Piano Trio Number 1 (Music for an imaginary film)

Isak Roux's chamber works are for the most part programmatic. They are inspired by people, animals and natural surroundings. Indeed they all tell a story. In this respect his Piano Trio No 1 is no exception. Whereas his earlier works focused on African themes, the trio is more European in style. The sub-titles suggest scenes and sequences from an imaginary film based on the life of a film celebrity. The listener is invited to give his/her fantasy free reign as to her story. In terms of tempo, structure and mood the four movements correspond to those found in a typical classical trio. This composition is dedicated to the famous French actress Catherine Deneuve, whose work the composer has always admired. — Isak Roux



Earth endures; Stars abide

In Earth endures; Stars abide (2016) I explore concepts garnered from John Beaulieu’s Music and Sound in the Healing Arts, in which he correlates the Greek elements: Earth, Fire, Water, Air, and Ether with musical intervals, tempi, and timbre; and uses them as a metaphor to describe musical affect and as a diagnostic tool in his practice.


In Beaulieu’s paradigm elements have individual qualities, which are altered when two or more are combined. As one explores the concept, it is readily apparent that though the mappings of the elements are easy to grasp, the possibilities are rich especially when one begins combining the individual elemental qualities in a musical context. My application of the concept had profound implications with regard to the musical material, and the structure of the work from the watery texture of the opening, the slow steady rise of the earth theme, the energy of fire and air and so on.


At first I wanted to title the work Earth Song after Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem, but the poem didn’t quite fit; so instead I used a line from the poem which seemed to capture the essence of the music. — Mark Zanter




In early 2019, my wife and I spent a month in Southeast Asia. While in Phnom Penh we visited the Toul Sleng S-21 Genocide Museum where the Khmer Rouge imprisoned and tortured as many as 20,000 Cambodians. After being tortured at S-21, the victims were sent to the nearby Choeung Ek “killing field” for execution and burial in mass graves. After walking among the gravesites at Choeung Ek, we visited the Memorial Stupa, where, behind the glass walls of this 17-story structure are the skulls of several thousand of the Khmer Rouge victims, organized by age and gender—all nameless. This piece is my reaction to these emotional experiences. — William Toutant



Frogs Always Get You in the End

Frogs Always Get You in the End is the latest in a series of Really Short Chamber Operas by composer James Shrader. The libretto is by Ian Ruthven. It is scored for soprano, baritone, flute, clarinet, and cello. The original production was funded, in part, by a grant from the College Music Society.


The story is a new look at the familiar Princess and Frog fable – with a twist! The Frog is desperate for a kiss from the Princess in order to be returned to his former life. However, the Princess is not quite so gullible.


When the Frog offers to turn into a Handsome Prince, her reply is that she rules her own kingdom quite successfully and has no need of a Prince. The Frog then offers Great Fortune to which she replies that she maintains a balanced budget with good economic growth and needs no assistance. Becoming frustrated, the Frog offers Dazzling Beauty. Insulted, the Princess points out that beauty is not everything – personality counts! Finally, the Frog gives up and asks her what she really wants. Her thoughtful, sincere reply is, “I want to be Happy!”


The Frog’s response puts a topsy-turvy finish to this new age fable. — James Shrader



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