BMOP/sound, the nation's premiere label launched by an orchestra and devoted exclusively to new music recordings, today announced the release of Derek Bermel: Voices, the first of nine BMOP/sound albums to be released in 2009. From the melodic roots of West Africa to the infectious grooves of Bulgarian folk music, the CD's four orchestra works meld Bermel's love for orchestral and jazz music with a myriad of unlikely traditions and influences.
The versatile Derek Bermel—clarinetist, composer, and jazz/rock musician—has been widely hailed for his creativity and theatricality as a composer and for his virtuosity as a performer. As evident in Derek Bermel: Voices, the composer often uses the human voice as the doorway to composition. "I have striven to bring vocal nuances alive within a purely instrumental sound world, elucidating meaning from the gestures, inflections, and contour of vocal phrases," explains Bermel. This concept is realized in the orchestra realm in the album's namesake composition, Voices, a concerto for clarinet, with the composer playing the solo brilliantly. Voices, a three-movement work that glides from African-American vocal expression to ornamental inflections of traditional Irish ballads to Led Zepplin-inspired riffs, fully embraces Bermel's jazz background with the usage of glissandi, growltones, and fluttertongue techniques.
Continuing to bring indigenous music to the orchestra stage, Bermel morphs the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) into a collective gyil from Ghana and a Bulgarian village band in Dust Dances and Thracian Echoes, respectively. After learning to play the gyil, a 14-key xylophone and ancestor of the Western marimba, during a four-month stay in Ghana, Bermel brings together both the instrument's dancing, buzzing modalisms, and Ghana's vivid landscape to life in Dust Dances. An invigorating, percussive delight, Dust Dances was conjured up by African rhythmic and melodic roots. In Thracian Echoes, Bermel weaves Bulgarian rhythms and melodies into a complex, sophisticated orchestration, a consequence of the composer studying Thracian folk style in Bulgaria for six months. Essentially, Bermel juxtaposes traditional, celebratory Bulgarian folk music with the mournful, soulful harmonies of Bulgarian choral funeral songs. By fusing the manic and mournful aspects of the Bulgarian spirit, the melodies within Thracian Echoes seem to contain hypnotic echoes within the phrases themselves. Rounding out the album is Elixir, a short piece written as per the request of John Adams for the American Composers Orchestra, of which Bermel is the 2006-2009 Music Alive Composer-in-Residence. Elixir combines Bermel's love of spirituals and incense-tinged jazz of the late 1960s. By implementing spectral techniques and using instruments dispersed throughout the orchestral hall, Elixir magically transforms into a seductive sonic potion.
BMOP/sound, the label of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, explores the evolution of the music formerly known as classical. Its eclectic catalog offers both rediscovered classics of the 20th century and the music of today's most influential and innovative composers. Additional 2009 releases includes: David Rakowski: Winged Contraption (February); John Harbison: Full Moon in March (April); Louis Andriessen: La Passione (May); Ken Ueno: Kaze no Oka (June); John Cage: 16 Dances (July); Elliott Schwartz: Chamber Concertos (August); Alan Hovhaness: Exile Symphony (September); Steven Mackey: Dreamhouse (October); Dominick Argento: Jonah and the Whale (November); and Thomas McKinley: RAP (December).