Stephen Ruppenthal trumpet and flugelhorn
Brian Belet composer
Bruno Liberda composer
Elainie Lillios composer
Allen Strange composer
Innovative New Music trumpeter Stephen Ruppenthal commands attention right out the gate. Or perhaps, more specifically, he commands it right out the “NGate” – the subtitle of the opening track on FLAMETHROWER, his Ravello Records debut. The album contains world premieres of five pieces for trumpet, flugelhorn, voice, and crotale, composed specifically for Ruppenthal by Allen Strange, Bruno Liberda, Elainie Lillios, and Brian Belet.
From the first notes of Velocity Studies V: NGate, listeners might recall the spirit of Miles Davis’s Electric Era, as delayed trumpet blasts echo deep into their psyche. Ruppenthal’s playing also alludes to the works of trumpeters like Jon Hassell and Nils Petter Molvær.
What sets Ruppenthal’s expressive trumpet performances apart is the way they’re informed by digital sound processing and interactive electroacoustics. The combination of organic and synthesized sounds come together to form a cohesive sonic landscape steeped with an edgy, introspective feeling throughout.
Tracks like “a sphere of air is bound” show the trumpeter extending his instrument from its traditional sound. Ruppenthal’s trumpet is simultaneously processed and multiplied by the Kyma system, which mimics sounds from deep within a dense jungle soundscape.
Ruppenthal uses the haunting reverberations of the crotale to open Lillios’ November Twilight, the album’s centerpiece. As his bursts of trumpet pierce through the track’s sonic landscape, the trumpeter adds intermittent vocalizations, taking inspiration from the Haiku poem by Wally Swist, and substratal sonance, contributing further ripples to the atmosphere. This all builds to a triumphant swell of trumpets that shimmer amid the piece’s darker tones, a dichotomy creating contrast and depth, and enhancing the many facets and moods of the work.
The title of Misty Magic Land reflects its sounds; chimes and high-end timbres create a mystical and mysterious atmosphere for Ruppenthal’s trumpets to explore. Brian Belet also appears on the track as producer and overseer of digital audio processing. He returns to these roles for his composition System of Shadows at the end of the album.
Speaking of FLAMETHROWER’s concluding track, System of Shadows returns to the frenzied, impassioned nature of the album’s opener, processing a Bitches Brew-inspired core with shimmering reconstruction achieved in tandem with the Kyma system processing. Quick loops sizzle under the surface long after Ruppenthal has released the notes from his trumpet, resulting in a hypnotic effect unlike anything else on the album. The hum of the lingering trumpet is a cathartic end to an innovative journey.
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Stephen Ruppenthal San Francisco Bay Area Composer/performer Stephen Ruppenthal is co-Principal trumpet and Contemporary Music Advisor for Redwood Symphony. He studied trumpet with Chris Bogios of the San Francisco Symphony and Opera. Ruppenthal holds a Performance Degree and a Master of Arts Degree in Contemporary Musicology from San Jose State University, studying composition and electro-acoustics with Allen Strange and ethnomusicology with Lou Harrison.
Brian Belet lives in northwestern Oregon (USA) with his partner and wife Marianne Bickett. His music is recorded on audio CDs published by Capstone, Centaur, Frog Peak Music, IMG Media, Innova, New Ariel Recordings, PARMA Recordings (Navona and Ravello imprints), SWR Music/Hänssler Classic, and the University of Illinois labels; with research published in Contemporary Music Review, Organised Sound, Perspectives of New Music, Proceedings of the International Computer Music Conference, and Proceedings of the International Web Audio Conference. Dr. Belet retired from San Jose State University as Emeritus Professor of Music in 2020.