The Gaia Theory
View/download album booklet
An album of contemporary percussion works by Scott Lindroth, Brian Nozny, John Psathas, Christopher Adler, David Skidmore and Christopher Deane
THE GAIA THEORY is inspired by of the scientific theory of the same name that contends all living and non-living things on Earth work together to sustain life. This controversial theory, named after the Greek earth goddess Gaia, suggests that each organism on the planet is intertwined with every other. The Gaia Theory seeks to demonstrate a similar connective force through music.
Every selection in The Gaia Theory was chosen for having a link with some aspect of our world. From the cross-cultural connections in the music of John Psathas, to the unique recycled found objects in Christopher Deane’s The Scavenger’s Footprints, it is my hope that my album provides a musical means to contemplate the significance of our relationships with each other and with our planet. - Omar Carmenates, 2012
All music performed by Omar Carmenates
with Brian Nozny and the Florida State University Percussion Ensemble
Justin Alexander, Luis Rivera, Sidonie Wade, Tommy Dobbs, Matthew Filosa, and Melinda Leoce
RAT-D039 (December, 2012)
This album was made possible with generous support from the David E. Shi Center for Sustainability, and a Research and Professional Growth Grant from Furman University
Omar Carnemates is an artist/endorser for: Pearl/Adams Corporation, SABAN Cumbals Inc., Vic Firth Sticks Inc., and Remo Drum Heads Inc.
Produced and recorded by John W. Parks lV
Edited and mixed by John W. Parks lV, Omar Carmenates, Justin Alexander & Brian Nozny
Mastered by Steve Garden
Design by UnkleFranc
The Gaia Theory
Bell Plates (8:57) Composed by Scott Lindroth
…folded… (8:43) Composed by Brian Nozny
4BY4 (8:28) Composed by John Psathas
Waiting:Still (5:18) Composed by John Psathas, arr. by Omar Carmenates
The Scavenger's Footprints (7:19) Composed by Christopher Deane
Requiem Mvt1 (7:26) Composed by David Skidmore
Once, In a Grove of Tamarisk (19:26) Composed by Christopher Adler
Waiting:Still alternate version (5:16) Composed by John Psathas, arr. by Omar Carmenates
Omar Carmenates would like to thank:
Katherine Kransteuber, Angela Halfacre, and everyone from the Shi Center for Sustainability for believing that music can make a difference.
Justin, Melinda, Brian, Tommy, Matt, Luis, Sid for your inspiring friendship and musicianship!
John Parks for your mentorship, your ears, and your couch!
Michael Bakan, Head of Ethnomusicology/World Music at Florida State University.
My wife Nicole, and children Maya and Isaac, for being my pillars and guiding force in life.
BELL PLATES (2002)
Scored for a solo percussionist and electronics, this piece asks the performer to play a number of instruments including aluminum pipes, wood blocks, bongos, tom-toms, suspended cymbals and suspended steel plates (bell plates). These sounds are juxtaposed against an electronic soundtrack that utilizes a variety of drums, cymbals, gongs, and a vocoded voice reading of an excerpt from Don DeLillo’s novel Mao II. These sounds are presented in their original form at the outset of the piece, then electronically processed to resemble other sounds later, such as spinning coins, snapping twigs, and struck bones.
- Scott Lindroth & Omar Carmenates
This piece can be looked at as a piece of loose-leaf paper folded upon itself at random. Areas of the material – corners, lines & edges - are now layered on top of one another in what seems like chaos and disarray. And yet there is still an order to the chaos. All of the lines are straight, the material is still clean and unmarked, and if unfolded, the piece of paper is still complete, though now marred by it’s shaping.
The title is derived from The Shadow Rising, the fourth installment in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time novels, in which a female character (Moiraine) describes the ability of otherworldly beings to answer any three questions asked of them:
“The answers are true… As to how, though, there is only speculation. That world is …folded… in strange ways… It may be that that allows them to read the thread of a human life, read the various ways it may yet be woven into the Pattern.”
...folded… was commissioned by James Campbell for the University of Kentucky Percussion Ensemble.
- Brian Nozny
“Brian Nozny’s “…folded…” is scored for solo marimba (5-octave) with percussion quartet accompaniment. The accompanying percussion parts utilize only keyboard instruments (xylophone, bells, vibes and an additional 5-octave marimba) and small metallic instruments such as finger cymbals, triangles, mark tree and suspended cymbals. The style of Nozny’s work is relaxed and contemplative. This does not mean, however, that the work lacks challenges. The soloist and ensemble members must be of considerable skill to lock in the frequently overlapping hemiolas. The soloist must be an accomplished marimbist with the ability to perform independent rolls and tricky linear figures. “…folded…” is a refreshing work that utilizes sound and texture rather than speed and volume to showcase the marimbist.” - Scott Herring, Percussive Notes, October 2008
I’ve admired John Psathas’ music for years, for its incredible sense of energy, its ability to defy categorization, and its cultural pluralism. With 4BY4 (his first non-pitched percussion piece), John delivers on all counts … and then some. If David 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.
Each of the four players plays a drumset-like set-up; one player has two snare drums a hi-hat, a tambourine, and a cymbal, another has two congas and a hihat, and the remaining two have tom-based set-ups. However, what binds these four seemingly disparate voices is the kick drum, which all four drumsets have. At times, these four drums pound a relentless beat in unison, and at others they’re split into complex rhythmic counterpoint.
It is this, in part, that makes 4BY4 such a great piece and a perfect fit for this album. John 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.
- Omar Carmenates
Dedicated to Jack Body, Waiting:Still revisits an earlier work of mine, Waiting for the Aeroplane, written in 1988 when I was a composition student at Victoria University. Jack was an important mentor during my student days, and two things he encouraged me to do at the time (both of which I resisted) were to join the gamelan (a great regret), and to alter the ostinato pattern in Waiting for the Aeroplane. Two decades later, I finally embraced both ideas.
- John Psathas
THE SCAVENGER'S FOOTPRINTS (1999)
This piece originally featured all plastic instruments, but I felt that the palette was not broad enough. I decided to feature some of my plastic instrument creations along with found-sounds and metal instruments. Household and/or industrial items possess great potential in terms of sound quality, and a key goal for this piece was to provide a musical reason to not discard items that would otherwise be destined for the junkyard. Found sounds can be substituted for those specified in the score, but they should be of a similar quality in terms of pitch and timbre, and commensurate with the universal concepts of resonance, clarity and tone.
- Christopher Deane
REQUIEM Mvt1 (2009)
Commissioned by Omar Carmenates and co-commissioned by Owen Weaver, this piece looks at the troubling dependence of professional percussionists on the use of non-renewable resources in the manufacture of our instruments.
The relationship to the environment for a percussionist is quite complicated considering that our sounds cannot be produced without beating, smashing, banging, rubbing, scraping or shaking our instruments. Even the most sensitive percussionist can strike an instrument only so many times before the instrument eventually breaks. This piece is, in part, an exploration of the inevitability and expressivity of destruction in percussion music.
In spite of mankind’s increased awareness of our collective environmental footprint, we still struggle with the reality that we cannot live as we have grown accustomed without leaving a daily trail of destruction and waste behind us. And it is an inevitable fact that a certain quantity of this seemingly unavoidable destruction and “waste-making” will eventually leave nothing left to destroy, and nothing left to waste.
- David Skidmore
ONCE, IN A GROVE OF TAMARISK (2012)
Composed for the 2012 nief norf Summer Festival, Once, in a Grove of Tamarisk is a post-minimal meditation composed in an invented rhythmic shorthand allowing for some indeterminate coordination between performers. Premiered by Omar Carmenates, Scott Strickland and Colin Walker.
Best ope the casement: see,
The night, late strewn with clouds and flying stars,
Is blank and motionless: how peaceful sleep
The tree-tops altogether! Like an asp,
The wind slips whispering from bough to bough.
Ay, you would gaze on a wind-shaken tree
By the hour, nor count time lost.
So you shall gaze:
Those happy times will come again.
Those pleasant times! Does not the moaning wind
Seem to bewail that we have gained such gains
And bartered sleep for them?
From Paracelsus by Robert Browning
A versatile performer with strong interests in both contemporary solo and chamber music, Omar currently serves as the Assistant Professor of Percussion at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, where he manages the university’s entire percussion program - including classical, jazz, and world percussion studies. In addition to his university duties, Omar is an active member of the percussion collective The nief-norf Project and acts as host for the annual nief-norf Summer Festival which brings dozens of percussionists, scholars, and composers together in a ten-day collaboration focusing on contemporary music filled with concerts, composition readings, master-classes, and a research summit.
As an avid performer of contemporary music, Omar regularly joins forces with composers and performers from around the world to commission and premiere new works. Recent projects include John Luther Adams’ Inuksuit for 9-99 outdoor percussionists; a work that Omar both co-commissioned and directed in its United States premiere. Additionally, Omar has commissioned and/or premiered works by John Psathas, Michael Gordon, Marc Mellits, Christopher Cerrone and numerous other composers.
With a Doctor of Music degree from Florida State University, a Master of Music Degree in Percussion Performance from the University of North Texas, and a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the University of Central Florida, Omar Carmenates is a proud endorser and artist for Vic Firth, Inc. Remo Drumheads, Sabian Cymbals, and Pearl Corporation/Adams Musical Instruments.
Scott is currently the Vice Provost for the Arts and Professor of Music at Duke University serving on the composition faculty. Having earned degrees in music composition from the Eastman School of Music (BM 1980) and the Yale School of Music (DMA 1991), his work as a composer has centered on instrumental and vocal media, including compositions for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Netherlands Wind Ensemble, and the Ciompi Quartet. He has also composed music for dance, theater, and video, and recordings of his work are available on CRI, Equilibrium, and the Centaur labels. Together with Stephen Jaffe and Anthony Kelley, he presents the yearly concert series Encounters with the Music of Our Time, featuring music by distinguished visiting composers-in-residence in performances by faculty artists and visiting performers..
Brian is the Assistant Professor of Percussion/Assistant Director of Bands at Dickinson State University in Dickinson, North Dakota. His career as a percussionist and composer spans a wide array of musical styles, including classical, jazz, world, and popular genres. His original works and arrangements have been performed at respected academic institutions such as Northwestern University, the University of South Carolina, and Florida State University. Notable ensembles that have premiered Nozny’s compositions include the University of North Texas Percussion Ensemble, the University of Kentucky Percussion Ensemble, and NEXUS.
Brian holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Virginia Tech, Master’s degrees in Composition and Performance from the University of Miami and the University of North Texas respectively, and a Doctoral degree in Percussion Performance from the University of Kentucky. His compositions are published by Innovative Percussion and Drop 6 Media, and he is proud to be endorsed by Evans Drumheads, Innovative Percussion, and Sabian Cymbals.
John is a freelance composer and Professor of composition at the New Zealand School of Music, Wellington, New Zealand. His music has achieved a level of international success unprecedented in New Zealand history, and his concert works are performed regularly on the international stage by some of the world’s top musicians. These include, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Joanna MacGregor, The Halle Orchestra, Michael Brecker, Joshua Redman, Kristjan Jarvi, Sir Mark Elder, Pedro Carneiro, and many others.
Originally of Greek heritage, John is also now widely considered one of the three most important living composers of the Greek Diaspora. He has a natural inclination toward mega-projects, and since writing much of the ceremonial music for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, his music has been on the radar of a wider public than is usually associated with contemporary classical music.
John is in extremely high demand as a composer in many genres and media. His musical style brings together the languages of jazz, classical, Eastern European and Middle Eastern, avant-garde, rock, and electronica. His recent collaborations have included crossover projects with Serj Tankian (from System of a Down), roots musicians Warren Maxwell and Little Bushman, Greek folk master musician Manos Achalinotopoulos, author Salman Rushdie, film director Dana Rotberg, and jazz luminaries Michael Brecker and Joshua Redman.
Christopher is assistant professor of percussion at the University of North Texas. Prior to this he was the principal timpanist of the Greensboro Symphony for nine years and a regular performer as both percussionist and timpanist with numerous orchestras. His chamber music experience includes performances with the Aeolian Chamber Players, the Percussion Group Cincinnati, the Mallarme Chamber Players, and the New Century Saxophone Quartet, and he is a founding member of the Philidor Percussion Group.
Christopher has won both first and second prizes in composition from the Percussive Arts Society, and a number of his compositions are now considered standard percussion repertoire. He has appeared as a performer, composer, and/or clinician at seven Percussive Arts Society International Conventions, and is an Artist/Educator clinician for Innovative Percussion Company and Sabian Cymbals.
David is active as both a performer and composer of music for percussion. He is a member of various ensembles, and is a dedicated advocate for the “music of our time”, having commissioned, premiered, and performed dozens of new works by many of the great composers of the 20th and 21st century. David has been featured as a soloist with the Royal Academy of Music Orchestra in London, the Pacific Soundings series in Sapporo, Japan, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, and the Chicago Civic Orchestra LaSalle Bank Chamber Music Series.
Two of David’s pieces were performed in November 2007 at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, including the premiere of a new work for the Florida State University Percussion Ensemble. In May of 2007 his piece, “Unknown Kind”, was premiered at Carnegie Hall. He was awarded 1st prize in the 2005 Percussive Arts Society Composition Contest and 2nd prize in the 2004 contest. Recent commissions include Sidney K. Robinson for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin, the Rush Hour Concert Series, Troy University, Evolution Percussion Duo, University of North Texas, and Florida State University. In addition to composing, David is a member of acclaimed ensemble Third Coast Percussion.
Christopher is a composer, performer and improviser living in San Diego, California. His compositions encompass cross-culturally hybrid forms drawn from contemporary concert music and traditional musics of Thailand and Laos, the application of mathematics to composition, and the integration of improvisation into structured composition. He is the pianist and composer-in-residence for the ensemble NOISE, the composer-in-residence of the nief-norf Summer Festival, and he co-organised the soundON Festival of Modern Music for six years. He studied with Evan Ziporyn, Scott Lindroth, Steven Jaffe and Sidney Corbett, and is currently Professor of Music at the University of San Diego. His work may be heard on Tzadik, Innova, pfMENTUM, Nine Winds Records, Artship Recordings, Vienna Modern Masters, Circumvention, Accretions, and WGBH’s Art of the States. www.christopheradler.com
Review by Simon Sweetman, Off the Tracks
Omar Carmenates’ album, The Gaia Theory, takes its title from the scientific concept of interconnectivity. Fitting for an album of percussive pieces that feature solo drum works and duo, trio and quartet arrangements where performers play off one another, ideas bounce between the pieces and are reshaped, moving from rigid classical orchestration to free improvisation and back.
Carmenates has arranged some of the pieces and performs across the album along with, at various points, Justin Alexander, Tommy Dobbs, Matthew Filosa, Sidonie Wade, Luis Rivera, Melinda Leoce and Brian Nozny with his Florida State University Percussion Ensemble.
There is a piece composed by Nozny and two from our own John Psathas as well as works from Christopher Adler, Christopher Deane, David Skidmore and Scott Lindroth. Summoning earth rhythms, engaging in drum battles, offering ethereal textures, this is an album that glides more than it jars – with the opening Bell Plates reminiscent of Strike’s work. An easy – accessible – intro with its world-music feel.
Outside of the drum kit components there is a multitude of drums, cymbals and toys including gamelan, tuned flowerpots and electronic percussion.
It might not be an easy sell to people not used to listening to classical percussion but I’ve loved this album. It’s one to get lost in. I’ve played it in a variety of settings, it’s warm, inviting and the playing is dynamic, exciting, enticing.
That still might not mean a lot to you, it could be that you’re still running after reading the opening line of this review or from finding out it contains nothing but drums. And hey, fair enough. Can’t do much about that.