Release Date: July 10, 2020
Catalog #: RR8037
Format: Digital & Physical
21st Century
Chamber
Percussion
Piano
Violin

Strings & Hammers

MCCORMICK PERCUSSION GROUP

Anthony R. Green composer
Eduardo Costa Roldán composer
Emily Koh composer
Jarkko Hartikainen composer
Alessandro Annunziata composer

Robert McCormick director
Julia Keller double bass
Eunmi Ko piano
Sini Virtanen violin

Fresh from Ravello Records is the McCormick Percussion Group’s STRINGS & HAMMERS. In this latest offering, the MPG tackles a program of new and politically charged works. They are joined by the violin-bass-piano trio Strings and Hammers. Together, the ensemble of string and percussion players employs rhythm, eccentric timbres, and even their own yelping, whispering voices to express powerfully relevant themes.

The McCormick Percussion Group has never shied away from contentious issues, and this album is no different. It opens with Piano Concerto: Solution, in which frantic piano lines and impassioned claps and stomps reflect deep frustration with the modern political scene in the United States. A direct response to Toni Morrison’s call for all artists to “get to work” in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, this piece is a staunch rebuke against misogyny and racism in all of its forms. Memento Mori takes a similar tack; it is a badly-needed reminder of mortality and the frailty of the human condition during a time when hubris and incivility seem to run rampant. We hear the skin of the players’ hands beat each drumhead, a stark and defiant flash of humanity in the midst of moral collapse. Pulsar, composed by Eduardo Costa Roldán, and inspired by the idea of constant unstable pulsation. This natural and primal sound is developed through a constant semiquaver that changes meter throughout the piece. The album goes beyond protest into even more cerebral realms—Ice Concerto, for violin solo and percussion ensemble, is infused with notions of elemental chemistry. The piece portrays the atomic disintegration of dripping ice through anxiety-ridden, jolting rhythms and creeping violin stabs.

Alessandro Annuziata’s Apollon, the closing piece on the album, is a three movement work written for solo piano and six percussionists dedicated to Eunmi Ko, Robert McCormick, and the McCormick Percussion Ensemble. Named after the Greek God of music, prophecy, and healing, and with minimum pause between movements, Apollon brings the album to a fantastic finale.

STRINGS & HAMMERS brings an audacious and highly-provocative attitude to the world of percussion ensemble music. Regardless of your political convictions, the McCormick Percussion Group’s raw, blistering performances are sure to stir up a revolutionary fervor in you.

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Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Piano Concerto (Solution): I. Tension Anthony R. Green McCormick Percussion Group | Robert McCormick, director; Eunmi Ko, piano 7:10
02 Piano Concerto (Solution): II. Solution Anthony R. Green McCormick Percussion Group | Robert McCormick, director; Eunmi Ko, piano 9:03
03 Pulsar Eduardo Costa Roldán McCormick Percussion Group | Robert McCormick, director; Julia Keller, double bass; Eunmi Ko, piano; Sini Virtanen, violin 10:45
04 Memento Mori Emily Koh McCormick Percussion Group | Robert McCormick, director; Julia Keller, double bass; Sini Virtanen, violin 14:48
05 Ice Concerto Jarkko Hartikainen McCormick Percussion Group | Robert McCormick, director; Sini Virtanen, violin 14:08
06 Apollon: I. Delphoi Alessandro Annunziata McCormick Percussion Group | Robert McCormick, director; Eunmi Ko, piano 6:01
07 Apollon: II. Logos Alessandro Annunziata McCormick Percussion Group | Robert McCormick, director; Eunmi Ko, piano 5:07
08 Apollon: III. Ekstasis Alessandro Annunziata McCormick Percussion Group | Robert McCormick, director; Eunmi Ko, piano 7:35

Recorded at Springs Theatre in Tampa Bay FL
www.SpringsTheatre.com

Track 5 recorded April 2018
Track 3, 4, 6 – 8 recorded April 2019
Track 1 – 2 recorded November 2019

Recording, mixing, & mastering John Stephan
Cover art Eduardo Costa Roldán

ENSEMBLE PERSONNEL
Rod Alnord, Kelsey Bannon, Jacob Barber, Katlyn Barber, William Brown, Nick Bruno, A.J. Cerrito, Grace Chang, Hayden Dumars, Tyler Evans, Michael Giunta, Adam Gould, David Grullon, Hannah Harper, Wyatt Hatch, Kaycie Howell, Trevor Hund, Alex Lang, Derek Letsche, Lionel Martinez, Maria Petropoulos, Anand Rehsi, Nicolas Remy, Jazmine Rodriguez, Manny Rosedilla, Kyle Spence, Michael Standard, Vincent Tardy, Joe Tremper, Kyle Uber, Ryan Walton, Hannah Warner, Chace Williams

Executive Producer Bob Lord

Executive A&R Sam Renshaw
A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Chris Robinson

VP, Audio Production Jeff LeRoy
Audio Director Lucas Paquette
Mastering Shaun Michaud

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Patrick Niland, Sara Warner

Artist Information

Robert McCormick

Percussionist

Robert McCormick is currently Professor of Music at the University of South Florida in Tampa. He served as principal percussionist/assistant timpanist with the Florida Orchestra for 20 seasons. He is a former member of the Harry Partch Ensemble and often performs and records with high profile artists of all genres. In 2010, he conducted the premiere performance of Chan Hae Lee’s Korean folk opera Simcheongga at the National Center of Performing Arts in Seoul. In March 2014 McCormick performed the world premiere of Baljinder Sekhon’s Double Percussion Concerto at Carnegie Hall with percussionist Lee Hinkle. McCormick was the 2006 recipient of the Florida Music Educator of the Year Award; the 2007 Grand Prize in the Keystone Percussion Composition Award; the 2010 University Distinguished Teacher Award; and the 2015 Percussive Arts Society Lifetime Achievement in Education Award. He has also received several Global Music Awards for his albums, many of which are published on the Ravello Records label and distributed by Naxos. McCormick proudly endorses Encore Mallets, Grover Pro Percussion, and Zildjian Cymbals.

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McCormick Percussion Group

Ensemble

The McCormick Percussion Group is recognized by critics and composers throughout the world for their unique recordings and interpretations of music decidedly outside of the mainstream. MPG often collaborates with other non-percussion musicians to explore and develop new trends of compositional thought. Among the most recorded ensembles of the genre, MPG has recorded many award winning albums for Ravello Records (dist. by Naxos). To ensure the original intent of each work, composers are often invited to rehearse with the ensemble and supervise recording sessions. Under the direction of Robert McCormick, MPG is a resident ensemble at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

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Strings and Hammers

Strings & Hammers

Ensemble

Strings & Hammers is a unique piano trio. Founded by Eunmi Ko, Sini Virtanen, and Julia Keller, the ensemble has the unusual instrumentation of piano, violin, and double bass. Strings & Hammers explores chamber music repertoire of the 20th and 21st Century and collaborates with composers from around the world. Strings & Hammers appeared in the COMA’16 Madrid Contemporary Music Festival, Universidad Alfonso X el Sabio, University of Rochester, Eastman School of Music, Spectrum NYC, The Venture Compound, University of South Florida, among others. The ensemble has played music of Penderecki, David Liptak, Alessandro Annunziata, Baljinder Sekhon, John Liberatore, Seunghee Lee, Fabio Massimo, Eduardo Costa Roldan, Alejandro Roman, Alejandro de la Barrera, David Jenssen, and Gilad Rabinovitch. In Spring 2019, Strings & Hammers was the guest ensemble for the award-winning McCormick Percussion Group. facebook.com/StringsHammers.

SPECIAL THANKS to chief engineer John Stephan and the wonderful Springs Theatre for the recording, editing, and first mastering of this album. Special thanks to MPG, Julia, Sini, our composers, and especially Eunmi Ko who created the initial idea for this project.

Photo: Buni Photography

Anthony R. Green

Composer

The creative output of Anthony R. Green (composer, performer, social justice) includes musical and visual creations, interpretations of original works or works in the repertoire, collaborations, educational outreach, and more. Behind all of his artistic endeavors are the ideals of equality and freedom, which manifest themselves in diverse ways in a composition, a performance, collaboration, or social justice work.

As a composer, his works have been presented in over 20 countries with artists such as Gabriela Díaz (violin), Wendy Richman (viola), Ashleigh Gordon (viola), Amanda DeBoer Bartlett (soprano), Eunmi Ko (piano) ALEA III (conducted by Gunther Schuller), The Playground Ensemble, Transient Canvas, Ossia New Music Ensemble, Access Contemporary Music, Alarm Will Sound, The McCormick Percussion Group, and many others. www.anthonyrgreen.com

Eduardo Costa Roldán

Composer

Eduardo Costa Roldán is a flautist and composer based in Madrid, Spain. His music has been performed throughout Europe as well as Asia and North/South America and has been broadcasted by Radio Nacional de España (Spanish National Radio) and Radio Nacional de Portugal. His second chamber opera, Party’s Over, was streamed live worldwide through www.crasmusicas.com.

Head of studies at Andana Music School in Madrid, Roldán has taught flute, piano, and music theory since 1990. He conducts, writes and arranges for the student chamber orchestra there. He was also the composer-in-residence and assistant conductor for Madrid’s Council Symphonic Youth Orchestra for three years, where he wrote new pieces and arrangements.

Roldán holds a master’s degree in Music Composition with Distinction by Goldsmiths – University of London. He graduated in Flute Performance at the Conservatorio Superior de Madrid. He also holds the equivalent to a B.M. in Piano, Music Theory Teacher (2014) and a CAE Grade A by Cambridge University. eduardocostaroldan.com

Emily Koh

Composer

Emily Koh is a Singaporean composer and double bassist based in Atlanta, whose music is characterized by inventive explorations of the smallest details of sound. In addition to writing acoustic and electronic concert music, she enjoys collaborating with other creatives in projects where sound plays an important role in the creative process.

Described as “the future of composing” (The Straits Times, Singapore), she the recipient of awards such as the Yoshiro Irino Memorial Prize, ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, Prix D’Ete, and PARMA competitions, commissions from the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition, Composers Conference at Wellesley College, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, Dinosaur Annex Music Ensemble, and grants from New Music USA, Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy, and Paul Abisheganaden Grant for Artistic Excellence. She has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony and Avaloch Farm Music Institute.

Koh’s works have been described as “beautifully eerie” (New York Times), and “subtly spicy” (Baltimore Sun), and have been performed at various venues around the world in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Switzerland, Finland, Israel, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States by acclaimed ensembles and performers such as: McCormick Percussion Group (United States), Talea Ensemble (United States), Ensemble Dal Niente (United States), New York New Music Ensemble (United States), Signal Ensemble (United States), Boston New Music Initiative (United States), New Thread Quartet (United States), Acoustic Uproar (United States), LUNAR Ensemble (United States), East Coast Contemporary Ensemble (United States/Europe), Avanti! (Finland), Israel Contemporary Players (Israel), Sentieri Selvaggi (Italy), the Next Mushroom Promotion (Japan), Chroma Ensemble (UK), The Philharmonic Orchestra (Singapore), Dingyi Music Company (Singapore) and Chamber Sounds (Singapore), among others.

Koh graduated from the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, National University of Singapore (B.M. Music Composition), the Peabody Institute, Johns Hopkins University (M.M. Music Composition and Music Theory Pedagogy), and Brandeis University (Ph.D. graduate in Music Composition and Theory). She is currently Assistant Professor of Composition at the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, University of Georgia in Athens GA. Prior to teaching at UGA, she taught at Brandeis and Harvard Universities, MIT, Longy School of Music (Bard College), and Walnut Hill School for the Arts. She is a member of ASCAP, and is the honorary member on the executive committee of the Composers Society of Singapore. emilykoh.net

Jarkko Hartikainen

Composer

About the composer: Jarkko Hartikainen (b. 1981, Finland) is a composer striving to create works that explore what music is and could still be, researching the possibilities in sound through rigorous performer-collaboration as well as studying findings in a plethora of disciplines. Stimulating acoustic phenomena, exciting sonorities, and concrete, bodily impulses through rhythm, resonance, and empathy fuel his often extremely instrument-specific, concentrated writing.

Currently Hartikainen is working as a commission-based freelance composer, as well as pursuing his D.Mus degree at the Sibelius Academy of Uniarts Helsinki. Eriikka Maalismaa, defunensemble, Ensemble SurPlus, Tapiola Sinfonietta, McCormick Percussion Group, Ensemble Adapter, London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Schwerpunkt, and other such distinguished performers have recently promoted his work on such festivals as Time of Music Viitasaari, Musica nova Helsinki, aDevantgarde Munich, Musik 21 Niedersachsen, Nordic Music Days, Gaudeamus Muziekweek, etc., and on albums published by Ensemble U:, SibaRecords, and NEOS Music. jarkkohartikainen.net

Alessandro Annunziata

Composer

Born in Rome, Italy, Alessandro Annunziata began playing instruments and composing at an early age. He graduated with honors in Literature and Philosophy and specialized in History of Music and Musicology. After studying composition and piano in Rome, he decided to continue his musical research through independent studies on classical and contemporary repertoires as well as popular music particularly in the Mediterranean and European areas.

Greek composer (native of Italy) Dimitri Nicolau (Keratea 1946 – Rome 2008) has been the most influential on the composer’s artistic growth. Both Annunziata and Nicolau view music as inter-human communication and continuous and inexhaustible research of emotional and imaginative expression of our own human identity. Annunziata has worked as musicologist, journalist, teacher, and lecturer. He is author of many articles on music and music history.

His compositions are regularly performed by internationally renowned performing artists, chamber ensembles, and orchestras from around the world. Notable venues include: Lincoln Center of Performing Arts, MoMa (New York), Auditorium Parco della Musica (Rome), Cantiere Internazionale dell’Arte di Montepulciano (Italy), Fondazione Perugia Musica Classica (Italy), Festival “I Suoni delle Dolomiti” (Italy), LingottoMusica, Auditorium del Lingotto (Turin, Italy), Festival di Nuova Consonanza (Rome, Italy), Toronto Chamber Music Downtown (Canada), Salle Tudor – Maison Ogilvy (Montreal, Canada), Queen’s University of Kingston (Ontario, Canada), Società del quartetto (Milano, Italy), Accademia Filarmonica Romana (Rome), Barletta Piano Festiva & Amici della Musica “Mauro Giuliani” (Barletta, Italy), Flaneries musicales de Reims, (France), and many others. alessandroannunziata.com

Notes

Piano Concerto: Solution was written at the request of pianist Eunmi Ko and percussionist Robert McCormick. Growing up in the United States, I would not have thought that 2016 would be the year where the racism and misogyny of the past would come back with such strength. After the disastrous November 9, 2016 election farce, Toni Morrison charged artists to get to work, and her death in 2019 strengthened this personal desire for my career within me. While I have been composing social justice-related works for quite some time, 2017 is when I embraced this aspect of my career without inhibition, preparing for criticism, stereotypes, mono-dimensional expectations, the inevitable labels and boxes, and other unexpected consequences. Yet in the years following this move, the beauty that has been revealed, the work that has come out, the people with whom I have collaborated, the friends and musical family I have met, the opportunities I have been given –these taken together have blocked out the pejorative labels (like “social justice warrior”) and other negativity I received, both subtle and blatant. Piano Concerto: Solution falls squarely within this line of composition, and was developed after discussions with the soloist who premiered the work, Ms. Eunmi Ko. Admitting to being attracted to my social justice leanings, a conversation ensued about some of Ko’s experiences as a female pianist in a world dominated by men, many of whom want to keep it a “boyz only” club. She discussed some experiences (especially when traveling) where she felt disrespected, labeled, and poorly treated. When hearing and reading the several dozens of stories of what men have told aspiring female classical musicians, it became painfully obvious that Ko’s gender is still a problem for far too many men in the classical music field. And from the tension of these interactions, an even stronger woman is born; she is the solution to the problem of misogyny in classical music and everywhere. It is time to make clear what women in the arts and women in general must tolerate and too often sublimate for the mere reason that many men are insecure misogynists stuck in an outdated mentality that the presidential election of 2016 attempted to resuscitate. Piano Concerto: Solution is a musical and visual manifestation of this idea, and can extend to members of other marginalized groups as well.

— Anthony R. Green

Pulsar is inspired by the idea of a constant, although unstable pulsation, which runs in two layers. The semiquaver is constant within the piece while the meter changes due to different groupings. Diatonic material develops from the harmonic series and a six-tone mode. The idea was to create music that had a certain natural and even primal feel. Violin, piano, and double bass begin the piece as part of the ensemble but gradually start to create more significant roles as soloists. Pulsar was written for the Strings & Hammers Trio and the McCormick Percussion Group. It was commissioned by Eunmi Ko and Robert McCormick to whom the work is dedicated.

— Eduardo Costa Roldán

A Memento Mori is an artistic or symbolic reminder of mortality. May this work be a memorial for all that we have lost in this current climate—humanity, civility, morals, courage, empathy, compassion, logic, common sense, backbones—and be a charge for those who still stand righteous and strong to fight back, and never back down. I have conceived of the double bass and violin parts as a single “superbass” instrument and have in the back of my head always subtitled this piece as ‘concerto for superbass and percussion’ since its conception.

— Emily Koh

Ice Concerto for violin solo and percussion ensemble, is an attempt in doing something decidedly different from my current timbre and materiality-based practice focusing on the concrete and noisy physicality of live performance. In contrast, this is ritualistic, exorcist-like and pitch-driven music that nevertheless keeps its cool distance, exhibiting an inevitable processual drive of a nature event. Yet this rhythmically melting spectral drama is lived through the eyes of a virtuoso protagonist made of oxygen and hydrogen under varying degrees of warmth—from glacial stillness to dancing vapor and, finally, fatally dripping liquid. This is a piece born from a need to write something “musical” yet “macabre” in a time of increasing environmental anxiety. Music composed in freezing, socialist-green Helsinki winter—to be premiered in balmy Florida spring of the Trump-era. This piece is dedicated to the inspiring musicality of violin artista Sini Virtanen, who commissioned the work for her and the magnificent McCormick Percussion Group of the University of South Florida and Robert McCormick in Tampa. Their dedication to bringing this piece to life and recording has left me with deep admiration and gratitude.

— Jarkko Hartikainen

Apollon (Greek God of Music, Prophecy and Healing) was written for solo piano and six percussionists. Dedicated to pianist Eunmi Ko, Robert McCormick, and the McCormick Percussion Group, Apollon is written in three titled movements: “I. Delphoi,” “II. Logos,” and “III. Ekstasis.” The work begins with an opening roll on the gong and transforms through a piano cadenza into the second movement opening statement with bongos and toms. The third movement is announced with bells, vibes, and crotales. The movements are performed with minimum pause.

— Alessandro Annunziata