SoundCloud Audio Tracks
In addition to the recordings on this website you can also visit SoundCloud.com to hear recordings of most titles. https://soundcloud.com/james-syler
New Work for African Drums and Wind Ensemble
(Recording coming soon)
This latest work will have its first of 12 premieres at The University of Maryland on February 27, 2015 in a performance of the trilogy "Three Places in Jazz". The concert will feature Congo Square, along with its companion pieces Storyville and Minton's Playhouse. Because of the commissioning contract, it will be available to all next Spring 2016. Congo Square was commissioned by a consortium of 12 universities. Duration: 12'
New Orleans was founded by the French in 1718. Shortly thereafter, the first generation of enslaved arrived. By 1817 a city ordinance was passed confining Sunday slave celebrations to one location - a public space called Congo Square. Throughout its history Congo Square was also the site of public executions, a whipping post, and the buying and selling of slaves. It is a place of conflicting emotions and multi-layered meanings. Another often overlooked reality is the influence of mixed race Creole musicians in New Orleans and Congo Square. During the early 1800's music in New Orleans was often described as more Carribean than African. This unique mix of African, Creole, and Caribbean is what I've tried to internalize as I wrote Congo Square.
The African drum quartet represents the West African influence. It begins by quoting an authentic Konkoba war dance in 3/4. The polyrhythms of the quartet grow in intensity. The middle section quotes Salangadou, an old Creole song about a mother in search of her abducted child. Near the end of the work an early jazz style song emerges in a stomp style as the drummer plays a traditional New Orleans "Second Line" style groove, both of which suggest the new music that will eventually grow out of Congo Square. These three musics - the African drums, a Creole song, and early jazz styles - overlap and sound at the same time to produce the emotional zenith of the work. From the point-of-view of the past, we hear that past, its present, and future music simultaneously. My hope is that it will produce a reflective moment that gives the listener a deeper understanding of the multi-layered realities of Congo Square.
Congo Square was commissioned by:
University of Maryland Wind Orchestra, Michael Votta
Baylor University Wind Ensemble, Eric Wilson
Boston University Wind Ensemble, David J. Martins
Bowling Green State University Wind Symphony, Bruce Moss
The Eastman Wind Ensemble, Mark Davis Scatterday
Miami University Wind Ensemble, Gary A. Speck
University of Illinois at Chicago Wind Ensemble, José Riojas
University of Louisiana-Lafayette Wind Ensemble, William Hochkeppel
University of Nebraska Wind Ensemble, Carolyn Barber
University of North Carolina at Greensboro, John R. Locke & Kevin M. Geraldi
University of Washington Wind Ensemble, Tim Salzman
West Chester University Wind Ensemble, Andrew Yozviak
THE TEMPTATION OF SAINT ANTHONY
New Work for Chorus and Winds
(Visit SoundCloud.com to hear the entire recording.
On March 25, 2014 the Texas A&M University Commerce premiered this new work for chorus and winds titled The Temptation of Saint Anthony at the beautiful Meyerson Symphony Hall in Dallas. The work was commissioned by the music department of Texas A&M University Commerce, Phillip Clements, Director of Bands and Randall Hooper, Director of Choral Activities.
Many thanks also to the 180 singers of the combined choruses of Texas A&M University Commerce Chorale & Singers, (Randall Hooper, Conductor), Kilgore College Chorale (Jim Taylor, Conductor), Richland College Chamber Singers (Michael Crawford, Conductor), and the Tarrant County College Northeast Chorale (Bobbie Douglas, Conductor) and the wind ensemble of Texas A&M University Commerce all led from the podium by Phillip Clements. Duration: 17'
Anthony of Egypt (251-356) was a 3rd century hermit, saint, and father of
monasticism in the early church. His life and account of being tempted and tormented in the Egyptian desert were popularized through the first hand account of Athanasius (296-373) in his book The Life of Antony. Anthony’s dramatic and supernatural reports of temptation and torment have been a source of inspiration for visual artists and writers from the 10th century to the present. The six musical sections of this work are titled by phrases I found memorable from my reading of The Life of Antony (trans. Robert Gregg, Athanasius, Paulist Press). By avoiding a direct depiction of his experiences, I’ve approached the Temptation of St. Anthony as an analogy for the process of temptation - approach, doubt, temptation, torment, relief, and joy. Whatever our temptations may be they can be powerful and full of consequences. I found it interesting that Anthony’s resistance to his temptations caused so much torment, yet in the end his resistance resulted in joy, or as Athanasius wrote “he felt his body contained more might than before.” The music is filled with drama, sensuality, horror, and strangely enough, joy.
Recent Work for Wind Ensemble
Completed in 2012 this one movement,13' abstract work was commissioned by a consortium of 20 colleges and universities. Several premieres have already taken place and the work is now available on rental. The work is in one movement consisting of three sections. It begins with a motive in the timpani that contains the intervallic and rhythmic ideas to be developed - most notably the m3rd and m6th. A lyrical 12-tone theme in 12 measures follows that is developed by way of a fugue, but not a traditional tonic-dominant fugue. Each answer to the subject enters at the m7th, not the 5th. This spiral fugue begins in the clarinets and grows in volume, complexity, and weight to its culmination in the brass. The B section is slower and features oboe and bassoon solos that are developed from the original 12-tone theme. Static woodwinds and keyboard percussion provide background to simple melodic lines. The final C section is Allegro and begins with a traditional fugal treatment in 7/4 of the opening theme featuring the m6th. The music develops and restates the opening themes as it grows in intensity, power, and weight to the end.