Zelene Jiang Schlosberg’s “Contemplation” on cover of Grammy-winning Third Coast Percussion’s New Album
Third Coast Percussion, one of the world’s most prominent contemporary music ensembles, is featuring Zelene Jiang Schlosberg’s “Contemplation” on the cover of its latest release, “Between Breaths.” The Chicago-based ensemble won a Grammy Award and been nominated numerous times, and is particularly noted for groundbreaking collaborations with artists across a wide swath of genres and styles, from Jlin to Philip Glass. “Between Breaths” features works which “explore aspects of meditation in sound, incorporate unconventional timbres and tones, and invite listeners to lose themselves within a captivating sonic landscape.” The composers included are: Missy Mazzoli, Ayanna Woods, Gemma Peacocke, Tyondai Braxton, and the members of the ensemble themselves.
“Contemplation” (40x60 inches) is a grand landscape of a particular sort, consisting of six stacked panels with torn canvas. The austere color palette, limited to mostly white with a small amount of silver, gives the work a marmoreal quality, hinting at the timelessness of Ancient Greek sculpture. The architectural rationality of a grid system contrasts with the many irregular shapes, lines and waves that cut across the panels, sometimes diagonally, creating an intense sense of motion.
In the manner of a Bosch triptych, the work is infused with specific iconography, including flora and fauna, and, more importantly, references to female-hood, whether in the curious alien figures sprinkled throughout, a chain adjacent to what might be a uterus-shaped design, or the outline of a Chinese-style vase that dominates the far-left side of the work.
When Ensemble Member and Executive Director David Skidmore conceived of the idea, he felt Contemplation could be “a beautiful abstract representation of the thoughts, ideas, and feelings in this album.”
Missy Mazzoli is one of the most influential and visible composers of the post-minimalist generation, whose opera “Breaking the Waves”, based on the film of Lars van Trier, caused nothing short of a sensation when it premiered, followed by multiple subsequent productions. Opera News notes that “Breaking the Waves stands among the best 21st-century American operas yet produced." For Third Coast Percussion, she has written her first all percussion piece, entitled “Millennium Canticles,” cast in five movements. The aim of the composition is bold and profound: nothing short of “recreat[ing] the rituals and stories of human life after an apocalypse.”
Tyondai Braxton is a genre-defying musician who has written for such disparate ensembles as Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, electronic music pioneers Mouse on Mars, and Yarn/Wire, the lauded two piano/two percussion ensemble. Son of the iconic avant-garde jazz musician Anthony Braxton, Tyondai’s piece for Third Coast Percussion, Sunny X, “juxtaposes otherworldly acoustic and electronic timbres against a steady rhythmic drive.” Braxton is also a member of the composition faculty of Princeton University.
Zelene Jiang Schlosberg writes: “Just as Third Coast Percussion conceived this album as a meditation, so too does my work seek to look inward to find meaning and expose truths both to ourselves and in our society. When different artistic mediums (in this case, art and music) are able to dialogue in such a multilayered way, the results can be particularly provocative.”
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Grammy Award-winning Chicago-based percussion quartet Third Coast Percussion (Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin, David Skidmore) presents Between Breaths, an album of world premieres of works by four contemporary composers, plus a new work by the quartet itself.
Known for their captivating performances and innovative approach to modern classical music, TCP has been praised for “commandingly elegant” (New York Times) performances and the “rare power” (Washington Post) of their recordings.
Between Breaths, a follow up to TCP’s widely praised 2022 album, Perspectives, “continues to push percussion in new directions, blurring musical boundaries and beguiling new listeners” (NPR). The works on Between Breaths explore aspects of meditation in sound, incorporate unconventional timbres and tones, invite listeners to lose themselves within a captivating sonic landscape.
Missy Mazzoli’s five-movement Millennium Canticles transports listeners into a vivid realm where a group of people strive to recreate the rituals and stories of human life after an apocalypse. Mazzoli skillfully crafts an evocative soundscape using diverse elements such as wooden planks, resonant metal pipes, tone chimes, drums, discordant metallic tones, a resounding lion’s roar, and an array of vocal expressions.
In Practice, a collaborative composition by TCP, began as a sound meditation drawing upon the personal rituals of the quartet’s members, from a warm-up routine to using sounds created with everyday objects. This source material laid the foundation for the work, which developed its own sense of direction and purpose, with an atmosphere of meditation and balance.
Tyondai Braxton’s Sunny X juxtaposes otherworldly acoustic and electronic timbres against a steady rhythmic drive. Within this sonic tapestry, resonant wooden planks, metallic pipes and plates, and an array of gongs and woodblocks contribute to a distinctive and immersive experience.
Chicagoan Ayanna Woods’ Triple Point refers to the unique state where a substance simultaneously exists as a gas, liquid, and solid due to temperature and pressure conditions, which results in liquids bubbling into gas, rapidly freezing, exploding, and melting into liquid again. Woods’ composition mirrors this phenomenon, as it encapsulates moments of dynamic energy and musical elements that rise to the surface and dissolve again.
Gemma Peacocke’s Death Wish, composed in tribute to Hinewirangi Kohu-Morgan, a Māori artist, poet, and activist, has become a staple of TCP’s repertoire. Performed by four players on two marimbas, the music creates a powerful landscape of melancholy, personal devastation, and hope.
Between Breaths was produced by Elaine Martone, Colin Campbell, and Tyondai Braxton (Braxton). It was recorded May 21, 2021 (Peacocke); November 16–17, 2021 (Braxton); December 14–16, 2022 (Mazzoli, Third Coast Percussion, Woods). All music was recorded at Chicago Recording Company.
This recording is made possible in part by generous support from Bonnie McGrath and Bruce Oltman.
PRODUCERS Elaine Martone, Colin Campbell, Tyondai Braxton (Braxton)
SESSION ENGINEERS Bill Maylone, Dan Nichols, Mark Alletag, Jonathan Lackey
EDITING AND MIXING ENGINEER Bill Maylone, Tyondai Braxton (Braxton), Seth Manchester (Braxton)
MASTERING ENGINEER Joe Lambert
RECORDED May 21, 2021 (Peacocke); November 16–17, 2021 (Braxton); December 14–16 (Mazzoli, Third Coast Percussion, Woods). All music was recorded at the Chicago Recording Company.
ARTWORK Contemplation © 2022
Zelene Jiang Schlosberg
LINER NOTES Robert Dillon, Rebecca McDaniel, and David Skidmore, with contributions by Tyondai Braxton, Missy Mazzoli, Genna Peacocke, and Ayanna Woods
GRAPHIC DESIGN Bark Design
Millenium Canticles © 2022 by Schirmer, Inc. (ASCAP)
In Practice © 2022 Third Coast Percussion Publications (ASCAP)
Sunny X © 2020 Tyondai Braxton Music (BMI)
Triple Point © 2018 Ayanna Woods LLC (ASCAP)
Death Wish © 2017 Oronoa (ASCAP)
CDR 90000 224