• Trylongenesis10:31

frank stemper

for concert organ - [13 mins]


TRYLONGENESIS was commissioned by pipe organist, Robert Roubos, who was my "Boss" as he liked to call himself, at the university.  He was the Director of the School of Music, which automatically made him inept.  After all, those who can't DO or TEACH become Higher Education Administrators.  However, Bob Could DO.  Not too long after Bob hired me at SIUC I heard him perform an organ concert.  I went because I figured I had to - he was my "boss."  I was dreading it.  In my experience listening to concert pipe organists had been boring at best.  They always had produced music that was clumsy - they just couldn't seem to coordinate their hands and feet and all the STOP and REGISTER changes WHILE MAKING music.  But, as I said, "Bob COULD do."  He was terrific.  He made music.  He could cook. He would swing.  Bach sounded like Bach and Messiaen sounded like Messiaen.  And, in addition to being a terrific performer, Bob was also a hell of a musician.  He could go into a performance cold and sightread his way through an accompaniment on organ, harmsichord, piano, or even synthesizer.  Hard to believe he was also an administrator. Like most of the good ones, he did it because it was the only way you get a better salary.  $$$

When Bob asked me to write a new piece just for him, he said, “write anything you want – I’ll play it.”  And he followed through with his promise.  "He COULD do."  He was  dedicated to playing what I had written.  The rhythms are as arrhythmic as the lines are disjunct, and the music is continuous, leaving the performer and listener little space to regroup his/her thoughts.  In addition to that, I tried to make the most of the contrasting timbres that were possible on the four organ keyboards (including the foot pedals).  Throughout the piece I used all four simultaneously, so the different sounds would be exposed and exploited.  This created quite a four-limb ballet for the performer, who would often jump from one keyboard to another, several times within a single beat.
In order to compose the piece, I needed to have Shryock Concert Hall to myself, so I could experiment and play the piece as it progressed on the Shryock tracker organ.  I had to often work in the middle of the night, or very early in the morning.  The ghost of Henry Shryock became a distraction at times! 

Bob premiered TRYLONGENESIS in Budapest at Pannonhalma Hall, and made subsequent performances in several European cites, as well as across the United States.  The recording is from the Polish premiere in Łódź, Poland.  My grandmother Irena Tomkiewicz Stemper, born Warsaw, 1887, would have been proud. And this is one of several of the pieces I have composed that traveled to places that I've never been!

After premiering TRYLONGENESIS all over Europe, Bob finally performed it at SIUC.  I gave a little talk before he played - always good to give the audience a few things to listen for, especially with such a complex esoteric piece.  Unfortunately, my pregnant wife couldn't attend the performance, because she had to stay at home with our four children!  So I gave my talk and returned to my seat to listen.  I was seated next to one of my students at the time, a very interesting fellow named Scott Hines.   He went on to get his Doctorate at the University of Memphis, where he now teaches.  We were close in age, and, even though I was his teacher, he once called me the older brother he never had, which I appreciated. Bob then began the piece. As it began, I wondered what was wrong we me creating such a mess.  But Bob made the piece swing, especially the abrupt timbre changes.  When he finished, the full concert hall applauded for a long time, which surprised me. However, in that split-second between the end of the piece and the start of the applause, my Scott Hines leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Don't give up your day job!"   30 years later, the New Music Circle in St. Louis put on a special concert to celebrate my 60th birthday.  Scott came up from Memphis for the event, probably just to remind me about my "day job" one more time.

TRYLONGENESIS is a fictitious word meaning absolutely nothing, unless you derive your own meaning.  In that case it means everything.


24 Jan 2018