Thomas. This piece will be played with the marimba.

“The piece is based off of a poem by Edward Arlington Robinson about King Arthur and the legend and destruction of his court,” Millea said.

The second song will be an original Millea composed himself. The piece is made up of three movements and is called ‘Constellations’.

Recently NASA and the European Space Agency released a library of sounds free for public use. For his piece, Millea took electronic sounds from the library.

The work takes these electronic sounds and transducer technology and puts them together to create a unique sound. Millea said the speaker cannot play on its own but actually needs an additional object in order to work.

“Normally how a speaker works, there is a part that vibrates and then it goes out of this cone,” Millea said. “But in a transducer, there is no cone. So you have to actually put it on something or against something and then that thing becomes the speaker essentially.”

Millea plans to attach the transducer to a steel can, which will act as a drum. The pitches that Millea will play on the can are derived from constellations.

“I am hopefully going to project various constellations onto the can and that will determine the pitches,” Millea said.

While Millea plays the pitches on the can, the electronic sounds will also come out of the transducer. The two different sounds will combine to make the piece.

“What I am doing is kind of different,” Millea said. “It is really nice. It should be really interesting.”

The third piece is ‘Petrified’ composed by Gill Dori. This work also uses the transducers technology and the instrument marimba.

The notes that Millea will play on the marimba are recorded into a computer process and then sounds are pushed out as petrified wood.

“It is sort of meant to show the transition between states of wood,” Millea said. “The composer took some field recordings of the Petrified Forest in Arizona. You hear kind of the full circle if wood.”

The work’s score is graphic score and according to Millea it is an imprint of a piece of petrified wood.

“He has laid out all these perimeters, and it is up to me to just interrupt it,” Millea said. “It will be a really fascinating piece. I haven’t done anything quite like that.”

Another world premiere is in store for the fourth piece of work that will be performed. Friday night will be the first time audiences will hear ‘Reclaiming Disturbed Areas’ by Marilyn Clark Silva.

“It is based off a sign in a park in Arizona where Dr. Marilyn Clark Silva lives,” Millea said. “The sign says reclaiming disturbed areas. It is an effort to return desert areas that have been disturbed back to their natural state.”

The marimba plays a vital role to better understand what the piece means.

“This piece is an effort to take the marimba, which has sort of been taken as folk instrument and used in a lot of different ways back to a more Western classical state, but using extended techniques,” Millea said. “It is essentially a tonal piece using contemporary techniques.”

Millea said the last piece is the most fun. It is called the ‘You Can’t See the Forest’ by Daniel Lentz, written in 1971.

“What happens is you slowly say these little sayings like ‘You can’t see the forest for the trees’ and ‘Don’t put the cart before the horse’,” Millea said. “You will say them in little bits, little syllables. It keeps recording you and you keep adding to it. Eventually you have the whole saying. And at the same time you are supposed to drink wine.”

As Millea continues to say the phrase, he will strike the glass with a small mallet and the pitch changes, and that continues to record.

Something that sets this percussion concert apart from other musical concert is the pieces are modern.

“As a solo instrument it [the percussion genre] is pretty new, 60 years old and so,” Millea said. “All the composers featured in the concert are all living composers, which you don’t always get.”

One of the pieces featured in the concert Friday was just completed not too long ago.

“Reclaiming Disturbed Areas was just finished,” Millea said. “I got the final draft just last week.”

The concert is expected to last about an hour with no intermission and is free to the public.