'Within Earth Wood Grows' recording session, Stude Concert Hall, Shepherd School of Music (May 2018). Photo Kristen Turner




These words from I-Ching, the ancient Chinese book of parables, resonate with the newly commissioned music on this album. WITHIN EARTH continues Apollo’s vanguard 20x2020 project with three new multicultural commissions (Nos. 9, 14 & 15) and a contemporary work that innovate upon the traditional music of Vietnam, Australia, and Brazil and draw inspiration from Earth elements. We share the story of legendary Cuban composer Leo Brouwer’s nostalgic affection for Brazil’s gorgeous vistas and lush, primal folk dances, while exploring the Aboriginal creation mythology of Dreamtime through Christopher Walczak’s Four Dreams for string quartet.


We transport an 11th-century Vietnamese monochord instrument firmly into the 21st-century through the supreme artistry of acclaimed đàn bầu performer-composer Vân-Ánh Võ. Composers Vũ Nhât Tân and Alexandra du Bois convey aspects of the natural world, intimate recollections, and the existential dichotomy—hope and fear, peace and conflict, love and hate—that make up the essence of life.


We thank the collaborative talents of WindSync, Kinetic, and Loop38, a trio of Houston’s first-rate ensembles joining Apollo for the premiere recording of du Bois’ Within Earth, Wood Grows.


We hope that as you listen, your enjoyment and contemplation grow into something more vastly hopeful and positive than before. — Matthew J. Detrick, Artistic & Executive Director, Founder & Violinist


Leo Brouwer

STRING QUARTET NO. 6 (2018) Nostalgia de las Montañas

20x2020 No. 15

Cuarteto No. 6 “Nostalgia de las Montañas” (Nostalgia of the Mountains) by Leo Brouwer was commissioned by Apollo Chamber Players as part of the ensemble’s 20x2020 project. It is comprised of three movements—“Introduction,” “Preámbulo,” and “Sonata”—played attacca, or without pause.


Conveying the composer’s fondness for Brazil’s marvelous landscapes and mountain vistas, the quartet evokes nostalgia through a wistful melody, introduced in the opening movement by the first violin. This motive undergoes numerous melodic and rhythmic transformations throughout the piece, supported by undulating, asymmetric meters in the accompanimental lines. While there are no direct references to Brazilian beat patterns, the work’s groovy, shifting rhythms are inspired by the frenetic energy of this country’s popular Afro-Brazilian folk dances like the samba and jongo. The “Preámbulo” and “Sonata” movements end with nearly identical Codas of leaping intervals and repetitive, hard rock-sounding chords pulsating through irregular metric patterns (10/8, 2/4, 9/8, 5/4, 7/4...) to an epic conclusion.


States the composer: “My irregular meters are used as thematic extensions or reductions, and also a way to reaffirm the character and ideas of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music.” — Matthew J. Detrick, Apollo Chamber Players





May [Cloud] recording session with Vanessa Vo (May 2018); L. Brouwer Nostalgia of the Mountains session (March 2019) The Clarion at Brazosport College. Photos Kristen Turner



Christopher Walczak


20x2020 No. 9

Four Dreams for string quartet was inspired and guided by the Australian Aboriginal concept of Dreamtime. This piece explores the understanding of the world, its creation, existence, and time. The three movements all begin in an “awake state,” as represented musically by adherence to the tones of the natural overtone series produced by the fundamental pitch assigned to each movement respectively. Before long, the music approaches and then crosses over into Dreamtime.


The first movement, “The Dream of the Sun, Moon, and Stars,” dwells on the Australian Aboriginal association between dreamtime and the force of creation. The second movement is an attempt to articulate another exciting aspect of dreaming: how one dream can segue into another completely different dream, in this case “The Dream of the Statue and the Tree.” The finale, “The Dream of the Ladder” portrays the sparking, electric activity that is the interchange between the physical world, human world, and sacred world—the three realms that comprise the “spatial” Aboriginal understanding of the universe, all connected by the dream of a ladder. — Christopher Walczak





with Vanessa Vo, Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston, MATCH (May 2018). photo Ben Doyle



Vũ Nhât Tân & Vân-Ánh Võ

MÂY [CLOUD] for Đàn bầu & string quartet (2018)

20x2020 No. 14

Mây [Cloud] is a self-reflection of the common daily activities, sounds, and personal feelings for the city in which I was born and live: Hanoi. Hanoi is now expanding and is more crowded and complex than the former version that I saw during my childhood. As such, the score is typically characterized by overlapping and intertwining melodies and orchestration, creating a bunk of sounds in which romantic melodies can be heard against the noisy background of other instruments.


This piece is influenced by and looks back at my childhood, when I heard Vietnamese traditional songs and music often. It also reflects a number of aspects of Vietnamese traditional music which I had studied, such as original music from the Central Highland, the Ca Tru` (an esoteric chamber singing tradition in North Vietnam), and Nhac Tai Tu (a chamber instrumental music tradition played by the “connoisseurs” in South Vietnam).


This piece was commissioned by the Apollo Chamber Players for their 20x2020 project, with special guest Vân-Ánh Võ as contributing composer on Đàn bầu. — Vũ Nhât Tân


Alexandra du Bois


Commissioned to honor the 1000th anniversary of the founding of the city of Hanoi, celebrated in 2010, and the 15th anniversary of the normalization of relations between the United States and Vietnam, Within Earth, Wood Grows (WEWG) holds at its core these lines of poetry by Thich Nhat Hanh (b. 1926), the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, writer, teacher, poet, monk, and peace activist:


My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life. My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans. Please call me by my true names, so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once, so I can see that my joy and pain are one. Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up, and so the door of my heart can be left open, the door of compassion.


Within Earth, Wood Grows begins with the sound of the đàn bầu, an essential monochord instrument in Vietnamese folk music. Its simple yet rich tone resonates a deep complexity—heard at the opening of the work as an emergence from the earth. The name bầu means “gourd” in Vietnamese and the syllable đàn refers to a classifying word for string instruments. The earliest notated đàn bầu music dates to the 18th Century but other estimates place its presence in the 11th Century. Without the đàn bầu this work would not have its heart.


The title and other compositional elements come from trigram number 46 of the I-Ching and the images inherent within it: “The center of the earth gives birth to wood. Pushing upward.” In the I-Ching author’s words, wood is not merely inside or below earth; it is at its center. The meaning in this hexagram and the image of pushing upward is to turn an earth-like attention to this deep-growing nature, growing huge things from a single seed, or an accumulation of small things. It is in this image I see the young but growing friendship between two countries that had once been at war; it could be any two nations, persons, governments, or religions, but in this piece, it is the United States and Vietnam.


A tertiary element guiding this work includes the pairing of instruments. The pairing of instruments often represents the United States and Vietnam—heard as two close friends. Some of these pairings include: đàn bầu and viola, two B♭ clarinets; clarinet and bass clarinet; percussion and strings; string quintet divided into two distinct halves; woodwinds and strings; đàn bầu and full ensemble; and various pairings that grow, evolve, merge into other pairings and instrumentation representing relationships.


Within Earth, Wood Grows meditates on a blend of compassion, joy, terror, pain—and also nature. For example, one passage was inspired by the imagery of a wind gust that starts gently as just a few leaves blowing on the top of one tree and moves, growing in flurry, throughout a whole patch of forest. The opening passage begins with the idea of wood—bamboo—growing deep within the earth, gradually expanding into the sunlight—a theme that recurs later. Throughout the piece, melodic lines, harmonies, and textures move upwards from a lower, resonant home.


Tolerance and peace are processes. WEWG aims to possess a similar space of gradual unfolding. We need space and time to contemplate that which can grow into something more hopeful and healing than before. — Alexandra du Bois


Within Earth, Wood Grows was commissioned by the Schoenberg Family Charitable Fund for Southwest Chamber Music in Los Angeles and premiered at the Hanoi Opera House in Vietnam and Zipper Hall in Los Angeles (CA) in 2010.


She has an unerring sense of beauty, and her new score began with the accrual of melody in slow, soft, overlapping layers, the way Mahler did in his most affecting adagios. But also like Mahler, she revealed innocence as always an illusion. In her program notes she spoke of overcoming mental images of Vietnamese afflicted with the results of Agent Orange and of American war veterans wounded in Vietnam or haunted by memories. Sweetness never left her score, but beauty and pain intermingled. A bass line provided a heartbeat, and beguiling melodic lines led through a maze of dead ends. The ending was a stunner—a scream became a spiritual cadence, as if giving thanks for sour, sensuous fruit. — Mark Swed (LA TIMES)

WITHIN EARTH recording sessions, 2018-19. photos Kristen Turner




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