of Note Quarterly
Deon Nielsen Price is multitalented and gifted. A first-class
composer, pianist, and teacher, she is also the president of the
International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWM)
since 1996. As a composer, she has received numerous commissions,
grants, and awards ranging from the Alaska Arts Council, to the
Barlow Endowment for Composition, Mu Phi Epsilon, the American
Society of Composers, Authors, and Performers (ASCAP), California
Composers Today, Meet the Composer-California, and the Musicians
Union. Price has received a Meet the Composer Grant from Arts-Midwest
that will support her Visiting Artist/Composer residency at the
University of Northern Iowa in October of this year.
her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Brigham Young University, the
Master of Music Degree in Piano and Composition from the University
of Michigan, and the Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from the University
of Southern California. Her major composition teachers include
Leslie Bassett and Samuel Adler. Her published works range from
vocal solo songs, song cycles, choral works and arrangements to
instrumental chamber music with duos, trios, quartets, and quintets,
to band and orchestral pieces.
As a professional
pianist, she has toured throughout the Americas and in Europe
under the auspices of Academia Pro Arte, the International Congress
on Women in Music, as well as with the touring ensemble, Echosphere.
a delight to listen to and review. It provides a wide variety
of chamber music and an impressive variety of styles and moods
to keep the listeners attention. Most of the pieces are basically
short chamber pieces, with excellent performances by all the performers.
The sound is excellent and well-recorded.
is almost neo-romantic in style but with an innate and piquant
sense of rhythmic appeal and imagination. Her music conveys a
sense of wit, well-constructed drama, and a way of writing poetic
lyricism for all the various instruments that is instantly engaging.
Imaginative exploitation of the various colors of the instruments
is one of her trademarks.
It was deeply
rewarding to listen to this CD, producing a sense of musical fulfillment,
a feeling that these seventy-three minutes were well spent.
The CD opens
with the dramatic and chilling To the Children of War, a song
cycle written in 1988. The texts of the song cycle are excerpts
from six poems by Maya Angelou, the current United States poet
laureate. The six songs are divided by text taken from a Los Angeles
Times article in July 1988. The article was about young people
in the Los Angeles area who told their stories to other young
people as well as the reading public through on organization called
Children of War.
tenor and piano, To the Children of War features tenor Darryl
Taylor and Price as pianist. It was first premiered at the National
Association of Composers at California State University, Dominguez
Hills in 1988.
liner notes, Taylor talks about the piece, To the Children of
War begins innocently, full of childhood naïveté and
charm. However, once the composer has your guard down she takes
you on an emotional roller coaster ride, plunging the listener
into the despair of torture chambers, through the anxiety of alienation
to the comfort of compassion, until finally arriving at the triumph
song, Life Doesn't Frighten Me, opens with strumming on the piano
strings, an ominous sound, followed by bravura rising chords and
intervals almost martial sounding with its forceful rhythmic ostinatos.
A short calming mood change occurs on the words Mean old Mother
Goose. Price pays careful attention to the text with colorful
wordpainting such as on All alone at night.
a beautifully controlled crescendo at the ending of the piece.
The piano part is virtuosic, and masterfully executed by Price.
In most of the pieces the piano sets the mood and tone for the
#1, a piano cluster jars the atmosphere followed by a long recitative
for voice, punctuated by two more piano clusters. It is a frightening
text from the 1980s about Central America or Southeast Asia. It
tells of a youth who requests educational materials for his school,
but the government takes him, his two sisters, and ten friends,
off a public bus, Many vanish without a trace, But some survive
in Los Angeles Children of War!
A terse piano
part that begins with intervals of a second, We Saw beyond Our
Seeming, punctuates the text with harsh seconds. The voice uses
some interesting vocal techniques such as pitch bending to emphasize
the text, effectively done on the words screaming, dying, and
inside the piano begins Recitative #2. The voice speaks instead
of singing, as if this text which talks of torture is beyond the
artistic use of the voice in singing and the usual use of the
piano as accompaniment.
a sobbing in the voice while the piano keeps insistent strumming
ostinatos in the piano accompaniment. Word repetition occurs with
the words tatters and moans. Recitative #3 begins with low ostinatos
in the piano, insistent, oppressive, evoking the helpless feeling
that children are Children of War/ Aliens alone in Los Angeles.
ostinatos, recurring patterns, and turbulence permeate Alone.
Despair is evident with the text Nobody can make it out here alone.
Tremolos in the piano with interspersed chords, rising motives
characterize Recitative #4.
melodic vocal part occurs in Give Me Your Hand. A gentle piano
and vocal part relieve the despair of the last recitative No place
in the world. It is the first traditional use of piano, with soothing
arpeggios in the piano accompaniment. Recitative #5 starts with
low strumming in the piano with rising intervals reminiscent of
the beginning song, Life Doesn't Frighten Me. Full use of the
piano keyboard, disjunct vocal melodies provide a wonderful sense
of release from the tension in Ships?
over seventeen minutes in length, this powerful and dramatic song
cycle, To the Children of War, creates an atmosphere grisly, contemporary,
has a clear, vibrant tenor voice with superb control of high notes
and excellent diction. He successfully and dramatically portrays
the text with its wide-ranging emotions. Price is an equal partner
with her excellent technique and musicality. She writes for the
piano as only a pianist can, totally aware of its capabilities
selection on the disc is two pieces from Diversions for Solo Piano
written in 1961. The first piece is Desert Impression, a description
of the desert in music, featuring interesting harmonic changes,
steady rhythmic pulses, and arresting melodies in the upper range
and then the lower range, often with unexpected twists to the
melodies. Surf Dance is full of syncopation, energy and vitality.
by the Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences in Santa Monica
Crossroads Alley Trio was composed in 1985. This sectional piece,
with each section different from the others consists of The Alley,
Night in the Alley, Feline Love Duet, Pacific Breeze, Willful
Student, Determined Teacher, and Confrontation.
are easy to follow even though each is not assigned a separate
track. The trio is made up of violin, Ayke Agus; Douglas Masek,
clarinet; and Price, piano. All the instruments are equally important
to the structure, and all join in the melodic development. Violinist
Agus has beautiful intonation with carefully sculpted and shaped
phrases. Masek has excellent control of tone color, and Prices
playing is again impeccable.
for Guitar (the Jubilant Soul) 1984 was composed for William dAvila
who premiered it at the National Gallery in Mexico City. However,
this recording features Gregory Newton on guitar. L'Alma Jubilo
contains repeated rhythmic patterns, and the various moods change
from a flamenco guitar style to a gently rocking, hypnotic lullaby
before returning to the flamenco style.
piece, Big Sur Triptych, written in 1985 for soprano saxophone
and piano showcases Bill Wilson, saxophone, and Price on piano.
Her impressions of Big Sur National Park on the California coast
begin with the movement Sea Otters. It features a soaring soprano
sax melody over various rhythmic patterns in the piano with playful
imitation between the two instruments.
is lyrical, calm, slow, with sinuous melodies over an ever-moving
accompaniment. It evokes timeless melodies and harmonies, perhaps
a tribute to the almost-eternal, magnificent Redwood trees. The
final piece of the Triptych is Crags, with short bursts of energy
defined by wide-interval melodic lines in the sax and pianopeaks
by Prices son, clarinetist Berkeley Price, Hexachord (View from
Malibu) for Solo Clarinet, 1977, shows to advantage his excellent
technical and tonal control in all the clarinets ranges. The athletic
melodies are permeated with a six-tone scale.
violin, and Price, piano, perform Fearful from Three Faces of
Kim, the Napalm Girl, written in 1988. Anxiety is portrayed by
the nervous rhythms, wide ranges, and agitated melodies. Tension
builds inexorably before calm is introduced by the solo violin
with commentary provided by the chordal accompaniment. But is
it a safe calm or an uneasy deception? Anxiousness returns, even
more terrifying with the sweeping gestures in the violin, and
descending motives and phrases that bring on the breathless ending.
and fantasy-like, Stile Antico uses violin techniques such as
chords, drones, and pizzicato while wide intervals permeate the
melodies. Stile Antico (Ancient Styles) for Solo violin, 1975,
is arrestingly played by Ayke Agus.
In the liner
notes for Affects: A Santa Barbara Rhapsody for Clarinet and Piano,
1979, Price writes, The title refers to the emotions which accompany
an idea. The traditional musical sigh, the falling interval of
a second, and its inversion, the interval of a seventh, are developed
throughout the piece to portray feelings of frustration. The mood
is set with a few opening piano measures. There is a multiplicity
of moods between the two instruments: sometimes they are gracious,
sometimes witty, other times nervous, or anxious.
compellingly handled the clarinet part, and Ayke Agus played the
piano. It is impressive piano playing by Agus. Rarely is an artist
as technically and musically proficient on two diverse instruments
such as the violin and the piano as is Agus.
piece on the CD comes full circle this last piece is written for
tenor and piano as was the first piece. A Dads Prayer for Tenor
and Piano, 1974, is based on a poem by James J. Metcalfe. It is
a nostalgic piece, a showpiece for tenor, utilizing the full and
powerful range of Taylor.
notes are well-done with vivid descriptions of the moments or
places that inspired the creation of the pieces. There are bios
of all the performers, quotes about the pieces from various reviews,
as well as insightful comments about the pieces by the performing
artists. Prices scores are available through Culver Crest Publications,
Southern Music Co., and Theodore Front Musical Literature, Inc.
to Price and all the artists and technicians who put together
SunRays. Great chamber music and powerful performances together
create a highly memorable CD.
by BARBARA HARBACH
Partner, Vivace Press
Hester Park (CDs)
Women of Note Quarterly (Journal)
PO Box 157
Readfield, WI 54969-0157