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Secret Messages

by Jon Nelson & Tom Kolor

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On Secret Messages, trumpeter Jon Nelson and percussionist Tom Kolor present several works birthed at The University at Buffalo, where they are both on faculty. The pieces display a beguiling range of inspirations and sonic references, evoking the ancient lineage of both of these instruments up to the vanguard practices of today.

Moshe Shulman’s Secret Messages II opens with a clarion trumpet call, accompanied by rolls and filigree on a percussion battery of wine cups, a table knife, and a plastic water bottle. Throughout the piece, Shulman explores the found sounds created when these everyday objects become musical instruments, while creating a spatial three dimensionality to the texture by transforming Nelson’s trumpet timbre with different mutes.

Dave Ballou’s trumpet solo Samskara develops its ideas in an organic, naturally evolving fashion, as an improviser might turn around fragments of musical ideas as they unfold, developing them as they arrive at different pitch levels. for vibraphone and trumpet explores the complementary acoustic qualities of the two instruments, either highlighting the trumpets ability to shape the duration and sustain of a gesture initially articulated by the vibraphone, animating long tones with charged trills, or playing simultaneously vigorous passagework.

Jeffrey Stadelman’s Koral series includes several short pieces for small instrumental forces that presents a snapshot of a sound world. #17, for solo muted trumpet, features winding figures that are punctuated by short repeated notes and key accented pitches. #18 is a duo meant to invoke street musicians, with Kolor’s percolating castanets and guiros egging on Nelson’s Third Stream-esque melody. The final Koral, and the first in Stadelman’s series, is for solo percussion and electronics and places the digital texture in the foreground as the live percussionist plays what Stadelman calls “a gamut of clamped, ‘non-musical sonic elements.”
Dafnis Prieto’s Trail of Memories translates into sound memories and recollections from the composer’s childhood. Prieto divides the thematic material into “domninant” and “subdominant” memories, the former anchoring the structure of the piece and the latter only occurring a couple of times and then receding from the texture. The piece migrates through several expressive areas, from marshal to playful, virtuosic to wistful, with the percussion often accentuating the trumpet material through imitation and supportive material.

Emil Harnas 2’s Ice Fishing in Kanona is an electro-acoustic work that highlights his unique fusing of music concrete, granular and additive synthesis, and agrisynthesis. Elaborate delays, glitchy static, and reedy electric organ timbres support the solo line in a texture that places the trumpet inside a dystopian hall of sonic mirrors. Midway through the work, a quasi modernist Klezmer groove is established before fading into disembodied electronic sounds, followed by an unsettling march texture.

Jon Nelson and Tom Kolor’s commitment to ambitious works is evident throughout this varied and engaging collection. Here are several pieces that carve out their own aesthetic territory, often driven by a musical puzzle that the composers have set out for themselves to solve and explore. It is music grounded in the fundamental modernist enterprise of inquiry, the captivating “what if”, performed with integrity and conviction.

- Dan Lippel


released July 21, 2023

Recorded in Slee Hall at The State University of New York at Buffalo, 2005 - 2015

Executive Producers: Jon Nelson, Tom Kolor

Engineering, Editing, Mastering: Christopher Jacobs

Slee Hall Concert Manager: Phil Rehard

Design: Marc Wolf, marcjwolf.com

Cover Art: Rafael Vargas Suarez Universal BioCosmos (2022), stamped ink, acrylic, oil enamel and collage on paper (unique) signed, titled and dated on verso 14.37 x 14.17 inches (36.5 x36 cm)
Courtesy of the artist and Hutchinson Modern, New York




New Focus Recordings New York, New York

New Focus Recordings is an artist led collective label featuring releases in contemporary music of many stripes, as well as new approaches to older repertoire. The label was founded by guitarist Daniel Lippel (who is the current director), composer engineer Ryan Streber, and composer Peter Gilbert in 2003-4, and features releases from many of new music's most active performers and composers. ... more

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