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ORCHESTRA

EchoTempo

 


photo EchoTempo - soprano, percussion & orchestra (35')
commissioned by the New York Philharmonic

Premiere: November 1, 2001, Avery Fisher Hall, NYC
Susan Botti - soprano soloist, Christopher Lamb - percussion soloist
Kurt Masur - conductor

to an exerpt from
Song 1 ("Spring is Opening"/Pawnee)

goview an exerpt
from the score

EchoTempo is a setting of Native American translations for soprano, percussion & orchestra, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic.

The first aspect of this unusual combination of solo instruments that intrigued me was the idea that voice and drums were the "original" instruments. I felt that the texts that I chose needed to reflect a timelessness. The simple elegance and power of these texts not only fulfilled that quality but also offered me a wonderful doorway into the spirit of these inspiring cultures. The Native American connection to and reverence for nature and the human experience resonate through the translations. My settings of these texts do not incorporate the original songs or dances with which they were conceived. Rather, I looked for my inspiration to the rhythms and sounds from the natural world around us - animal movements and sounds, elemental & emotion-based sounds as interpreted through my musical vocabulary.

photo

The four texts are set in a continuous cycle (performed without pause).

Song 1 ("Spring is Opening"/Pawnee) is a celebration of the vibrant renewal of spring.
Song 2 ("Neither Spirit not Bird"/Shoshone) is a love song.
Song 3 ("War God's Horse Song II") comes out of the fantastic & beautiful Navajo mythology.*
Song 4 ("In the Great Night"/Papago) is also known as "Owl Woman's Death Song."

Each song represents a season, joined in an endless cycle, renewed again each spring.

*"War God" (also known as "Enemy Slayer") is one of twin sons born to Changing Woman and the Sun. (Changing Woman is the principal Navajo deity whose name comes from the cycle of changes in her age: young in the spring, mature in the late summer, old in winter, and young again the following spring). The warrior twins were sent by the deities to rid the world of monsters who were born of the quarreling people of the earth; and who were ravaging the land. The twins were sent to restore harmony to the world.

photo

When I was compiling the texts that I would set, I hoped to find expressions of human experience common across time, across cultures. The delight in the senses of spring, the passion of love, and the transcendence of death, were evident choices. Sadly, so was the choice of a text that portrays the senseless repetition of human conflict. As disturbing an issue as this was when I began EchoTempo, it became even more so in the wake of the horrifying events in New York City and Washington D.C. on September 11.

My original co-soloist was percussionist Christopher Lamb, who possesses seemingly boundless virtuosity. Our rare opportunity to collaborate on this piece as it developed was generously supported by the University of Michigan

"...a kind of double concerto for voice and percussion...an expansive setting of American Indian texts in which mythology is interwoven with a sense of the cyclic and symbolic (spring and birth, winter and death)... singers who don't perform new music because composers disregard the limitations of the voice might consider the demands that singer-composers like Ms. Botti have made on their voices, often to great effect... Ms. Botti is sensitive to the texts she is setting, and her approach in 'EchoTempo' covers considerable ground, from an almost whispered lyricism to virtuosic angularity. The last two of the work's four movements - 'War God's Horse Song II,' a Navajo text, and the brief but chillingly effective 'In the Great Night,' a Papago evocation of death and transfiguration - were especially striking... the percussion writing was varied and tactile... Often she used her voice as a counterpart to the percussion battery, mirroring the marimba melodies and rhythms in textless sections."
   -- Allan Kozinn, The New York Times

"There is something sweet about Susan Botti's EchoTempo, which the New York Philharmonic commissioned and premiered... The piece employs percussion soloists and a soprano - on this occasion the composer herself - singing Native American texts. Botti (who has impressive new-music performing credits) is a ravishing singer - pure, playful and inventive, with a glowing voice that's absolutely even from the top to the bottom of her range... you'd also want to give her credit for things that normal concert singers rarely do. For instance, she sings achingly in tune - not just precisely on pitch but in a special joyful zone somewhere in the heart of each note. At one point her score calls for the singer to imitate the percussion soloist, and she matched not just the precise inflection of a high G-sharp played on the marimba but its timbre as well. She played percussion instruments herself, and with so much concentration that you might have thought the music was a sacred rite...the audience appeared to love it (which, for anyone who cares about new music, was wonderful to see). They applauded warmly, and twice brought Botti back for extra bows."
   -- Greg Sandow, Andante

"...full of lovingly crafted sonic details that gleamed and disappeared... The singer/composer wrote the piece for her own slender voice and remarkable technique, as well as for the Philharmonic's sensational principal percussionist, Christopher Lamb. She ably piqued the ear by blending the vocal and the percussive: A quiet and quick sung tremolo fuses with a lyrical marimba; a toneless 'ta-ka'tsss' mimics the cymbals..."
   -- Justin Davidson, New York Newsday

(Feb, 2017) "Alabama Symphony Orchestra's Sound Edge Festival brought composer, soprano, and force of nature Susan Botti to the Alys Stephens Center, where she electrified her audience...Throughout her setting of Native American poetry, "EchoTempo" for soprano, percussion, and orchestra, lines between the speaker and nature, soloist and orchestra dissolved into an identity that Botti embodied and lived on stage.... brilliant percussionist Ted Atkatz... contributed rich detail to the whole, and incredibly attuned, conversation with Botti. The ensemble navigated shifting rhythmic patterns with well-calibrated skill, and vibrantly characterized a lively score."
   -- Edward Forstman, ArtsBHAM

Instrumentation (chamber orchestra):
   Fl1 (dbl Alto Fl), Fl2 (dbl Picc)
   Ob1, Ob2 (dbl Eng. Hn)
   Bb Cl1, Bb Cl 2 (dbl Bs Cl)
   Bsn, Contrabsn
   2 Hns in F, 2 Bb Tpts, Tbn, Bs Tbn, Tuba
   3 Perc:
      1) vibraphone, 4 brake drums, slapstick, shaker, susp. cym, susp. crotales,
          sm metal scraper, wdblk, rainstick, afuché, puilis, bow
      2) lg bass drum (pref. "gong drum"), 3 toms, rainstick, puilis
      3) susp. crotales, susp. cym, puilis, sandpaper blocks, lg tam tam,
          rainstick, afuché
   Harp
   Strings
   Soprano Solo
   Percussion solo:
   Marimba setup: 5-8ve marimba, bells/chimes/keys, coco rattles, crotales,
   maracas, mounted frame drum (no jingles), susp. cymbals, sm gong
   Multi setup: 5 hand drums, susp. cyms, susp. metal bell plates, crotales,
   cowbells, sm. gongs/brake drums

Instrumentation (full orchestra):
   3 Fl (1 dbl picc, 1 dbl alto fl)
   2 Ob, 1 Eng. Hn
   2 Bb Cl, 1 Bass Cl
   2 Bsn, 1 Contrabsn
   4 Hn, 3 Bb Tpt
   2 Tbn, 1 Bass Tbn, 1 Tuba
   3 Perc:
      1) vibraphone, 4 brake drums, slapstick, shaker, susp. cym, susp. crotales,
          sm metal scraper, wdblk, rainstick, afuché, puilis, bow
      2) lg bass drum (pref. "gong drum"), 3 toms, rainstick, puilis
      3) susp. crotales, susp. cym, puilis, sandpaper blocks, lg tam tam,
          rainstick, afuché
   Harp
   Strings
   Soprano Solo
   Percussion solo:
   Marimba setup: 5-8ve marimba, bells/chimes/keys, coco rattles, crotales,
   maracas, mounted frame drum (no jingles), susp. cymbals, sm gong
   Multi setup: 5 hand drums, susp. cyms, susp. metal bell plates, crotales,
   cowbells, sm. gongs/brake drums

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