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Augusta Read Thomas

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Resounding Earth (2012)
G Schirmer Inc
Works for 2-6 Players
Sub Category
Percussion Ensemble
Year Composed
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Programme Note
Augusta Read Thomas Resounding Earth (2012)
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Another outgrowth of Third Coast's residency at Notre Dame is the percussion piece Resounding Earth by Augusta Read Thomas, a former Chicago Symphony Orchestra resident composer who now serves as a University Professor at the U. of C. Thomas worked closely with Skidmore and his fellow musicians as they collected more than 125 bells from around the world to create the work's sound-world. They then spent countless hours refining nuances, tunings, even the onstage placement of the vast battery of bells and gongs. Skidmore estimates Third Coast has performed the piece some 17 times across the country since premiering it at Notre Dame in September 2012. The performance I caught last week at the U. of C. concluded the group's February residency there. The four sections of Resounding Earth celebrate, in the composer's words, "commonality across all cultures," along with "the extraordinary beauty and diversity of expression" of instruments – including Burmese spinning bells, Indian Noah bells, Thai gongs and Japanese singing bowls, or rin. There's a ritualistic quality to Thomas' tintinnabulations, each percussionist assuming by turns a kind of hieratic function. Bell sounds at once ancient and modern – bright, dark, shimmering, shattering, rhythmic, lyric – combine to create a wondrous, otherworldly carillon. I found the delicate cosmic song of the Japanese rin in the "Prayer" section absolutely haunting. The Third Coast players made a terrific case for Resounding Earth along with other percussion works by John Cage and Guo Wenjing. Their recording of Resounding Earth, containing spot-on audio and video performances, is available on New Focus Recordings. And Nimbus Alliance has just released a CD of Thomas' orchestral and chamber ensemble works, taken from concert performances by the CSO and MusicNOW ensembles under Pierre Boulez, Cliff Colnot and others. Further good news: The label has two more discs of Thomas' music in the pipeline.
John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune,2/24/2014
It must have been heartening for contemporary music aficionados to see a nearly full house for Third Coast Percussion at the Logan Center in Hyde Park Friday. A major draw at the University of Chicago Presents event was the highly anticipated local premiere of Augusta Read Thomas’ Resounding Earth, written for the quartet in 2012 and already the focus of a highly acclaimed recording. The back story of the piece makes for a program annotator’s dream. Since the bells at the heart of the music have been a conceptual focus of much of Thomas’ oeuvre, this ambitiously proportioned four-movement work could be viewed as a significant touchstone in her illustrious quarter-century career. A true composer/performer collaboration, it draws on the astonishing range of over 200 bells collected by the ensemble from around the globe, and over 300 pieces of metal in total. For all of the sonic sourcing from Asian locales, each of the four movements is also an homage to giants of Western composition. Even by modern multicultural standards, the accumulation of sound and ritual is truly encyclopedic. This is a lot of baggage to carry, but Thomas pulls it off triumphantly. The clear, semi-dry acoustics of Logan Center were a perfect fit for the strike-and-decay sonic profile, and the players threw themselves into their realization with obvious affection for both the composer and the centuries of musical traditions that shaped each instrument. While the work reflects Thomas’ reverence for these cultural symbols, she shows no reticence in coaxing novel timbres from the vast array. A lesser composer might have drowned under the stress of such a profusion of sonic possibilities, but Thomas neatly matched each rhythmic gesture to an appropriate sound and dynamic. The opening movement (“Invocation – Pulse Radiance”) is an homage to Stravinsky and Messiaen, and a compelling fusion of the former’s primal rhythmic thrust with the later’s celebrations of glistening iridescence. The flickering resonances of Burmese spinning gongs announced the opening of “Mantra – Ceremonial Time Shapes”, inspired by Lou Harrison and György Ligeti. The sound world conjured in “Reverie-Crystal Lattice” was the most forceful and comprehensive of the four movements, and a final solitary strike on four chimes from the stage front made for an ingenious and compelling conclusion. The most memorable movement was in some respects also the simplest: “Prayer – Star Dust Orbits”, an homage to Luciano Berio and Pierre Boulez. The featured instruments were temple bowls, mostly struck but also slowly rubbed along their circumference to produce an utterly beguiling metallic song. The periodic accumulation of sustained clouds of dissonance made for one of the most powerful new music experiences I’ve felt in years.
Michael Cameron, Chicago Classical Review,2/22/2014
In Resounding Earth, composed by Augusta Read Thomas for the Chicago quartet Third Coast Percussion, a constellation of singing, ringing and chiming bells, gongs and other metallic implements, representing cultures and traditions from around the world, serves to honor nine venerated 20th-century composers. Bliss out to Ms. Thomas’s transfixing shimmer on the immaculately recorded CD, and marvel at the ensemble performing the intricate work on the accompanying DVD.
Steve Smith, The New York Times,11/27/2013
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