Category Archives: Large Ensemble

Antares Rising (2010) for wind ensemble w/ taiko group

Antares Rising (2010) 8 min.
for wind ensemble w/ taiko group
Premiere: May 15, 2010. University of California, Santa Cruz
2011 Truman State University/MACRO Composition Award

World Premiere performance by
The UCSC Wind Ensemble
Directed by Rob Klevan
Watsonville Taiko
Directed by Ikuyo Conant

May 15, 2010
UC Santa Cruz

Taiko is very open-minded when it comes to collaborating with other styles of music, and a good example of this occurred with my own experience playing with Watsonville Taiko. I joined Watsonville Taiko in 2009 as a passionate supporter of its art form. Eventually, Taeko D’Andrea, their business manager and also performer, discovered that I was also a composer and was researching Taiko as part of my doctoral studies. She showed some of my compositions to Ikuyo Conant, Watsonville Taiko’s sensei, and they invited me to collaborate. I was delighted and immediately thought of a joint-collaboration with the UCSC Wind Ensemble — since Rob Klevan had previously expressed interest in commissioning a new piece from me. I asked Taeko if I could adopt “Asayake,” one of Watsonville Taiko’s signature pieces, as a basis for my new piece. Ikuyo, the composer of the piece agreed.

I spoke at great lengths with the composer of “Asayake,” Ikuyo Sensei, about what the piece means to hear and how she would like it to be represented. She began explaining what the word meant in Japanese and how there is a duality in taiko, and the challenge for me — was to recognize that duality and find the third aspect. I studied the piece for weeks before writing anything. I transcribed it digitally and laid out the entire form including all of the repeats. I pondered on the idea of duality, of yin and yang; two extremes that meet and compliment each other in a mutually beneficial way. Around this time I was studying the music of the 20th century composer, Gyorgy Ligeti, and one of his statements seem to fit into my process of enlightenment: “one often arrives at something qualitatively new by unifying two already known but separate domains.” Ligeti’s statement instantly conjured the idea of two separate domains: Earth and Wind — Membranophone and Aerophone — Taiko and Wind Ensemble. In our practice drills, Ikuyo constantly reminds us to “stay grounded” and send our energy to the Earth. Taiko is a much “grounded” type of energy. However, a Wind Ensemble is the exact opposite. All of the sounds dance in the air and point up — the energy is ascending. I created textures of contrast between the two ensembles: the taiko sextet would provide a stable, grounded sort of texture while the Wind Ensemble would provide a sense of eternal ascension. When the two extreme culminate, there is an explosion of both upward and downward motion: the third element is combustion. When two energies are pulling each other in different directions and neither is giving way — there will be a rupture.

“Asayake” translates to “morning glow” or “sunrise colors.” The synesthetic implications of the piece instantly spoke to me. I began imagining the landscape of the piece, the image of the sun rising soon became something much larger. I began picturing a Red Giant star rising…then a Red Supergiant star! Imagine witnessing the grandeur and frightening power…I chose as the subject for this star to be Antares, known as the heart of the Scorpio constellation. Antares glows bright red and has been often mistaken for Mars, the planet of war, hence, Antares ancient Greek name which means, “against Mars.” Antares glows 10,000 times brighter than our Sun and is 500 times its size. Many of the old Egyptian temples are oriented so that the light of Antares plays a role in the ceremonies performed there. Antares is so massive that someday it will develop an iron core and eventually explode as a brilliant supernova, which musically occurs near the end of “Antares Rising.”

Pages from Nick Vasallo - Antares Rising (2010) 1

Antares Rising (2010)
for wind ensemble w/ taiko group
Full Score (Digital)

Shred (2012) for string orchestra

Shred (2012) 9 min.
for string orchestra
I. Multiverse
II. Long Deaf Hate
Premiere: June 7, 2012. California State University, East Bay
Commissioned by CSUEB String Orchestra

Philip Santos – violin
Julia Adams – viola
Joseph Hébert – cello
Aaron Shaul – bass

Program Notes
Composed from April 6-10th 2012. Shred is my first attempt at representing the sound, the feel, and the attitude of thrash metal into a concert music setting. The first movement—Multiverse—explores several important thrash metal guitar techniques such as pedal tones, tremolos, and highly syncopated rhythmic lines. Long Deaf Hate, the second movement, utilizes the same techniques as the first yet there is a more direct emulation of a thrash band. In this movement one can perceive layers of guitar, drums and vocals. In addition, the intervallic content used to compose a majority of the movement comes from a famous song from the seminal thrash band Slayer. A quotation of this song appears near the end; the movement builds up to this moment of parody.

Pages from Shred (complete) p1

Shred (2012)
for string orchestra
Full Score (Digital)

Expand the Hive (2008) for orchestra

Expand the Hive (2008) 5 min.
for orchestra
Premiere: November, 21, 2008. University of California, Santa Cruz
2008 UCSC Student Orchestral Competition winner

Nicole Paiement conducts the UCSC Orchestra on this world premiere performance November 21, 2008 @ UC Santa Cruz

When I moved to Santa Cruz in the Summer of 2007, I became obsessed with a certain trichord. It was constantly lingering in my head. I eventually decided to compose an exercise exploiting allthe transpositional and inversional possibilities along with its natural motivic aspects. While the construction of the compositional space was quite systematic, the actual composition and “fleshing out” of the material was an act of proclivity; strictly intuituve. This piece is a giant expansion of the cell. I composed the introduction separately from the bulk of the material…I felt thatthe beginning must sound like a powerful force, slowly starting up and eventually engulfing everything in its path. The title has to do with the swarming effect of particular ideas, and the expansion or spreading out of the cell. Despite the chromaticism and use of every pitch set resultant of the trichord, this piece sounds tonal because it functions within itself.

Pages from expand the hive (web) p1

Expand the Hive (2008)
for orchestra
Full Score (Digital)