Avner Dorman : Spices, Perfumes, Toxins!
The title Spices, Perfumes, Toxins!
refers to three substances that are extremely appealing, yet filled with danger. Spices delight the palate, but can cause illness; perfumes seduce, but can also betray; toxins bring ecstasy, but are deadly. The concerto combines Middle-Eastern drums, orchestral percussion, and rock drums with orchestral forces – a unique sound both enticing and dangerous.Spices, Perfumes, Toxins!
is a result of years of collaboration with PercaDu. While we were still students at the Rubin Academy of Music in Tel-Aviv, Tomer and Adi asked me to write a piece for them. All three of us aimed at a piece that would be markedly Israeli and would reflect young Israeli culture. The process of composing the piece involved working closely with PercaDu on my ideas and testing them on the instruments long before the piece was done. In hindsight, I believe that the most important choice in making the piece sound Israeli was the use of four Darbukas and Tom-Toms in addition to the Marimbas. The piece, Udacrep Akubrad
(PercaDu Darbuka spelled backwards) became one of PercaDu’s signature pieces and my most performed composition and is the basis for the first movement of the concerto. Spices
- the first movement draws its inspiration from the music of our region (extending its boundaries to the east as far as the Indian sub-continent). The piece is largely based on Middle-Eastern and Indian scales and uses the Indian system of Talas for rhythmic organization. I use these elements within a large-scale dramatic form and employ repetitive minimalism as it appears in the music traditions of the East and in the works of Western minimalists of the past forty years. Approximately at the movement’s golden section there is a cadenza that precurses the last movement of the concerto.
, the sonic world changes as one of the percussionists leaves the marimba and plays on a vibraphone. In Perfumes
I use what I call multicultural polyphony. The opening theme of the movement (in the marimba) is reminiscent of Baroque arias. The three flutes that accompany the melody (regular, alto, and bass) echo the ornamental nature of the melody and transform it into lines characteristic of Middle-Eastern folk music. At the same time, the bass line borrows its sound from the world of Jazz. Each part of the texture contributes the “soul” of its genre, so to speak, in an effort to create a humanistic whole that express the diversity of our time and culture. As the movement progresses the soloists and orchestra embark on a colorful journey from the seductive to the dangerous.
the soloists use the entire variety of percussion instruments at their disposal. The movement is based on alternation between an aggressive rhythmic pattern (played on drumsets) and passionate outbursts in the orchestra. It swings like a pendulum between extreme joyous ecstasy and obsessive anxiety, pain, and delusions. As the movement develops, the music becomes increasingly fanatical until the final outburst of catharsis and death.
After a few rounds of applause for the opening performance the front stage raised from the pit and the audience saw an amazing amount of percussion instruments come into view. The next presentation moved the percussion from the back of the orchestra to the front and center of the night as the Symphony presented Avner Dorman’s Spices, Perfumes and Toxins! in all the energy almost approaching a rock concert at some points. The piece had a Middle Eastern and Indian flare to it and I felt like I was transported from the beaches of South America closer to the Mediterranean and the music had an almost mysterious and mesmerizing sound to it. Symphony Silicon Valley’s own Galen Lemmon led the percussion area teamed up with Steve Hearn, the assistant principal timpani/percussion from the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. Lemmon and Hearn were busy moving between 4 sets of xylophones, 2 sets of drums, and even sounding off a gong during the Perfumes movement. Kuan kept it all together coordinating the percussion and a full orchestra during moving parts such as in the Toxins movement where there was a nice interplay between the burst of energy from the percussion duo and the fine beauty of the strings. The crowd gave a standing ovation and there were many energetic conversations in the foyer during the intermission about how moved the audience was by the performance.
Robert Jamison, Stark Insider, 06/06/2011
Marimbas and a golden vibraphone, North African goblet drums and horizontal bells, plus trap drum sets, a giant gong and multicolored metal ribbons, suspended from scaffolds and ready for whacking. Yes, a percussion jungle spanned the stage Saturday at the California Theatre where a pair of spider-armed percussionists -- Galen Lemmon and Steve Hearn -- led an irresistible performance of an intoxicating orchestral work: Israeli composer Avner Dorman's Spices, Perfumes, Toxins!
Symphony Silicon Valley's program was the second in a row in which the orchestra has explored exciting new repertory. Last month, it was jazz master Paquito D'Rivera's "Cape Cod Concerto" for clarinet, piano and orchestra, featuring charismatic soloists Jon Manasse and Jon Nakamatsu. With Lemmon and Hearn, "Spices" set loose another pair of outrageously loosey-goosey virtuosos, racing between their percussion stations, setting up liquid ostinato riffs, practically infusing the theater with perfumed wafts of colorized sound.
Dorman's piece -- which spans faux belly-dance tunes, In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida rock-outs and Spanish-tinged Miles Davis jazz -- was performed by these same two soloists in 2009 at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz, with Marin Alsop conducting the festival orchestra. So Lemmon and Hearn know the territory, as does Carolyn Kuan, this weekend's guest conductor, who is Alsop's associate at Cabrillo.
Throughout the 30-minute piece, but
especially in its first movement, the 75 members of the orchestra hit rough patches; they sounded stiff, not at home with Dorman's idiomatic grooves, and, here and there, just mixed up. But Lemmon and Hearn were so fluid and focused, so inside the material, that -- like jazz horn players expertly pulling a hesitant rhythm section into their orbit -- they led their colleagues by example into the guts and romance of the piece.
The best moments of "Spices: Allegro," the opening movement, found Lemmon and Hearn wafting the exotic marimba riffs that underpin and thread through the score.
They floated through Dorman's adaptations of East Indian rhythmic cycles, sometimes playing with a pair of mallets in each hand, and sometimes finger-drumming the wooden bars. At times the strings rose like smoke behind the soloists, or escalated the main melodic theme to a near-cacophony, like a snake-dancing version of the Beatles' "A Day in the Life." During the big crescendo, the soloists thunder-drummed on their trap drum kits, evoking memories of -- dare we mention that scorned band of yore? -- Iron Butterfly.
"Perfumes: Adagio," the slow second movement, was dangerously beautiful. I don't know if Dorman is a Miles Davis fan, but the combination of low flutes and the casually elegant romance of Hearn's marimba melodies carried echoes of Davis' "Sketches of Spain," arranged by Gil Evans. Lemmon switched to vibes here, setting more colors and scents drifting through the theater. And when Hearns quietly whistled along with a nostalgic theme, the music tumbled into a timeless place -- and conjured Davis' "Little Church," from the early '70s.
By the time "Toxins: Presto energico," the finale, reached its boiling pinnacle of screeching "Psycho" strings, crashing cymbals and valiant brass -- all coloring a variant on that snake-dancing theme from the first movement -- the audience was ready to jump out of its seats.
Richard Scheinin, San Jose Mercury News, 05/06/2011
The applause after Avner Dorman’s Spices, Perfumes, Toxins! raged at the National Theatre as if the classic audience had only waited for a percussion duo like Adi Morag and Tomer Yariv. Accompanied by the State Orchestra under Zubin Mehta, PercaDu roughed up the holy halls and created from marimbaphones, drums and various other percussion instruments tingly fireworks with melodies and harmonies of the Middle East, sometimes in the form of an aria or à la Klezmer, motor-driven or jazzy, but always precisely rhythmically framed and perfectly rounded up with the full symphonic orchestra. The title constituting spices, perfumes and toxins were in almost every phrase conceivable, lively perceptible, watching both musicians was a pleasure.
Klaus Kalchschmid, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 28/01/2010
Saturday night, a pair of world-class percussionists from the Festival Orchestra, Galen Lemmon and Steve Hearn, soloed in Spices, Perfumes, Toxins! -- Avner Dorman's beautiful and exhilarating 2006 concerto. With astonishing agility and precision, the soloists dramatically delineated Dorman's rhythmic and lyrical music.
Dorman's work, following the traditional concerto's fast-slow-fast form, sings with seductive grace between the two infectiously rapid-pulsed segments. This composer made full use of the two soloists -- ingeniously intertwining and overlapping their parts to augment the capabilities of their array of pitched and non-pitched instruments.
Phyllis Rosenblum, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 13/08/2009
The finale of Avner Dorman’s Spices, Perfumes, Toxins! emerged as the festival’s great applause machine, as the two superb percussionists Steve Hearn and Galen Lemmon pounded on their huge arsenal and the orchestra struggled to match their virtuosity. The best part of this multicultural mash-up is the evocative middle movement, where a jazz-influenced bass line complements a sinuous flute trio, while the percussionists burble along in imitation of Bachian counterpoint.
Allan Ulrich , Financial Times, 11/08/2009
On that program, the standout work was Avner Dorman’s double-percussion concerto, Spices, Perfumes, Toxins, a staggering tour de force for (mostly) marimbas and drums that orchestra members Steve Hearn and Galen Lemmon nailed.
Scott MacClelland, Santa Cruz Weekly, 11/08/2009
As with many young composers, Mr. Dorman’s influences span many genres. They include the jazz guitarist John McLaughlin, Ravi Shankar, Art Tatum, Bartok, Bach, Middle Eastern traditions and John Corigliano (Mr. Dorman’s former teacher at the Juilliard School). The title Spices, Perfumes, Toxins! refers to “three substances that are extremely appealing yet filled with danger,” Mr. Dorman wrote in the program notes.
There was a sense of living on the edge in the outer movements of the concerto, played with impressive energy by the virtuosic PercaDu musicians.
The first movement, “Spices,” is based on Middle Eastern and Indian scales that are played on two marimbas, interwoven with excerpts of boisterous rock drumming and jazzy interludes. “Perfumes,” the sensual second movement, opened with an evocative theme on the marimba, first accompanied by three flutes and reminiscent of the slow movement of Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez.” In the rhythmically exuberant finale, “Toxins,” PercaDu’s drumming alternated with colorful orchestral outbursts. An enigmatic interlude with piano and marimba both played in the upper register preceded the jazz-hued conclusion. At times the entire orchestra played second fiddle, overshadowed by the fiery percussion.
The performance was rewarded with a boisterous ovation.
Vivien Schweitzer, New York Times, 19/03/2009
This music is just going to sweep the audience. It has invention, it’s so rich. There’s no eight bars the same. The Indian influence in the first movement makes me feel at home. The Middle Eastern atmosphere of the second movement is just magical, and the third movement is a tour de force.
Zubin Mehta, www.playbill.com, 13/03/2009