Callithumpian Consort: Zorn, Epstein, Lewis, García Islas, Steiger

NEC: Brown Hall | Directions

290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA
United States

NEC faculty Stephen Drury created the Callithumpian Consort in the belief that new music should be an exciting adventure shared by performers and listeners alike, and that the brand new masterpieces of our day are beautiful, sensuous, challenging, delightful, provocative, and a unique joy.

Callithumpian’s repertoire is the new and unusual, encompassing a huge stylistic spectrum from the classics of the last 100 years to works of the avant-garde and experimental jazz and rock. It is grounded in the musical discoveries of John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Zorn, Giacinto Scelsi, Morton Feldman, and Iannis Xenakis.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Boston Cultural Council and administered by the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, with the friendly support of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation.

View the concert program in our digital archive.

This is an in-person event with a private stream available to the NEC community here

  • Zach Sheets, flute
  • Elizabeth England, oboe
  • Gleb Kanasevich, clarinet
  • Adam Smith, bassoon
  • Neil Godwin, French horn
  • Mike Williams, Aaron Trant, percussion
  • Yukiko Takagi, piano
  • Ryan Shannon, violin
  • Sam Kelder, viola
  • Stephen Marotto, cello
  • Edward Kass, double bass
  • Rand Steiger, electronics
  • Stephen Drury, conductor
  1. John Zorn | The Temptations of St. Anthony (2012)


    Program note

    The Temptations of St. Anthony is a kind of mini piano concerto. Ever-shifting and unpredictable textures follow each other with little or no transition, a characteristic of this composer's works. 

  2. Marti Epstein | The Mystical Cosmetic (2022)

    World premiere


    Program note

    Mystical Cosmetic was originally composed in 2019 for pianist Kevin Madison. This revised 2022 version was commissioned by Jeffrey Duryea for the Callithumpian Consort. This new version is for piano and 10 instruments, and it is a longer, more expanded version of the original.
            Mystical Cosmetic takes its inspiration from the book Chromophobia by David Batchelor. In the book he discusses a passage from Moby Dick (my favorite book), talking about the whiteness of the whale and how the sun and sea color that whiteness, almost as a kind of cosmetic: “In Moby Dick, Melville refers to light, his colouring agent, as a ‘mystical cosmetic’. Now that is a truly strange pairing: ‘mystical’ and ‘cosmetic’. One term speaks of profound idealism, essential oneness, subliminity, invisible and indivisible bonding. The other term speaks of altogether more local, visible and vulgar concerns... Cosmetics adorn, embellish, supplement.”

         I imagined the 10 instruments as coloring agents for the sound of the piano.

    This piece was written for and dedicated to the Callithumpian Consort.                 
    – Marti Epstein

  3. George Lewis | Mnemosis (2012)


    Program note

    Mnemosis features repeated cells of dissonant interlocking lines that take shape as elaborate, even baroque loops. The overall impression is one of a clock with several hands turning unpredictably in different directions, triggering an oddball circus of sounds, recurring asynchronously, sometimes raucously.                          
    – George Lewis


  5. Cristina García Islas | Los trece cielos (ciclos 1-3) (2020)

    World premiere


    Program note

    Los trece cielos (Thirteen heavens) is the cosmogonic representation of the ancient Aztec polytheistic spirit, where the overworld and the underworld are intertwined with lower and higher forces, darkness, the power of the sun as well as the duality of creation and destruction where good and evil share space. It is a piece that works in cycles, going from 1 to 13. Thus, for example, the present piece (cycles 1-3) is the overture of the total of 60 minutes.
            The piece was written for The Callithumpian ,thanks to a grant from the Sistema  Nacional de Creadores de Arte (Mexico)  and it is based on the following points of the thirteen heavens:

    Cycle 1: The place where the moon moves.
    Cycle 2: The place where the stars move.
    Cycle 3: The place where the sun moves.

    Cycles 1-3 seeks to show the dark blue colors of the universe where the stellar brightness converges through the union of diverse worlds, going from colder to warmer colors, making these first frames or moments a summary tour of the complete piece.                                                                                              
    – Cristina García Islas

  6. Rand Steiger | A Menacing Plume (2011)

    Program note

    From the moment I read about the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil platform (April 20, 2010), I was filled with a sense of dread. I thought immediately of the strange, unworldly creatures that thrive in the ocean's depths, as well as those that swim near the surface or fly above it. My feeling of horror grew as we read day after day of the massive, uninhibited flow of oil from the sea floor, and the unregulated use of chemical dispersants (which we now know will linger longer than the oil itself, with as yet unknown consequences.) After a few weeks, news reports described huge plumes of oil gathering in the gulf and drifting out into the Atlantic Ocean. It was impossible to know how large these were or how deadly they would be, but that image of a menacing plume, obliterating life in its wake, stayed with me. Although in many of my earlier works I have reflected on the natural world, I have never before attempted so directly, almost literally, to narrate something like this event in musical terms. 
            My piece begins with an image of the vast undisturbed surface of the sea as the blinding, bright morning light first arises, followed by a flock of seabirds that soar above. Then layers of material emerge though all the instruments, inspired by the diversity and complexity of undersea life. Finally, an ominous darkness enters and ultimately squeezes out all life. In addition to the conventional instruments on stage, you will hear two vibraphones with specially tuned bars that enable just intonation. We will also be deploying digital signal processing to transform the sound of the instruments in a variety of ways (just-tuned harmonizing, delays, filters, etc.) 
    – Rand Steiger