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Viewing entries tagged
Chamber Music

A SINGLE NOON

A SINGLE NOON

A SINGLE NOON

Instrumentation: cello and piano

Duration: 3 minutes

Composed: 2007


The opening of movement of my NYC-inspired piano suite, A Single Noon, is the sort of thing you might hum to yourself while taking a walk. The sighing theme - sweet, faintly nostalgic - feels just right for the rich timbre of the cello.

Some Not Too Distant Tomorrow

Some Not Too Distant Tomorrow

Some Not Too Distant Tomorrow

Instrumentation: string quartet and piano

Duration: 29 minutes

Composed: 2017

Commissioned by: the Classical Recording Foundation and funded by a gift from Linda and Stuart Nelson

Premiere: June 5, 2017 by the Attacca Quartet and Gregg Kallor at The Sheen Center, NYC

 

A tribute to the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Every year on Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday, I spend some time with his speeches and wonder what further words of conscience he might have offered had he lived longer.

I've never felt more fear or uncertainty about the way we communicate with each other and what that means for our future than I have recently, and I find myself increasingly drawn to Dr. King's message of compassion, and inclusiveness, and social and economic equality for everyone. His words have been a great comfort to me during this unsettling period, and my new composition for piano and string quartet is inspired by Dr. King's singular faith in our capacity to love, and to do better.

The title of the suite, Some Not Too Distant Tomorrow, comes from a passage in Dr. King's Letter from Birmingham Jail, which he wrote during a period of solitary confinement in the Alabama prison. The letter is an exquisite statement about the dire urgency of achieving social and economic justice, and about the moral and practical implications of nonviolence as the means of getting there. It's also a searing indictment of those who advocated for the status quo in the face of horrible injustice. And it's a moving plea for understanding, and mutual respect.

I hope the music conveys the profound impact his words have had on me.


Some Not Too Distant Tomorrow:

  1. The Fierce Urgency of Now

  2. The Road Ahead

  3. Into the Hearts of Humanity

  4. Only When It Is Dark Enough, Can You See The Stars

  5. Some Not Too Distant Tomorrow


1. The Fierce Urgency of Now

"We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children."

-from MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech

delivered August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

2. The Road Ahead

"And I must confess, my friends, that the road ahead will not always be smooth. There will still be rocky places of frustration and meandering points of bewilderment. There will be inevitable setbacks here and there. And there will be those moments when the buoyancy of hope will be transformed into the fatigue of despair. Our dreams will sometimes be shattered and our ethereal hopes blasted. We may again, with tear-drenched eyes, have to stand before the bier of some courageous civil rights worker whose life will be snuffed out by the dastardly acts of bloodthirsty mobs. But difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future."

-from Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?

published in 1967

3. Into the Hearts of Humanity

"And here was a man of nonviolence [Gandhi], falling at the hand of a man of violence. Here was a man of love falling at the hands of a man of hate. This seems the way of history... And the man who shot Gandhi only shot him into the hearts of humanity. And just as when Abraham Lincoln was shot - mark you, for the same reason that Mahatma Gandhi was shot, that is, the attempt to heal the wounds of a divided nation - when the great leader Abraham Lincoln was shot, Secretary Stanton stood by the body of this leader and said, "Now he belongs to the ages." And that same thing can be said about Mahatma Gandhi now. He belongs to the ages, and he belongs especially to this age, an age drifting once more to its doom. And he has revealed to us that we must learn to go another way."

-from MLK's Palm Sunday sermon on Mohandas K. Gandhi

delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama on March 22, 1959

4. Only When It Is Dark Enough, Can You See the Stars

"The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around... But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars."

-from MLK's "I've Been To The Mountaintop" speech

delivered April 3, 1968 at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple Church in Memphis, TN

5. Some Not Too Distant Tomorrow

"Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty."

-from Letter From Birmingham Jail

published in Why We Can't Wait in 1963


"I Have A Dream"

delivered August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

"I've Been To The Mountaintop"

delivered April 3, 1968 in Memphis, TN

Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

delivered December 10, 1964 in Oslo, Norway


StringsMagazine.png

"Amid Kallor's jazz-inflected sound world, a lyrical grace threaded through the five cohesive movements. The music seemed to distill complex ruminations into a clear vision...

Floating, sunkissed passages swam with underlying tension...

The final movement left the audience with a peaceful atmosphere, weaving an elegant veil of serene tones - a satisfying nexus between social conflict and art."

-Cristina Schreil


TheStrad.jpg

"The main event was the world premiere of Some Not Too Distant Tomorrow, a piano quintet conceived as a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. With the composer at the piano, the [Attacca] quartet dug into the first movement, 'The Fierce Urgency of Now', its angularity and syncopations reflecting the strength in King's 'I Have a Dream' speech. Later came blues-infused melodies floating over alluring pizzicato ostinatos alternating with bristling, rapid energy. The fifth movement, which gives the work its title, comes from King's 1963 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail', and in its granitic, complex chords, left a mood of optimism in its wake."

-Bruce Hodges


"Some Not Too Distant Tomorrow... incorporates modern melodic and jazz ideas in a flawless fusion of sounds, reflecting the tension, unease and tragedy of Dr. King's too-brief life.

The work uses piano and string quartet in effective tandem, generating fresh voicings as the instruments are sounded, combined and recombined. The five movements are pure music, with some room for Mr. Kallor's piano to improvise against the ensemble. There is a stunning fast movement where fast pizzicato work dives and leaps over a keening violin and Mr. Kallor's steady pianism.

The slow final movement was the best of all. Here, slow, hypnotic chords and gentle string melodies forged a gentle, hopeful cloak of sound, a light and transparent comfort in these dark times."

-Paul J. Pelkonen


"[Kallor] is preternaturally comfortable in both the jazz and classical idioms. This gives his music a wonderful, off-kilter beat and also provides the satisfaction of the demands of classical rigor. That this convergence works is a tribute to this highly gifted contemporary composer...

We heard Kallor's Halloween classic, The Tell-Tale Heart, at a Crypt event around All Hollow's Eve as it unfolded into an instant classic. It is easy to see a piece like Some Not Too Distant Tomorrow being performed in the Oprah Winfrey Theatre at the Museum of African American History on the Washington Mall. It is both an unusual and a monumental tribute to a leader who died as he was beginning to push for economic justice in America.

Cutting edge music is carving out all kinds of new edges with composers like Gregg Kallor. Despite dire predictions about the death of classical, its liveliness is erupting all around us."

-Susan Hall

A FEVERED DREAM

A FEVERED DREAM

A Fevered Dream

Instrumentation: violin, cello, and piano

Duration: 23 minutes

Composed: 2015

Commissioned by: SubCulture Arts Underground, New York

Premiere: June 11, 2015 by Miranda Cuckson (violin), Joshua Roman (cello), and Gregg Kallor (piano) at SubCulture NYC


The title of this piece comes from Edgar Lee Masters' breathless poem, "Love is a madness," and the five movements weave through the intoxication of falling in love and the searing pain of love crumbling. Masters tells us, "The beginning and the end are devoid of speech." But not of music.


A Fevered Dream:

  1. Dirty Little Secret

  2. Blink

  3. Things Unsaid

  4. Whispers

  5. Afterwards

SHORT STORIES

SHORT STORIES

SHORT STORIES

Instrumentation: violin and piano

Duration: 15 minutes

Composed: 2012


My maternal grandmother was a talented violinist, but she stopped playing after her mother died. By the time I was alive, her arthritis prevented her from holding the violin. Her parents bought her a baby grand piano for her sixteenth birthday so that she and her sister, a cellist, could invite friends over to play chamber music. That was the instrument on which I learned to play.

I grew up six blocks from my grandparents and saw them most days of the week. We were very close. They came to every concert I gave and always sat right in front (arriving super early to ensure snagging that prime real estate). They never got to hear this music, but I feel their presence very strongly when I play it.

I wrote Short Stories imagining my grandmother playing it, and my grandfather listening to it. She was a gentle, quiet soul he was the strongest man I've ever known. Both had a touch of mischief. They were deeply in love for nearly 63 years.


Short Stories:

  1. Faces and Names

  2. A Kept Promise

  3. Sticks and Stones

UNDERCURRENT

UNDERCURRENT

UNDERCURRENT

Instrumentation: cello and piano

Duration: 15 minutes

Composed: 2013


Sometimes there's a disconnect between the things we feel and the things we say; Undercurrent explores where the two meet. The simmering line that the cello and piano pass back and forth is always churning away just under the surface, like the fraught subtext that sometimes attends our most intimate conversations - until it bubbles up and explodes. (Some relationships are, um... dynamic.) The middle movement evokes that fragile place of unspoken intimacy - where a glance, a gesture, a touch can mean everything.

A DRUNKEN MAN'S PRAISE OF SOBRIETY

A DRUNKEN MAN'S PRAISE OF SOBRIETY

A DRUNKEN MAN'S PRAISE OF SOBRIETY

Instrumentation: violin and piano

Duration: 5 minutes

Composed: 2012


William Butler Yeats' raucous poem, A Drunken Man's Praise of Sobriety, ends a set of songs I wrote several years ago (always best to close with a drinking song), and I thought it would make a fun romp for violin and piano.