Friday, May 08, 2015

CCC 131 - Robert Paterson

Since I'm a percussionist myself, I'm always seeking out composers that contribute significantly to the repertoire. Robert Paterson has done that, and his compositions certainly qualify him for a profile in the Consonant Composer's Challenge. Paterson studied with Christopher Rouse (profiled in CCC 023), Samuel Adler (profiled in CCC 016), and Joseph Schwantner among others, and -- like them -- has adapted a form of tonality for his own work.

Although a percussionist, Paterson hasn't limited himself just to that one field, or indeed, just to instrumental music. He's completed a chamber opera and several works for SATB choir. Paterson's also written orchestral works, as well as "A New Earth," a significant composition for orchestra, chorus and narrator.

To my ears, Paterson's music sounds ordered, accessible, and full of imaginative detail. He effectively uses the tonal vernacular of the 20th and 21st centuries to communicate with his audiences. And he definitely has something to say.

"Did You Hear?" initially seems to be a novelty piece for chorus, breaking male and female voices into two gossiping groups. But in the middle, the work turns introspective, and gives us insight into the insecurities of the participants.

Paterson has developed a six-mallet technique for the marimba. Four mallet playing is fairly common, which allows marimbists to play chords and complex counterpoint. As you can see in the video for the performance of "Komodo," Paterson's technique not only allows thicker chordal textures, but gives the marimbist additional agility as he moves about the instrument. And of course, the composer Paterson takes full advantage of the possibilities of that six-mallet technique!

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any video examples of Paterson's orchestral music, but this promotional video for his work "A New Earth" provides at least a sampling of his orchestral style.

Robert Paterson's music has a down-to-earth practicality about it that I found refreshing. It's music that has an immediate appeal, yet it's also substantial enough to reward repeated listening. I'd love to hear a performance of "Dark Mountains" or his "Symphony in Three Movements." Any orchestra willing to be just a little adventuresome?

Recommended Recordings

Robert Paterson: Six Mallet Marimba

Winter Songs: Vocal Music of Robert Paterson

Robert Paterson: Eternal Reflections

Star Crossing: Music of Robert Paterson

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