Neil Thornock's release Between the Lines features his music for percussion, especially those struck instruments that ring, and includes his own performance on carrillon in the large ensemble work Lurgy.
|Matthew Coley, percussion
|Matthew Coley, percussion, John Kizilarmut, percussion
|Matthew Coley, percussion
|Litany for John Cage
Litany for John Cage
|Gerard Morris, conductor, Matthew Coley, percussion, Neil Thornock, carillon, Iowa Percussion Group | Stan Dahl, Adam Groh, Dan Krumm, Jacob Thieben, Iowa State University Percussion Ensemble | Andrew Burton, Grant Hyland, Devin Klink, Rebecca Luksan, Alex Ortberg, Ryan Pearson
|Ring the Heavens
Ring the Heavens
Carillonneurs – people who play huge sets of bells from an oversized keyboard mechanism – constantly battle two challenges: The bells don’t stop ringing, and the unwieldy mechanism requires dramatic physical exertions to control, often resulting in a blurry, imprecise sonic landscape. My percussion writing grows out of my experience playing carillon, from the unhindered ringing of the dulcimer, chimes, and vibraphone, to the demanding physical exertions required in the marimba pieces and the imprecise sonic world of Blur. Finally, Lurgy makes maximum demands of the carillon, while augmenting its sonic world with percussion ensemble.
Matthew Coley, percussion
John Kizilarmut, percussion
Gerard Morris, conductor
Neil Thornock, carillon
Iowa Percussion Group | Stan Dahl, Adam Groh, Dan Krumm, Jacob Thieben
Iowa State University Percussion Ensemble | Andrew Burton, Grant Hyland, Devin Klink, Rebecca Luksan, Alex Ortberg, Ryan Pearson
Recording engineers: Track 1, Jordan Roper; Tracks 2, 6-10, Chad Jacobsen; Tracks 3-5, Jeff Carter
Producers: Matthew Coley, Gerard Morris, Neil Thornock
Mixing: Neil Thornock
Mastering: Troy Sales
Art: Sunny Belliston Taylor (Reduced to the Essentials, 2011)
Design: A.J. Rich
Music published by Sonic Inertia Publications
This disc gives us ten works by composer Neil Thornock. Thornock began his college-level music studies as an organist and carillonneur at Brigham Young University. He received a Doctorate of Music in composition from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in 2006. Many of his compositions grow out of performance opportunities on organ, carillon, piano, toy piano, and harpsichord. His interests also include electronic sound media (most recently,Huygens’ Workshop for toy piano and electronics) and growing interest in video.
The primary soloist is Matthew Coley. Coley has distinguished himself as one of the country’s most versatile percussion artists and educators. Performing on marimba, percussion, cimbalom, hammer dulcimer, and glass, he has performed as a soloist and collaborator with orchestras and ensembles throughout the US and abroad including the Millennium Chamber Players, San Francisco Sinfonietta, Kurpfalzisches Kammerorchester Mannheim, and Moldavian Philharmonic and Teleradio Symphony Orchestras. The works also include the Iowa State Percussion Ensemble.
This is a disc of contemporary music, all acoustic, and much of it dissonant. Think John Cage for something similar, and indeed, one of the works is dedicated to Cage.
This is not a casual sit down kind of program, but one that demands some attention and introspection. The recording is adequate, but not spectacular. Separations were a but subtle for my taste with this kind of music. I listened to the disc on my HiFiMan HE-560 headphones and liked the experience quite a bit better. Separation was greater and I had more of an “in the room” feel.
It’s not often percussion ensembles can stand on their own two feet for extended listening, but this disc generally held my interest. The performances are solid and committed. At the same time, I can see it being of minimal import to more traditional classical lovers. Still, the instruments are used in interesting ways.
- Mel Martin
Sometimes our conceptual pairings are more like traps. There are some things that are difficult to hear with an open mind because an idea in our head is too strong. Modern harpsichord is tough for me. All I hear is Francois Couperin. Neil Thornock’s release, though, gives the instrument a chance to be so much more than that. Dulci is atmospheric, picking and tromping through motives. The plucked nature of the instrument is used to evoke postrock guitar motives and even Chinese string instruments. Thornock’s release contains a hefty amount of percussion; and pieces like ‘Blur’ concentrate on quick, light attacks and shifting timbres. Litany for John Cage gives the vibraphone a delicate, fragile melody and lets the bars ring. The piece is sweet, but swims in a sea of nostalgia filled with remorse. © 2015 American Record Guide, Kraig Lamper, July 2015
This recording features the compositions of organist and carillonneur Neil Thornock, an associate professor of composition at Brigham Young University. Rather solid performances of the music are given by Matthew Coley, John Kizilarmut, the Iowa Percussion Group, and the Iowa State University Percussion Ensemble.The first track, “Dulci,” displays Coley’s adept talent as a hammer dulcimer. player. Other pieces like “Illumination,”“Quantasy,” and “Litany for John Cage” are quite creative and are performed luminously by Coley. Thornock plays carillon on “Lurgy” with the Iowa percussionists. This is by far the most interesting composition on the disc and it is performed magnificently. This is an attractive recording of Thornock’s music for percussion. Coley and his companions perform the music with intense vigor and compassion.
-- Brett William Dietz, Percussive Arts Society, November 2015
Other than the information on this CD and the composer’s faculty page (here) information seems limited on this composer,. He earned a BM, Organ Performance, Brigham Young University, 2001, an MM, Music Composition, Brigham Young University, 2003 and a DM, Music Composition, Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, 2006. Currently he is associate professor of music at BYU where he teaches theory and composition as well as electronic music.
Thornock is that rare breed of percussionist (or is it keyboardist?), a carriloneur and he takes the opportunity to display those skills on this all percussion release, apparently the first recording of this composer’s music.
It is very difficult to assess a composer based solely on their percussion music and sometimes that genre can take on the insider feel of, say, band music or some more rarefied and sequestered niche of music. As popular as percussion music has become in the 20-21st century it seems sometimes to be an orphan genre. This is also, no doubt, due to the all-inclusive nature of the term “percussion” which leaves a huge list of potential instruments to consider. So an album of tympani music or bongo music or marimba music (conceivably even piano and harp can be included under the percussion rubric).might all be spoken of generically as percussion music. This recording uses a wide variety of instruments.
Having said that this disc appears to show a composer with a wide palette and knowledge of the medium and it is an opportunity to hear carillon music which is itself a relatively rare experience in recordings. His writing is accessible and, no doubt, well-tailored to the skills of the musicians.
There is nothing familiar here. All are new works written, presumably, in the last few years. It would be interesting to hear more of this composer’s output in the areas of chamber, orchestral and electronic music. But this little tease will have to do for now.
Matthew Coley, the percussionist, seems to be the real star here. He plays on all tracks and seems to be a highly skilled player. His website was the most useful to this reviewer as well. Along with him are the Iowa Percussion Group, the Iowa State University Percussion Ensemble and, as mentioned earlier, the composer on carillon on tracks 7-10 with Gerard Norris conducting.
This New Focus recording FCR 156 is beautifully recorded and I think that is no simple task given the variety of instruments involved. -- Allan Cronin, New Music Buff, 3.14.16