Donut Robot!

Our second album with music by Ruby Fulton, Drew Baker, Michael Johanson, Edward J Hines, Andrea Reinkemeyer, and Takuma Itoh. Released on February 15, 2019. Order today on Bandcamp!

***Album Notes compiled and written by Craig Doolin***


About the Work

Ruby Fulton was inspired to compose Donut Robot! by an autocorrected text message from Post-Haste Reed Duo bassoonist Javier Rodriguez to saxophonist Sean Fredenburg. Fulton found this amusing, but she started to wonder if other technology failures could lead to more catastrophic results.  She found numerous headlines confirming her suspicions and the concept for Donut Robot! was born.

Fulton’s music is metallic and mechanistic by design and expertly illustrates her material. She devised a method of converting letters of the alphabet to the notes of the musical scale.  This resulted in promising musical ideas.  To show the moment of technological breakdown, she allows unison passages (in which the machine is working normally) to diverge into completely different music reflecting the breakdown.  The rhythms of each section are drawn from the headlines that appear at the beginning of that section. 

Donut Robot! is in two sections.  Part I, titled “Donut Robot!” alternates a mechanistic repeated pattern between the two players.  The other player has a sustained chorale-like melody that becomes uprooted rhythmically as Part I progresses.  A long scalar pattern leads to Part II: Headlines.

In the second part, Fulton illustrates the following headlines:

“Self-Driving Uber Car Kills Pedestrian in Arizona, Where Robots Roam”
“Killer Bee Attack: Science Explains Man’s Death”
“Pokemon Go Caused Accidents and Deaths”
“Teenager Electrocuted in Her Sleep By iPhone Charger”
“Klaatu … Barada … Nikto”
“Horror or Hype? Y2K Arrives and The World Trembles”
“Fatal Dose – Radiation Deaths Linked to AECL Computer Error”

After the fourth headline, Fulton provides an interlude called “Robotic Waltz.”


Composer’s Notes

Baker includes the following directions to the performers:
The bassoon and saxophone remain in very close proximity to one another throughout the piece, often separated by a mere quarter tone. This proximity, combined with the use of many different microtonal inflections and gently undulating dynamics, creates a texture that consistent yet ever changing. One might imagine a lake or ocean in which the surface remains calm while the color of the water shifts constantly as sunlight ebbs and flows.

In order to sonically generate this type of feeling, it is essential for the performer to focus on quality of sound. The bassoon and saxophone should always blend to the furthest extent possible. Players should strive for an incredibly smooth “legatissimo” articulation at all times. The combination of legato playing with the oscillating eighthnote melodic gestures should result in the “gently pulsating” sensation mentioned in the very first measure. Also important is the fact that there is continuous sound from start to finish. Rests have been carefully placed in each part to avoid any breaks in the overall sound.

Above all, players must listen to one another with great intensity. Each individual part may not look like much on its own, but when combined and properly blended, the resultant texture should be delicate, nuanced, and expressive.

First Light is a delicate yet intense meditation in which the blended sounds of the bassoon and soprano saxophone radiate a slow-motion melody. The atmosphere of the piece, along with its gradual but methodical pacing, are intended to evoke the period between dawn and sunrise. Playing together in what is the bassoon’s highest register, these seemingly disparate instruments yield myriad gradations of color and harmony.

First Light was commissioned by the Post-Haste Reed Duo in conjunction with a consortium of 18 bassoonists and saxophonists from the United States and China. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with these dedicated musicians.

Rodney Ackmann, Genevieve Beaulieu, Adam Briggs, Griffin Campbell, David Dees, Geoffrey Deibel, Michael Garza, Jacob Goforth, Darrel Hale, Reed Aaron Hanna, Ryan Lemoine, Richard Meek, Mary Beth Minnis, Susan Nelson, John Nichol, Jonathan Nichol, John Sampen, Sabrina Stovall

Deeper Listening

Baker’s artist statement explains his approach to his music:
“I aim to create pieces of music that immediately envelop and transport the listener. In much of my recent work, this visceral intensity is channeled through forms that slowly morph over time, allowing one to comfortably live within a musical texture while simultaneously sensing its transformation. There is a simplicity and directness to my music that often yields unexpected complexity.”

This work is a very delicate balancing act.  Baker specifies that the sound should be continuous and fluid, which is a difficult task for music of this complexity.  The inherent eighth-note pulse must be maintained, and the dynamic pulsations must be exact.  Although the written page appears somewhat simple, this is music of deceptively difficult exactness.


Composer’s Notes

Soundscapes was commissioned by and is dedicated to the Post-Haste Reed Duo formed by saxophonist Sean Fredenburg and bassoonist Javier Rodriguez. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with these distinguished performers and for their dedication in bringing this piece to life.

The title of the first movement, “The Hills of Basilicata,” refers to a stunningly gorgeous, scenic region in southern Italy that I visited in the summer of 2014 as an Artist Resident at the Palazzo Rinaldi Artist Residency located in the charming mountaintop village of Noepoli. The Basilicata region is covered with rolling hills and mountains, many of which are dotted with lovely, picturesque villages, and the region is known for its unspoiled natural beauty – it is replete with wooded areas, forests, clean rivers and pure air.  The area is also home to the largest national park in the country and boasts many fascinating historical sites, some of which date back to ancient times. This movement is a musical response to the sense of unbridled excitement and freedom I felt while experiencing the many sights, sounds, and scents of this region as well as the many peaceful, serene moments one can so easily experience in this beautiful part of the world.    

“Snowscapes” was written in response to a striking scene I observed through a large glass door on the upper floor of my home while sitting at the piano where I compose. The peaceful aftermath of an intense snowstorm that covered everything with a smooth coat of whiteness left me in awe; I felt a profound sense of stillness and beauty, and I felt the need to respond musically. The movement utilizes extended instrumental techniques such as microtones and multiphonics, which felt to me to be the best means of expressing the serene, reflective state I experienced while gazing out at my snow/covered surroundings.  

“Moto Perpetuo,” the third and final movement, is – as one might imagine – a relentless, energetic exploration of momentum-driven musical material.

Deeper Listening

“The Hills of Basilicata” expresses, in Johanson’s words, “unbridled excitement and freedom.”  The movement opens with an exuberant flurry of runs that leads to a staccato section.  This second section may be characterized by staccato notes, but long and flowing lines punctuate the texture.  These two opening sections become increasingly important when they return at the end of the movement.  A middle section is marked “calm, serene” features wide expressive leaps in both parts, but provides respite from the active opening section. 

“Snowscape” is a meditative movement that captures stillness and the almost mystical quality of a frozen landscape.  Johanson uses “ghost sounds” – multiphonics – that depict the surreal scene. As the movement progresses, these become even more important.  Hints of the opening music from the first movement emerge from the snowy shroud in a few places.

 “Moto perpetuo” uses mixed meters quite extensively.  Saxophone and bassoon play the same rhythms through much of the movement, but there are many moments where each play independently.  This is music about the difficult task of maintaining continuity as an ensemble while keeping identity as a soloist.  This is a delightfully exciting ending to a powerful work.


Composer’s Notes

In November, 1936, the Hungarian composer Bela Bartok traveled throughout southeastern Anatolia collecting indigenous folk music of nomadic Turkish tribes. Bartok’s objective was to establish the first formal ethnomusicological research in Turkey, but also to prove a connection between the Turks and the Magyars. Bartok hoped to prove this connection through the discovery of common ancient folk tunes or melodies, which ultimately he was able to accomplish.

Bartok was accompanied on this journey by the thirty-year-old composer A. Adnan Saygun. A native of Izmir, Turkey, Saygun was trained in the traditions of Ottoman court music when he was growing up. His father, a teacher of mathematics, taught Saygun both French and English. In the early 1920’s, Saygun won a national scholarship to attend the Schola Cantorum de Paris where he studied composition with Vincent d’Indy. After four years in Paris, Saygun returned to Turkey where by 1936, he was a leading composer in the nationalist movement of the young Turkish republic under the leadership of Mustrafa Kemal Ataturk.

Together, Bartok and Saygun collected nearly 100 folk tunes and melodies, documenting works on wax cylinder recording machines and notating melodies by hand. Bartok, who did not speak Turkish, relied on Saygun to act as both translator and guide. From their research, both Bartok and Saygun authored books on their findings.

One of the first songs collected was sung by a thirteen-year-old girl named Hatice Deklioglu (HAH-tee-jay DEK-lee-oh-loo) who was illiterate. The first of four verses inspired Hommage, translated from the original Turkish:

I came to this world from Istanbul
My affection is for the daughter of the Armenian
Don’t eat. don’t drink, but look into the eyes of the young one.
Take me to the saddle, oh son of the Kurd, and let us go.

Edward Hines’ Hommage Bartok et Saygun en Turquie 1936: Chanson de Hatice Deklioğlu is a work which functions at several levels. The music which Hines composed is a set of variations on the theme of the original recording. This theme is presented in the opening of Hommage, and also at the end in an audio clip that features Ms. Deklioğlu’s actual voice; the musicians join her in this poignant moment where the past and present are united. Ms. Deklioğlu sings of forbidden love, that which crosses both religious and cultural boundaries; the translated text is recited by the performers in the middle of the work. But at another level, Hommage is a personal tribute to Bela Bartok and Adnan Saygun, two artists from very different worlds who joined together to discover their common bond.

Edward J. Hines studied composition and ethnomusicology with Adnan Saygun as part of a yearlong Fulbright research scholarship during 1985 and 1986.

Deeper Listening

When Bartok traveled to exotic locales—as he did as early as the 1910s in Hungary, Romania, and Serbia—he always came away with recordings that, in many cases, preserved the music of cultures that would later be lost in wars and natural disasters.  The musical language of these lost cultures is exciting, but different than traditional Western music.  Mixed meters, microtones, and extended playing and singing techniques only reached Western ears in the twentieth century, but these distant cultures had used them for countless centuries as part of village music-making.  Hines reflects on these traditions.

Music of ancient cultures predates modern scales.  Musicologists describe their pitch patterns as being modal, in this case in the Dorian mode.  Hines’ sound world is one of meditation and reflection, and modality is the perfect musical material to evoke this.  As Hatice Deklioğlu sang for Bartok and Saygun, she added expressive ornaments to the melody.  As centuries passed, these ornaments were passed down to each generation.  Hines uses a similar practice.

Perhaps more important than any other element in this work is the telescoping of history into one moment.  Traditions and centuries collide and culminate when we hear Hatice Deklioğlu singing along with the saxophone and bassoon.  Hines’ reflection meets its source in a moment of cross-cultural poignancy.  This is a work of incredible cultural importance and meaning that transcends the ages.


Composer’s Notes

in the speaking silence for Alto Saxophone and Bassoon (2018) was commissioned by the Post-Haste Reed Duo — Sean Fredenburg, saxophone and Javier Rodriguez, bassoon — for a “rituals”-themed concert. The piece is lovingly dedicated to the memory of my mother, Linda, who passed away while I was writing the work. To honor her love of hymns, I wove the rhythmic pattern from the stark refrain of Philp P. Bliss’s hymn, It is Well with my Soul throughout the piece. The title comes from the second line of Christina Rossetti’s poem, Echo.


Come to me in the silence of the night;
    Come in the speaking silence of a dream;
Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright
    As sunlight on a stream;
        Come back in tears,
O memory, hope, love of finished years.

Oh dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter sweet,
    Whose wakening should have been in Paradise,
Where souls brimfull of love abide and meet;
    Where thirsting longing eyes
        Watch the slow door
That opening, letting in, lets out no more.

Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live
    My very life again tho’ cold in death:
Come back to me in dreams, that I may give
    Pulse for pulse, breath for breath:
        Speak low, lean low,
As long ago, my love, how long ago.

Deeper Listening

Reinkemeyer has created a sparse and compelling sound world.  In order to achieve the sparseness, she locates the performers “as far apart from each other as possible to enhance the echo effect.”  It speaks with striking directness.

She incorporates multiphonics, in which special fingering allow for two or more notes to sound at once on one instrument.  The result is a richer and more expressive timbral palette that deepens her reflection on Rossetti’s verse. Combining with this is the musical space between the instruments, which starts in unison, but ends far apart. The saxophone and bassoon lines cross at times resulting in an interplay that is musically tantalizing.

Reinkemeyer’s in the speaking silence is only five pages in print, but it is a much larger work than it seems.  As it deals with deep loss, so it progresses from calmness through harrowing tenseness to placid resignation.  Reinkemeyer has provided a welcome new work to the growing repertoire for saxophone-bassoon duo.


Composer’s Notes

I try to always resist having a singular “voice” when it comes to my own compositions.  Snapshots is a window into that mindset, with each short movement trying to explore drastically different styles, techniques, and approaches. Perhaps there is still an underlying thread that can be traced between the four movements, but I tried my best to cover my tracks and be a completely different composer for each movement.

Snapshots is a duo for bassoon and alto saxophone that consists of four short movements, each exploring vastly different ways the two instruments can interact. While the contrast in the musical language varies greatly from one movement to another, there are certain motives that are shared between movements that link them all together. 

1. Grotesque takes advantage of some of the two instruments’ ability to create unorthodox sounds that are – to put it gently – not very pretty. 

2. Chain draws its name from the compositional technique of Lutoslawski but with a slightly different approach and a more consonant harmonic language. Each instrument plays a number of repeating patterns that begin and end at different times. There is an element of chance built into the work (pulse is slightly different between the lines; the number of repetitions of patterns can change), so the piece will vary from one performance to another. 

3. Haunted takes the motive of a glissando that is present in all of the movements and expands it here as the central idea. The glissandi takes many forms from slow to fast, wide to narrow, hardly ever getting settled on a steady pitch. 

4. Early Bird Special uses some very clear bebop references throughout in a burst of virtuosity. Although there is no improvised passage in the movement, the saxophone plays the role of the soloist, while the bassoon mimics a stride piano.

Snapshots was written for the Post-Haste Reed Duo.  

Deeper Listening

An artistic grotesque accentuates and exaggerates the features—beautiful and, using the composer’s term from the first measure, ugly.  These form an often comical but realistic portrait.  Itoh’s Grotesque follows the concept of an artistic grotesque in that it exaggerates the innate qualities of both instruments.  The techniques used require rapid register changes, quick grace notes, and accurate pitch bends. Itoh’s use of breathing through the instrument is a perfect example of the inevitable but unwanted result of playing typically long melodies on a woodwind instrument.  This and the other techniques are used to create a movement of great power and integrity.

Chain draws its power from Lutoslawski’s technique, as Itoh described in his notes above.  However, the real craft is the selection of patterns for each player that work with those of the other.  The result is not only two independent lines that sound good together, but two musicians who work in tandem through intuition and training to find the common ground and shape the work into a musical statement that, in this case, fits together as one unified movement.

Every piece of music is essentially about something that forms the core of its meaning.  Haunted is, as Itoh states, about the glissando, but it is also about so much more.  As in the other movements, Itoh uses a variety of building blocks to construct his sound world.  Extreme dynamic contrasts, chance elements, flurries of quick notes, long sustained pitches, and repeated patterns all play an important role in this movement.Early Bird Special is on one level a delightful bebop-infused romp, but that does not fully describe the scope.  There is a fun and unpredictable quality to the movement, because of the mixed meter.  Chance elements even play a small role in the rising stratospheric saxophone notes at the end of one pattern in the middle of the movement.  One section is even reminiscent of the mechanistic music that Raymond Scott composed in the 1940s, which was later used in cartoon factory scenes.  However, the result is clearly in Itoh’s unique style and serves as the valedictory gesture of a visionary and satisfying work.