Composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel has worked with diverse cross-section of the new-music community, including the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Mos Def and eighth blackbird. His latest album Canzonas Americanas offers a fresh take on Americana, blending elements of big band jazz, Latin rhythms, opera and avant garde classical. Commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the piece was recorded by Alarm Will Sound in late 2012.
Bermel writes the following of his Mixtape:
A Tribute to My Teachers
Louis Andriessen - Hout
Andriessen gave spirited, contentious, and brilliant lessons from his apartment in Amsterdam. I have always loved the drive and angularity of his music, and thus this brash, gritty performance of 'Hout' by the Bang-on-a-Can All Stars, with echoes piling up relentlessly.
Bernard Woma - Pog Yuor
Hailing from the tiny town of Nandom — in the Upper West region of Ghana, hundreds of miles from the capital — Bernard is one of the true living exponents of this magnificent musical tradition. It was with Bernard that I took my first lesson on the Dagara-Gyil in May 1992.
William Bolcom - Waitin'
Bill Bolcom has been a wonderful mentor to me, and I learned a great deal from him about the effectiveness of simple and direct musical statements. The six books of cabaret songs he wrote with Arnold Weinstein for his wife Joan Morris have already become American classics.
André Hajdu - T'ruat Melekh
André Hajdu gave long lessons at his house in Jerusalem from 1989-90, and several times he brought me to synagogues to hear different styles of cantillation. Each week I'd orchestrate two piano pieces — by Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Debussy, Bartók, Stravinsky, etc — and Hajdu would fill my pencilled pages with corrections. Hajdu, who himself was an ethnomusicologist and scholar of Hasidic music, wrote T'ruat Melekh ('Shout of a King') in 1974 for the master klezmer clarinetist Giora Feidman.
Michael Tenzer - Biak-words
Michael was my first composition teacher, my senior year at college, and he encouraged me to seek musical knowledge through hands-on experience. A widely acknowledged expert in Balinese music, Michael has composed extensively for gamelan, often fusing it Western musical idioms, as he does in these beautiful clarinet duos written for Evan Ziporyn.
Nikola Iliev - Chorbajiyskata
In Plovdiv, Bulgaria in 2001 I studied clarinet with Nikola Iliev. A Thracian musician of staggering technical and emotional range, Nikola performs in a wide variety of settings — from concert halls to weddings to folk festivals, and Chorbajiyskata demonstrates the variety of colors he evinces from the clarinet.
William Albright - Sphaera
William Albright had an impish trickster personality, which manifested itself in lessons and on many other occasions. Performing at concerts he leaped with delight from piano to harpsichord to organ and back again. Sphaera, this alternately ruminative and bubbling work for piano and computer-generated quadraphonic tape, spotlights his mischievous and conjuring nature.
Mick O'Brien - Na Ceannabháin Bhána/Máirseáil Alasdruim/Muster Buttermilk
Mick is one of the great uillean pipers in Ireland. It's a treat to watch his whole family playing music together. In 1998 Mick graciously allowed me to follow him around Dublin to various and sundry gigs — from pubs to auditoriums — transcribing Trad songs and accumulating nuggets of info about each song. This particular medley is drawn from the first album he made with the brilliant fiddler Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh.
Henri Dutilleux - Ainsi la nuit
I was fortunate to attend the Tanglewood Music Center in 1995 when Henri Dutilleux was in residence. While living in Amsterdam the following year, I traveled each month to take a lesson (between long lunches and martinis) at his apartment in Paris. Dutilleux emphasized recognizing fully where one was in a composition at any given moment — harmonically, rhythmically, formally, texturally—and nowhere is this more evident than in Ainsi la Nuit, a string quartet masterpiece of the late 20th century.