Composer: Jeffrey Holmes
Instrument: Percussion Ensemble
Duration: 11 min.
Occasus, was written in the Spring of 2010 for the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet. This work is comprised of twelve sections that are differentiated by textural contrasts and pitch transpositions, and are united through recurring timbres, motives, and a consistent harmonic landscape. The title is in Latin, and can mean “setting” (as in the setting sun), and can also mean “downfall, ruin, death”. The pessimistic programmatic element from which this work emerged is present on a multiplicity of levels, including descending motives, segmented formal structures with clear divisions, intense climaxes, and even in the immediately decaying sound quality inherent to the percussion family of instruments.
Percussion Ensemble (4 players)
3 Plate Bells
Drum (Viking War Drum)
3 Plate Bells
3 Plate Bells
3 Plate Bells
About the composer +
The music of composer Jeffrey Holmes has been called “Captivating…haunting and slightly disorienting” by the Los Angeles Times, “Drifting… ethereal” by the San Francisco Classical Voice, and “Interesting and musically arresting, music to be really heard and deserving of reflection” by the Society of Composers, INC. As a traditionalist, he composes music for acoustic orchestral instruments, using standard notational methods; as a formalist, he works within a complex and unique diatonic, chromatic, and microtonal language; as a transcendentalist, he combines the inherent abstraction of sound with a greater meaning and possibility of interpretation through the use of lyricism and overt expression.
His music has been performed at festivals such as the Darmstadt Ferienkurs für Neue Musik (Germany), La Pietra Forum for New Music (Florence, Italy), at “Microfest” (2003, 2005, and 2011) and both the “HEAR NOW” and “What’s Next?” festivals (Los Angeles), and in venues including Carnegie Hall (New York), the Historic Dvorak Museum (Prague, Czech Republic), and the Chapelle historique de Bon- Pasteur (Montreal, Canada). He has received commissions and performances from groups including the Penderecki String Quartet, Bass-baritone Nicholas Isherwood (Germany), ECCE (East Coast Contemporary Ensemble), “Duo Resonances” – France (Frédérique Luzy and Pierre Bibault), Piano Spheres, the Eclipse String Quartet, Trio Terroir, California Institute of the Arts Orchestra, USC Thornton Symphony, Xtet, Inauthentica, the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet, and others.
He holds a doctorate in music composition from the University of Southern California, and has studied with composers such as Georg Friedrich Haas, Donald Crockett and Stephen Hartke. Currently, he is Assistant Professor of Composition and Theory at Chapman University. His music is published by Edition Svitzer (Copenhagen, Denmark) and Doberman-Yppan (Quebec, Canada), and has been recorded on the Sono Luminus label, distributed worldwide by Naxos.
Review (Percussive Notes, May 2014)
Written for the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet in 2010, “Occasus” takes its name from the Latin for “setting,” as in the “setting of the sun,” but can also mean “downfall” and “death.” “Setting” or “decaying” can be analyzed on multiple levels in this piece: Two of the most salient features are descending motives and the composer’s intentional use of instrument decay (ringing metals and woods).
This work is extremely sophisticated and would be suitable for graduate students or professional-level performers. While not overly complex, the slow tempo (the work plods along gravely in 9/16) makes the polyrhythmic and syncopated rhythmic textures quite challenging for ensemble cohesion. While generally based around the keyboard instruments playing sixteenth notes in descending or arching patterns, the signature sounds of the work—bell plates—will require extra effort from the performers to construct (unless you happen to have 12 suspended bell plates pitched in a chromatic octave). The recording and performance by the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet on the publisher’s webpage is an excellent example of the kind of exquisitely crafted sound and chamber music skill needed for this work to be successful.
Jeffrey Holmes’s bio in the jacket of the work suggests he is a transcendentalist, combining “the inherent abstraction of sound with a greater meaning and possibility of interpretation.” “Occasus” goes beyond what can be perceived from the printed page. The piece is about sound ringing and decaying in space, and about textures. I would highly recommend this piece to a sensitive and sophisticated ensemble that is up for a rewarding challenge.
Front Cover graphics and layout: Ronni Kot Wenzell
Engraving: Jeffrey Holmes
Printed in Copenhagen, Denmark
Copyright © Edition SVITZER