January: Songs & Chamber Music of Mark Rimple

, composer


Mark Rimple has always taken a Janus-like position toward music of the past and of the future, performing ancient and modern works side by side while composing in a hybridized, contemporary style for early instruments such as the lute, viola da gamba, and harpsichord. This first all-Rimple release on Furious Artisans features stunning performances by Drew Minter, David Alpher, Van Stiefel, Carl Cranmer and others including Rimple himself.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Performer(s) Time
Total Time 74:56

Piano Sonata “Malcontento”

Carl Cranmer, piano
01Allegro con fuoco
Allegro con fuoco
Carl Cranmer, piano4:23
Carl Cranmer, piano4:25
Carl Cranmer, piano3:01

Lute Suite “Syncrétique”

Mark Rimple, 14 course archlute
Mark Rimple, 14 course archlute1:02
Mark Rimple, 14 course archlute1:07
06Basse danse
Basse danse
Mark Rimple, 14 course archlute0:51
Mark Rimple, 14 course archlute1:05
08Basse danse
Basse danse
Mark Rimple, 14 course archlute2:45

Five Songs

Drew Minter, countertenor, David Alpher, piano
Drew Minter, countertenor, David Alpher, piano3:33
Drew Minter, countertenor, David Alpher, piano2:52
11La musique
La musique
Drew Minter, countertenor, David Alpher, piano4:21
12If by dull rhymes
If by dull rhymes
Drew Minter, countertenor, David Alpher, piano3:32
13Chanson d’autome
Chanson d’autome
Drew Minter, countertenor, David Alpher, piano2:15

Sonata “Circumdederunt me”

Mélomanie: Donna Fournier, bass viola da gamba; Tracy Richardson, harpsichord
14Tastar dell corde
Tastar dell corde
Mélomanie: Donna Fournier, bass viola da gamba; Tracy Richardson, harpsichord4:13
Mélomanie: Donna Fournier, bass viola da gamba; Tracy Richardson, harpsichord2:29
16Run aground
Run aground
Mélomanie: Donna Fournier, bass viola da gamba; Tracy Richardson, harpsichord4:06
17Gygges and squeakings
Gygges and squeakings
Mélomanie: Donna Fournier, bass viola da gamba; Tracy Richardson, harpsichord2:38


Mark Rimple, 14 course archlute
Mark Rimple, 14 course archlute2:01
19Il Principe
Il Principe
Mark Rimple, 14 course archlute3:52
20Primum mobile
Primum mobile
Mark Rimple, 14 course archlute2:33

To Golias

Mark Rimple, countertenor, Van Stiefel, electric guitar
Mark Rimple, countertenor, Van Stiefel, electric guitar1:13
22Dangers of the city
Dangers of the city
Mark Rimple, countertenor, Van Stiefel, electric guitar1:21
23La petit mort
La petit mort
Mark Rimple, countertenor, Van Stiefel, electric guitar1:48
24To my readers
To my readers
Mark Rimple, countertenor, Van Stiefel, electric guitar2:06

Three Songs

Randall Scarlata, baritone, Carl Cranmer, piano
25Full fathom five
Full fathom five
Randall Scarlata, baritone, Carl Cranmer, piano4:02
26süße Leier
süße Leier
Randall Scarlata, baritone, Carl Cranmer, piano2:23
27Gram piant’ agli occhi
Gram piant’ agli occhi
Randall Scarlata, baritone, Carl Cranmer, piano4:59

“Emula sit Jani, retro speculetur et ante.” - John Skelton, The Garland of Laurel

On the instrumental works in this collection: “Inherent form and other mysteries”

by composer and pianist Ron Thomas

There is a sturdy balance in these pieces between the timely and the timeless, and when we examine the structures we find converging patterns of significance.

Time, of course, is an enduring enigma that musicians of every age love to explore. Music immediately becomes its own past, shedding its “being present” the moment it is sounded and heard. Unfolding form is based on this mystery. This is the hallmark of Mark’s music for me, the distinguishing characteristic of his vision. He is a discoverer. He knows how to explore the mystery of the moment, time running backwards and forwards, the before and after, then and now, yesterday and tomorrow, and he has the technical skills to bring it off. Boundaries between genres, fistfuls of pitches, nightmarish successions of emotional states, rationalized materials interacting with rhapsodic improvisation, and other miscellaneous successful fusions!

Form is inherent in the object. On display here is a skillful integration of all kinds of “new” and “old”. And he can blur the distinction without losing the integration. This is a brilliant artistic accomplishment. Perhaps you too, like me, will wonder, as if in a dream, “What century am I in?” as you hear these pieces. What a delight!

Artist Glenn Thomas (my younger brother) once told me that he regarded music (about which he knows a great deal) as a “temporary object” that, although invisible, came very near for him to being a physical object in the room, albeit, “temporarily”. Music both designs and occupies a space we are invited to enter and explore. The best music from any age is both timely, that is, of its own time, and timeless, that is, durable over time. It captures converging patterns of significance, just as life does. And just as converging patterns of significance intersect within our lives, so it is with the unfolding events of beautifully made music. And so it is with the music of Mark Rimple.

To read the full liner notes, please purchase this album.

This recording was made possible by generous grants from:
The Roger Shapiro Fund for New Music
The American Composers Forum, Philadelphia Chapter
The Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts of West Chester University
The Department of Music Theory, History and Composition of West Chester University

And by the generous support of this project by the following individuals via Kickstarter:
Les Anders (benefactor), homo argenti, BCBCFF, Lou Braga, Valerie Crescenz, Adam Danoff, Brian Drumbore, Hassan Estakhrian, Steven Freedman, Kathleen Friend, Karen Hansen, Anne Hunter, John R. Hedger, Jerry Hui, Martha Johnson, Richard Johnson, Jon Mark, Kaplan, Karen, Brian Kay, Sabine Kellischek (benefactress), Loren Ludwig – sol_re ut_mi, Deborah Malamud (benefactress), Mark’s Evil Twin, McWilliams, Karen Owen, C. Preston, Rocco Privatera, Gwyn Roberts, Ryan, Michelle Saddic, Kathleen Spencer (benefactress), Dan Schatz, and Niccolo Viellatoris

Thanks also to Lawrence Rosenwald, Ron Thomas, and William Paden for their contributions to this booklet.

Recorded 2013 – 2015 at Dreamflower Studio, Bronxville, NY.
Produced by William Anderson (archlute sessions), Drew Minter (To Golias) and Mark Rimple, with assistance by Jeremy Tressler
Recording engineer: Jeremy Tressler
Cover photo: Winter Ore Mountains III; Inside Left Photo: Winter Ore Mountains I
Photos by Daniel Řeřicha (www.danielrericha.cz)
Inside right photo: Menglin Gao (headshot)
Graphic Design & Layout : Marc Wolf
All works © Mark Rimple.
Published by Nuova Corda Music, ASCAP

Mark Rimple

Born on the 15th of January, 1969, Mark Rimple has always taken a Janus-like position toward music of the past and of the future, performing ancient and modern works side by side while composing in a hybridized, contemporary style for early instruments such as the lute, viola da gamba, and harpsichord. One critic noted that the “contemporary rhythmic complexity” of his lute music “is an outgrowth of tradition and the potential of the instrument itself”, while another described his “obvious and complete understanding of early music structures” in his choral writing, and his ability to “envelop the listener in a cloud of sonority”. His compositions have been premiered and presented by Parnassus, Network for New Music, The League/ISCM Chamber Players, Mélomanie, Piffaro, The Renaissance Band, and ChoralArts Philadelphia, among others. His Five Canons for English Horn and Clarinet was recently recorded by Duo Del Sol (Windward, Centaur CRC 3422, 2015) and his Partita 622 for mixed modern/Baroque quintet by Mélomanie (Flourescence, Meyer Media, 2011). Recent compositions include an operatic scena, Austerity, on a libretto by poet Lawrence Rosenwald, Triple Duo: At Sixes and Sevens for Cygnus Ensemble, Mystic Sentences for Baroque violin and archlute, and a setting of O Sapientia for choir, baroque strings, and chamber organ with additional texts from Dante’s Paradiso for ChoralArts Philadelphia’s 2015 O Antiphons Project.

Mark’s lute playing has been praised for its “kinetic lift” (Chicago Tribune) and likened to “a great vocal performance” (Philadelphia Inquirer). Along with Drew Minter and Marcia Young, he is a founding member of the medieval ensemble Trefoil and has appeared regularly with the Newberry Consort, The Folger Consort, and Piffaro, the Renaissance Band. Mark can be heard on recordings of late medieval and Renaissance music with Trefoil (Bridge and MSR labels), The Newberry Consort (Noyse Productions), and New York’s Ensemble for Early Music (Ex Cathedra), and has recorded contemporary music by Jonathan Dawe with Cygnus Ensemble (Furious Artisans) and by Matthew Greenbaum with Network for New Music (Centaur). Before his early music career, Mark was a classical guitarist devoted to new music, and gave Philadelphia premieres of works by Raoul Pleskow, Mario Davidovsky and Luciano Berio, and world premieres of works by Matthew Greenbaum, Jay Fluellan, Loyda Camacho, Alba Potes, Kristin Hevner, and others. He has played mandolin and guitar with Network for New Music, The Curtis Symphony, and the PA Ballet Orchestra.
His understanding of medieval music is grounded in close study of historical music theory and extends to the complexities of the ars subtilior, which he has performed and recorded from mensural notation for over a decade. He has also written on the reception and influence of the ideas of Anicius Severinus Manlius Boethius in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and in more recent traditions of Western music theory and analysis. Mark is Professor of Music Theory, History and Composition at West Chester University of PA. He holds a DMA from Temple University, where he studied composition with Matthew Greenbaum and Maurice Wright.





Mark Rimple, best known as an early music specialist, is a lutenist and vocalist of considerable stature. Less well known is his interest in new music, both as performer and composer. This release, titled January: The Songs and Chamber Music of Mark Rimple, documents the fertile intersection of these two seemingly contradictory pursuits. Janus-like—his description—he looks to the past and the future and finds, in incongruent styles, spurs to his creativity. No one looking at such a program would expect anything orthodox or hackneyed, and indeed one is regaled throughout with unconventional and challenging musical ideas, beginning with the opening Piano Sonata, “Malcontento.” In form a Romantic piano sonata, it immediately asserts a more contemporary aesthetic: edgy, troubled, impulsive, tonal but uneasily so. Even the central “Nocturne” is unable to find repose, and the concluding “Rückblick” evokes the agitation of the like-named song in Schubert’s Winterreise, only more intensely, and impatiently cut off at the end. In Five Songs on Romantic Texts, tribute to Romantic poets is even more explicit, with settings of poems by 19th-century authors Alfred de Musset, Oscar Wilde, Baudelaire, Keats, and Verlaine. Here Rimple creates music—wholly sensitive to image, meter, cadence, and language—which underscores the world-weary verse in a faux-Romantic idiom which only slyly asserts its modernity.

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Period juxtapositions in the rest of the program are more jarring, especially in terms of tonality, but the receptive listener will soon note the period-crossing similarities of purpose and means that Rimple’s music reveals. This is most overt in his Suite for Lute, "Syncrétique” which, as the subtitle suggests, is an exercise in musical syncretism: a French dance suite in form meets complete atonality in execution. It is matched in method by Sonata “Circumdederunt me,” the four-movement sonata for bass viola da gambe and harpsichord, which puts me in mind of the Renaissance parody mass. Is that Cristóbal de Morales’s setting of the text from the Latin Office for the Dead in the first movement, “Tastar dell corde?” (A pun on tastar de corde?) If so, it is transformed into something thoroughly contemporary. I suspect other themes are conjured in the remaining movements, with their quirky titles “Dementanz,” “Run aground,” and “Gyggs and squeakings.” One should be able to deduce much from the nature of these titles, as one can from those of the second lute suite, DisOrders, though what Timotheus—presumably the aulos player to Alexander the Great—Machiavelli’s primus opus, and the outermost sphere of the Ptolemaic heavens have in common, I’ve no clue. Rimple clearly has a sense of humor.

The program concludes with two more sets of songs. The first, To Golias, are, as is appropriate to the dedication, primarily concerned with drinking and sex. Think Carmina Burana, the collection of often bawdy medieval poems, from which the first text is taken. The use of electric guitar as accompaniment seems wonderfully apt. The last song set contemplates death in the words of Shakespeare, Nietzsche, and Francesco Landini, a combination of writers not, to my knowledge, duplicated elsewhere.

There is more than novelty to recommend this production, though, not least the uniformly superb performances. Rimple provides the virtuoso lute work himself, as well as the fine singing of goliardic ribaldries. Colleagues from Pennsylvania’s West Chester University—pianist Carl Cranmer, electric guitarist Van Stiefel, and baritone Randall Scarlata—are the artists for whom their works were written and are clearly one with the composer’s expectations. So is veteran countertenor Drew Minter, still in excellent voice after over three decades in the spotlight, and his Vassar University colleague, pianist David Alpher. It helps that since 2000, Minter has performed with Rimple in the early music trio, Trefoil, of which they are founding members. Equally fine are two-fifths of the early/contemporary music ensemble Mélomanie: viola da gambist Donna Fournier and harpsichordist Tracy Richardson. The engineering is excellent, and the presentation in general—including bios of all artists and appreciations of the music and composer—would only have been improved by a bit more information regarding the music itself.

Will this likely appeal most to a specialist audience? Yes, probably. However, readers with a questing spirit might wish to explore this fascinating release, as well. Whether one favors early music or modernist, appreciation of the tried-and-true can only be enhanced by the exploration of hybrid byways. Ronald E. Grames

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