Invocation for Solo Violin

with live electronics

Passage I

for sounds and images

First Train

for string quartet

Rain: Ash, Water, Stone

computer generated sound

Scrapes Pt 1

Duo for Violin and Viola

with live electronics

Passage II

for sounds and images

Scrapes Pt 1I

Duo for Violin and Viola

with live electronics

Wind: Rita’s Return

environmental sound

Last Train

for string quartet

Passage III

for sounds and images

Elegy for Solo Cello

with quartet members and live electronics

SONA is a multi-disciplinary event conceived as an auditory reflection on the environment where I live. Among the sounds in the atmosphere I hear near my home in Houston are the bellowing horns and deep rumblings produced by freight trains traveling through the city, the rhythms of falling rain, and the wind gusts of passing storms. In 2005, I was inspired to connect all of these elements into a continuous event using music, computer-generated and processed sounds, imagery, and recordings taken from the environment. As I began realizing SONA, the creative contributions of filmmaker Alfred Guzzetti and the members of the Enso String Quartet became essential.

In SONA, the string quartet music is derived from the sounds of trains.  Spectral analyses of the horns provided the chords that form the harmonic structure underlying the entire work. Transcriptions of the repetitive rhythmic fragments produced by passing trains characterize individual movements. As SONA unfolds, quartet members are constantly regrouped as soloists, as a duo, and as full quartet. The three short videos, titled Passages, combine images from the Northeastern part of the United States with sounds recorded in Houston. The sounds reveal the raw ‘train’ elements while the images show railway cars, markings, tracks, wires, bridges and rivers.  At times these move with dizzying rapidity, at other times with dreamlike slowness, sometimes with smooth ease or other times with a stuttering rhythm too fast for the eye alone. A computer generates the synthetic sounds in Rain so that each performance will be unique. Ironically, Rita’s Return captures natural, organic sounds of wind gusts from a passing hurricane and fixes them in time. In SONA, sounds made by the performers are often digitally processed in real-time and all electronic sounds are dispersed spatially by way of a multi-channel audio system surrounding the audience.

SONA was premiered on December 3rd and 4th, 2005 in Houston, Texas with support from DiverseWorks ArtSpace and an Individual Artist Grant from the Cultural Arts Council of Houston and Harris County.

- Charles Ward, The Houston Chronicle

Passages, three short videos in SONA, were presented at Sound and Light, a MUSIQA concert in collaboration with the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.  The excerpt below is taken from the review of that concert:

“The lasting memories for me came from the three short Passages with film by Alfred Guzzetti and electronic score by composer Kurt Stallmann.  Guzzetti filmed trains and tracks in the Northeast. In Passage I, he focused close up on passing freight cars. Soon, numbers of individual cars began floating left to right, sometimes overlaid, sometimes on a black screen.  Stallmann reworked sounds of trains recorded in Houston into subtle musical nuggets. A moaning engine horn suddenly had strong tonal implications. The insistent clickety-clack rhythms of wheels on rails tightened into taut rhythms...the images and accompanying sound made deep impressions simply as stand-alone works of art.”

Excerpt from SONA

First Train

Enso String Quartet

Maureen Nelson, Violin 1

John Marcus,Violin II

Melissa Reardon, Viola

Richard Belcher, Cello

Scores available from Trigon Music Press

SONA: Wind, Rain, and Trains

for string quartet, video, and electronics (2005), ca. 45’

SONA: Concert Suite

for string quartet, video, and electronics (2007), ca. 25’