Third Coast Percussion Propels an Aquatic Adventure
with ‘Paddle to the Sea’ on Cedille Records
Grammy-winning ensemble created album’s title work
as a live soundtrack to a classic children’s film
CD also includes water-themed works that influenced the project:
Jacob Druckman’s ‘Reflections on the Nature of Water,’
Philip Glass arrangements titled ‘Aguas da Amazonia,’
and a Zimbabwean Shona song
Grammy Award winners for their Steve Reich Cedille Records debut, Third Coast Percussion launches listeners on an imaginative water-borne adventure with their new album, Paddle to the Sea, available February 9, 2018.
The title track, Paddle to the Sea, is an original Third Coast ensemble composition, conceived as a live soundtrack to the charming, Oscar-nominated 1966 short film of the same name. The film, adapted from the well-known children’s book Paddle-to-the-Sea, depicts a Native Canadian boy who lovingly carves a small wooden figure in a canoe and launches him on a dramatic, far-reaching solo journey to the ocean. This is the work’s world-premiere recording (Cedille Records CDR 90000 175).
In the album liner notes, Third Coast member Robert Dillon describes it as “a musical narrative that parallels the exuberance, danger, loneliness, and infinite possibility of Paddle’s voyage.”
The album includes water-related works from which Third Coast drew inspiration for their own piece: Jacob Druckman’s Reflections on the Nature of Water for solo marimba; Third Coast’s arrangements of four selections from Philip Glass’s 12 Pieces for Ballet (originally composed for piano), based on Glass’s originals and Brazilian musical group Uakti’s multi-instrumental versions, titled Aguas da Amazonia; and Zimbabwean musician Musekiwa Chingodza’s arrangement of Chigwaya, a song from the Shona tradition used to call water spirits. Third Coast worked closely with Chingodza on the project during his visits to the U.S.
“This album is a story told by many voices, with music that we have composed interwoven with music by others who have shaped our art,” Dillon writes.
Third Coast gave the world premiere of Paddle to the Sea while screening the film at the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Tex., in October 2017. The Dallas Morning News called the performance “arresting and enjoyable.” TheaterJones called it “unforgettable” and said, “There was something magical about the performance, but it is almost impossible to describe the experience in mere words.”
In performing the work, Third Coast employs a vast array of instruments, both traditional and quirky, including pitched desk bells, wood blocks, ceramic floor tiles, almglocken (tuned cowbells), drum set, synthesizer, marimba, mbira (thumb piano), and a water-filled bowl with a submerged microphone, to name a few.
Paddle to the Sea was commissioned by the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Meany Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Washington, ArtsLIVE at the University of Dayton, and the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.
Third Coast’s “Paddle to the Sea” project is supported by the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional support from the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, and is made possible through a collaboration with the National Film Board of Canada.
Third Coast’s new collaborative composition was three years in the making, according to ensemble member Robert Dillon in an interview with Cedille Records. Dillon said the idea for composing a new soundtrack to Paddle to the Sea came from Thomas M. Welsh, director of performing arts at the Cleveland Museum of Art, who is a friend of the ensemble and a fan of the film.
The compositional process began with Third Coast members contributing short sketches and fragments to a catalog of musical themes, each tagged with a descriptor about the mood, atmosphere, or image it evokes. They then “divvied up specific movie scenes among the members,” Dillon recalled. Each would draft music for his favorite scenes using themes from the collection. “Maybe someone else would take it over and work on it. It was a very collaborative process. Every part of the final piece involved some input from all of us.”
The Druckman and Glass influences are heard more in “a general aesthetic sense, inspired by the sound world of those pieces,” Dillon said, rather than in direct quotations, which are rare and highly transformed. For example, a harmony from a Druckman marimba solo is spread between a vibraphone and water bowl. An exception is “a melodic figure from ‘Chigwaya,’ which is used pretty much verbatim in one spot.”
Third Coast completed most of the writing on Paddle to the Sea while in residence at Yellow Barn chamber music center, Putney, Vt.
Paddle to the Sea is Third Coast’s second collaborative composition and the first to be recorded.
Paddle to the Sea was produced by Jesse Lewis and engineered by Kyle Pike at Electrical Audio, Chicago, Ill., December 12–15, 2016.
Third Coast Percussion
Third Coast Percussion, a Chicago-based, artist-run quartet of classically-trained percussionists, has been praised for “commandingly elegant” (New York Times) performances, the “rare power” (Washington Post) of their recordings, and “an inspirational sense of fun and curiosity” (Minnesota Star-Tribune). The four members of Third Coast are also accomplished teachers, and since 2013, have served as ensemble-in-residence at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.
Third Coast maintains a busy touring schedule and has performed in 32 of the 50 United States plus Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Poland.
Third Coast won the 2017 Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance for Third Coast Percussion | Steve Reich on Cedille Records. The reviewer for British website The Arts Desk wrote, “This is the greatest percussion disc I have ever heard, both in terms of playing and recording.” In addition to its Cedille Records albums, the ensemble’s discography includes recordings on the New Focus, Nimbus, and Mode labels.
Ensemble members are Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin, and David Skidmore. Website: www.thirdcoastpercussion.com
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