Altius Quartet

The QUADRANTS series by Navona Records seeks to present the best in innovative, unconventional string quartet music that nods to tradition while also forging towards the future of the genre. This third installment in the series does that and more, with the help of the forward-thinking Altius Quartet and a diverse selection of works from eight contemporary composers.


photography Jonathan Hess


Bruce Babcock

Applauded by Aaron Copland, inspired by Desmond Tutu, and mentored by Hugo Friedhofer and Earle Hagen, Bruce Babcock is an Emmy-winning composer who has spent his working life writing music for the musicians of Los Angeles. Very active in film, television, and the concert hall, he is known for vibrant, sonorous, expressive pieces that immerse audiences and performers alike in an inclusive and exuberant celebration of the musical art.


Babcock holds Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in music composition from California State University, Northridge (CSUN). While at CSUN, Babcock’s Impasse was performed for Aaron Copland during his 1975 residency. Copland’s comments on the piece, recorded for posterity, include “an impression of musicality which is very pleasant, indeed...a convincing sense of an overall mood...knows what he wants...sure of what he’s doing.”


His Carnegie Hall debut took place in 2018 with a performance of his cello sonata Imagined/Remembered by cellist Ovidiu Marinescu and pianist Anna Kislitsyna. He has been commissioned by the Grammy-winning soprano Hila Plitmann, the Santa Barbara Chamber Music Festival, Pacific Serenades, and UCLA faculty members Doug Masek and Juliana Gondek. His choral music has been recorded by The Crossing and sung by the Donald Brinegar Singers, the Antioch Ensemble, and Haga Motettkör of Göteborg, Sweden.


Bruce's chamber music has been performed by Trio Casals, the Debussy Trio, the Armadillo and Rainier string quartets, Pacific Serenades, and at USC, UCLA, Eastman, the Beverly Hills International Music Festival, and the Santa Barbara Chamber Music Festival, where he was composer-in-residence in 2005. His vocal music has been performed at Boston Metro Opera, UCLA, the Beverly Hills International Music Festival, and Pomona College.


All Unto Me, a choral piece inspired by and dedicated to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, was performed with the Archbishop in attendance in 2011 at All Saints Church, Pasadena.


Event Horizon, an orchestral piece with video compiled from images of the NASA-Hubble Space Telescope, was premiered by Aaron Collins and the Space Coast Symphony in 2017. It was recorded by the Wembley Players in London with the composer conducting, and was released on the Navona album SPARKS in 2016.


In 2018 Bruce was commissioned by the Mount Wilson Institute to compose a string quartet, Watcher of the Sky, in honor of the sesquicentennial of the birth of astronomer George Ellery Hale. Hale founded three observatories and built the largest telescope in the world four times. The piece premiered inside the dome of the 100-inch telescope atop Mount Wilson as part of the series Sunday Afternoon Concerts in the Dome. photo: Cam Sanders



Nora Morrow

Nora Essman Morrow has been a musician all her life. As a child she composed songs on the guitar and improvised stories at the piano. Morrow attended the Precollege Division of Manhattan School of Music and The High School of Music and Art in New York City. Introduced to modern dance accompaniment through a music and movement class in her first year of college at The City University of New York, she began accompanying modern dance classes in the New York area. Continuing her musical studies and dance accompaniment at The University of Utah: Salt Lake City, University of Wisconsin: Madison, and Northern Illinois University, her studies encompassed classical, contemporary, electronic, jazz, and music education, as each school had a different focus and specialty. Throughout her college years, Morrow worked with modern and ballet dancers, and upon returning to New York she worked at the Conservatory of Dance at Purchase College and many other dance schools in the area as an accompanist and composer. In 2010 she wrote and produced an album titled Shawna The Bird, A Musical Adventure with music that had been commissioned to write by a children’s modern dance school. Two of Morrow's works can be found on a chamber works compilation album titled FLEETING REALMS on the Navona Records label. Currently residing in New York, Morrow teaches piano, accompanies dance, composes, and is currently working on a piece about her mother, her ancestry and her great-grandfather's Russian opera company. Her music is engaging, kinesthetic, visual, and evocative.


Gary Smart

Gary Smart’s career has encompassed a wide range of activities as composer, classical and jazz pianist, and teacher. Always a musician with varied interests, he may be the only pianist to have studied with Yale scholar/keyboardist Ralph Kirkpatrick, the great Cuban virtuoso Jorge Bolet, and the master jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. A true American pluralist, Smart composes and improvises music that reflects an abiding interest in Americana, jazz, and world musics, as well as the Western classical tradition.


Smart’s compositions have been recorded on the Mastersound, Capstone and Albany labels. His albums The Major’s Letter, American Beauty – a ragtime bouquet, Hot Sonatas, Turtle Dreams of Flight, Blossoms, and Bright-Eyed Fancy have all been released by Albany Records. His “Song of the Holy Ground” for string quartet and piano won the 2008 John Donald Robb Musical Trust Composers’ Competition. Critic Radu Lelutiu called Smart’s music ability “protean, utterly unique” and praised his “astonishing facility and ebullience.”


Smart’s work has been supported by the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Music Educators National Conference, the Music Teachers National Association, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Smart’s music has been performed in major venues in the United States, including the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall, as well as venues in Europe and Asia. His “Concordia” for orchestra won the Concordia jazz composition award and was premiered at Lincoln Center, New York.


Smart has spent two residencies in Japan, teaching in programs at Osaka University and Kobe College. He has also taught in Indonesia as “Distinguished Lecturer” under the auspices of the Fulbright program. Smart is a Presidential Professor of Music at the University of North Florida.

 photo: Marilyn Smart


Jonathan Newmark

Composer, pianist, violist, and conductor Jonathan Newmark was born in New York City in 1953 and received his MM in composition from University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in 2015.  His teachers at CCM included Joel Hoffman, Douglas Knehans, and Michael Fiday, as well as Jonathan Kolm, Gloria Wilson Swisher, and James McVoy outside of CCM. He has participated at the Chamber Music Conference in Bennington VT since 1981 and worked there with composers Allen Shawn, Martin Bresnick, Daniel Strong Godfrey, Kurt Rohde, Paul Moravec, Chen Yi, Pierre Jalbert, Jesse Jones, and Ted Hearne. His works have premiered at the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival, Charlotte New Music Festival, Connecticut Summerfest, Nief-Norf Summer Festival, and Walden School Creative Musicians’ Retreat. His bass clarinet trio Secret Atop the Bluff won the Juventas New Music score competition at the Boston New Music Festival in 2017. An album of four chamber works was released in 2009 on the Music Unlimited label. His piano sonata appears on an upcoming album by British pianist Martin Jones. His works are published by TrevCo Varner and BrassArts.


A 1974 graduate of Harvard College, he earned his MD from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1978. He is a board-certified neurologist, staff neurologist at the Washington DC VA Medical Center, and full professor of neurology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Newmark is also a retired Colonel, US Army Medical Corps, former Chemical Casualty Care Consultant to the Army Surgeon General, consultant to the National Institutes of Health and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and one of the nation’s leading authorities on medical response to chemical warfare and terrorism. In 2018 he was appointed by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to a four-year term on the Secure and Resilient Commonwealth Panel of Virginia. He lives in Burke VA. photo: Stacy Pearsall, Veteran Portrait Project


Alastair White

Alastair White (b. 1988) is a Scottish composer and writer currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Composition at Goldsmiths, University of London with Roger Redgate. In 2018 he wrote and composed the opera WEAR, an immersive sci-fi which combined contemporary music with high fashion and abstract theater; it was described by Mark Berry as “ opera of rare imagination - and success” and has since been shortlisted for a Scottish Award for New Music. Having originally studied literature at Edinburgh University, he became interested in art music for its revolutionary potential to change how we understand the world, and perhaps even the perceptual apparatus by which we experience it. Past works include multidisciplinary projects with the opera festivals Tete-a-Tete and Opera in the City, the international poetry festival STanza, The Scottish School of Contemporary Dance, The Scottish Poetry Library, and a soundtrack to the feature film Treasure Trapped. He speaks internationally on his research interests regarding the relationship between music and philosophy, and has published poetry in English and Scots.


Janice Macaulay

Janice Macaulay holds a doctorate from Cornell University, where she studied composition with Karel Husa and Steven Stucky. Along with her undergraduate degree in English, she also received master’s degrees in both English and music from Brown University. She was Associate Professor at Anne Arundel Community College, and has also taught at Brown University, Cornell University, Wells College, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. From a longtime interest in promoting musical appreciation, she lectured for over 20 years on a wide variety of musical topics for the Road Scholar program at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. She has also taught across the curriculum in the Graduate Institute in Liberal Arts at St. John’s College (MD), including seminars in philosophy, literature, political science, and the history of science, and she continues to lead Community Seminars on classic texts.


Winner of the International Alliance of Women in Music’s 2018 Alex Shapiro Prize for Kaleidoscope for Wind Symphony, Macaulay has also received awards from the International Delius Composition Competition (Vocal and Chamber Music Categories), Meet The Composer, the Charles Ives Center for American Music, the International League of Women in Music and the International Alliance of Women in Music, the National Women’s Music Resource Center, and the Cornell Center for the Creative Arts. She has received commissions from the Cornell University Wind Symphony and multiple commissions from the Empire State Youth Orchestra String Ensemble. Her music has been performed at colleges and universities across the country. photo: Picture People


For more information about Macaulay and her work, including audio clips, visit:


BETH Mehocic

Dr. Beth Mehocic is currently the Composer-in-Residence, Music Director, and Full Professor for the Dance Department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She has written over 100 works for orchestra, concert band, chamber music, dance ensembles, theater, and film. Her works have been performed throughout the United States, Japan, China, Korea, and Europe, and she has produced works in several Las Vegas hotels including The Mirage, Caesar's Palace, and the Las Vegas Hilton. Several of her works have been recorded for PARMA Recordings.


From 2000-19, several of her music compositions written for choreography have been performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Edinburgh, Scotland), the Adelaide Fringe Festival, (Adelaide, Australia), and for joint concerts between UNLV and the Korea National Sport University (Seoul, Korea). Her video dance poem, Perpetual Motion with original music for vibraphone quartet, was also performed in Seoul and the video is in the Jerome Robbins Dance Library of the NYC Library at Lincoln Center. Shadows, a dance poem with her original music, and her video dance poem, Hands, were presented at the 2005 International Taishan Congress of Cultures and the 19th World Congress of Poets in Tai’an City, Shandong Province, China, for which she was awarded a “Gold Medal in Innovation” for digital poetry, dance, and music by the People’s Republic of China.


As a multimedia performing artist, her music, poetry, visual art, and dance were presented in her one-woman exhibit entitled Poetic Visions which was on tour in the Clark County Library Galleries in Las Vegas.

She has received several grants from The Nevada State Council on the Arts as well as receiving a grant for her participation in the China Conference. Her other grants include awards from New Music Across America, the Southwest Gas Corp., The Western States Arts Foundation, and Meet-the-Composer as well as awards in music composition from ASCAP.


Her article "Learning to Dance with Live Music" was published by Dance Teacher Now and her article "Chamber Music in Las Vegas" was featured in the directory edition of Chamber Music America. She was proclaimed "Distinguished Composer" of the City of Las Vegas by Former Mayor Jan Laverty Jones and received commissions from New Music Across America, the Sierra Woodwind Quintet, the University of Utah for a musical score to a documentary film commemorating 50 years of dance history at the university, and commissions from Artists Embassy International and the Natica Angilly Poetic Dance Theater.


She was awarded the First Performing Artist's Fellowship in Music Composition from the State of Nevada and became a founding member of the International Guild of Musicians in Dance — the first guild in western history devoted to the advancement of concert dance music and musical education of dancers. She was also the founding editor of the Guild's Journal for three years. photo: Louis Kavouras


Phelps "Dean" Witter

Although born in Wisconsin, “Dean” Witter was raised in Los Angeles CA. His early studies were with Halsey Stevens in composition and Ethel Leginska in piano.


When he was a teenager his family moved to San Francisco where he continued his studies in piano with Egon Petri and composition with Darius Milhaud and Alexander Tcherepnin.


At the age of 17 he traveled with his family to Paris, where he continued to live and study for the next 10 years. He attended the Conservatory of Paris as well as the École Normale where he received degrees in both piano and composition. His teachers there included Nadia Boulanger and Yvette Descaves, and he also studied separately with residing American pianists Julius Katchen and Leon Fleisher. While in Europe, Witter concertized frequently, playing his own compositions as well as standard classical repertoire.


Upon returning to the United States he settled in San Francisco, where he currently lives and composes with his wife and children. His many compositions include three symphonies as well as much chamber music and multiple works for piano.


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