purple music

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Released September 2023 by Nancy Zeltsman

Available on Bandcamp, streaming & compact disc

Album Notes by Nancy Zeltsman 

My first (mostly-) solo album in 18 years welled up in me as a bit of a surprise – and a reflection of where I am in my life. I love the craft and intimacy of these pieces, and they provide wonderful opportunities to showcase the deep voice of the marimba. The last couple years, I’ve felt especially keenly aware of the gratitude  I feel to the extraordinary beings who shaped, inspired, and taught me. More than ever, I feel the weighty responsibility to carry forward their values and teachings. In particular, my musical world would not be the same if I hadn’t known the expansive musical curiosity of Ian Finkel and of Gunther Schuller. This album, in part, celebrates my heritage by including their voices and others’. Conceiving and realizing it was absorbing work – and, lo and behold, it has given me a second wind.

– and recommended listening sequence

1 | Avishai Cohen: Structure in Emotion | Transcr. & Arr. Rachel Xi Zhang | 5:11

2 | Olivier Messiaen: Poèmes pour Mi (excerpts) | Arr. Nancy Zeltsman  6:28
          II. Paysage (Landscape)
          III. La Maison (The House)
          VI. Ta Voix (Your Voice) 
                    Michael Norsworthy, clarinet 

3 | Moto Fukushima: Forming the Emptiness | Transcr. Joey Flynn |  3:31

4 | Horace Silver: Peace (as recorded by Tommy Flanagan) | Arr. Nancy Zeltsman | 3:52

5 | ­Howard Skempton: Preludes from Images | In Memoriam - ten loved ones 18:28
      Sounds and voices montage by Nancy Zeltsman | Prelude 7, 6, 3, 2, 4, 5, 8, 1 (details below) 

Total playing time: 37:30 | ©℗ 2023 Nancy Zeltsman.
All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.

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Structure in Emotion (2003/2008) by Avishai Cohen (b.1970)

My dear friend Rachel Xi Zhang, an extraordinary musician who teaches marimba at Conservatorium van Amsterdam, introduced me to this piece when she transcribed and arranged it for marimba solo (around 2010). I was so pleased that she allowed me to record it.

The Israeli bassist, singer, and composer Avishai Cohen recorded the piece on his 2003 album “Lyla,” and with his trio on "Gently Disturbed” in 2008 (both on his label, Razdaz Records). It’s published by Gadu Music (BMI).

Poèmes pour Mi (1936) by Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) 

I first heard these songs at Tanglewood (Lenox, Massachusetts) in 1975 performed by soprano Judith Nicosia and Messiaen himself at the piano. He was then 66. I was in high school, and that was my first concert of contemporary music!

About 35 years later, the first time Michael Norsworthy and I met to discuss the possibility of playing together, I mentioned that I’d been wanting to arrange part of a Messaien piece originally for soprano and piano. Maybe it could work on clarinet and marimba.

Michael replied, “Poèmes pour Mi?” It was meant to be! (During our rehearsals, Michael and I had a game of seeing which of us could play softer. Our delight in that can be heard here!) We created a video of these three movements that has been available on YouTube since 2012. So, why re-release it? With this extraordinary piece, listening (only) enables me to go deeper into it. 

Messiaen dedicated the piece to his first wife, Claire Delbos, whose nickname was “Mi.” The work is published by Édition Durand. (Fun fact: Messiaen and my father were both born in 1908.)

Forming the Emptiness, Op. 70 (2010) by Moto Fukushima 

Moto Fukushima is a master of the six-string bass. With a background in jazz improvisation, Western classical music, and the music of South America, Moto's playing is a combination of finesse, subtlety, and power. This solo was released on the eponymous 2016 album House of Waters (GroundUP Music) that debuted at #2 on the iTunes Music Charts.

I was introduced to this stunningly beautiful – I would say, perfect! – piece by Joey Flynn when he transcribed it as a project in one of my classes at Berklee College of Music – from which Fukushima graduated with honors some years prior. It is published by House of Waters Music (ASCAP).

Peace (1989) by Horace Silver (1928-2014), as recorded by pianist Tommy Flanagan (1930-2001) | Arr. Nancy Zeltsman

No wonder Tommy Flanagan was dubbed “the jazz poet.” (Whitney Balliett) Along with thousands of others within earshot of WGBH-Radio-Boston, I never tired of hearing Tommy Flanagan’s version of “Peace” (from his 1978 album Something Borrowed, Something Blue) aired by Eric Jackson at the top of his jazz radio show “Eric in the Evening” every weeknight at 8:00 PM. Fans of the show posted: "I listened to this theme and your show for over 30 years.” “I would be driving home … along the way NPR news would fade and Tommy Flanagan would start out … ‘Peace' would have me sitting in the driveway until it ended.” “Thank you, Eric, for being the friend of my nights.” 

I started my arrangement in late 2021 (based on an uncredited transcription I found online) and revised it many times. We lost Eric Jackson in September 2022. “It’s like a chapter being closed on a generation of radio announcers who were real pioneers in the industry.” (Tessil Collins, GBH) 

Preludes from Images (1989) by Howard Skempton (b. 1947) 

Sounds & voices montage by Nancy Zeltsman | TRANSCRIPT OF THE SPOKEN WORDS

Skempton’s Preludes for piano were commissioned from the English composer, pianist, and accordionist for a television series marking the 150th anniversary of the invention of photography. The producer requested “something akin to Satie’s "Gymnopédies.” 

The dynamic marking of seven of the movements is “pianissimo (pp) leggiero,” and Prelude 5 is marked even softer. I’ve always been very drawn to the moody and clever, hypnotic patterns of this set and have performed a few of them over the years. No changes were made to perform them on marimba. 

It occurred to me a few months ago that, just as the set initially created an effective space to view a collection of photographs, it could provide a counterpoint for a collection of voices and ambient sounds — to honor some of my loved ones who have passed away. Howard Skempton graciously gave his permission for me to proceed. While I have superimposed other sounds on his music, I find the music remains compelling. Mr. Skempton welcomes players to perform the set in any order. Images is published by Oxford University Press. 

In the montage I created, you will hear from (or about) generations of family members, mentors, friends, and a dog who were very meaningful in my life. Some of the speaking is excerpted from messages left on my telephone answering machine; some is from conversations documented by others. Besides representing the types of stories, topics, values, and temperaments that influenced and shaped me, I’m struck by the music of these voices and words. These remarkable beings provided the preludes to the person I became, and the life I’ve had. Thanks to Alan Zimmerman for introducing me to these pieces, and to William Moersch for introducing me to Alan. 

Prelude 7 | Vic Firth on guiding principles for success; bronze wind chimes my parents purchased in CA in the 1970s

• Vic Firth (1930-2015) – a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 50 years: 46 of them as timpanist [interviewed by Michael Davis, HipBone Music in 2014 – about a year before Vic died]
      Vic was a huge inspiration for me from age 13 when I began to study percussion. The goal to study with him was my guiding light every day for six years – and then he was my teacher in college.

Prelude 6 | Donald L. Marrs, on being an exacting teacher; my grandfather, Marcus Zeltsman, on playing baritone horn

• Donald L. Marrs (1918-2011) – my phenomenal band director at Parsippany Hills High School (New Jersey) who had played baritone horn in earlier years [interviewed by Dr. Stuart Marrs in 2007: Don Marrs on Revelli]
      Mr. Marrs taught me not to fear demanding teachers whose goals were serving the music and striving for excellence. To explain the nuances of musical phrasing, he often coached me on the possibilities within a single measure or two for a half hour. (Fun coincidence: his father-in-law and Marcus were close friends.) 
• Marcus Zeltsman (1884-1981) – my grandfather, a baritone horn player, social/political activist, hat maker, and accountant [interviewed by my cousins Judy and Steph Kerman at the Workmen’s Circle home in Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1980 – at age 96: about a year before Marcus died]
      This exchange reminds me of the many times I’ve explained the difference between a marimba and a xylophone! Pop (as I called him) had such an expressive way of speaking.

Prelude 3 Marcus Zeltsman plays the baritone horn; someone was hammering nearby 

[My cousin Jon Zeltsman recalls this was recorded in his family's backyard in Cedar Grove, New Jersey in 1980.]
      Some of what my grandfather played that day, off the top of his head, combined surprisingly well with Skempton’s Prelude 3! Here we are in 1980 and 2023 – 43 years apart – playing a duet together! Pop's love of music clearly passed down to my father, and then to me. I might not be a musician if it weren’t for Marcus.

Prelude 2 | my parents, Joe and Martha Zeltsman; my father on his approach to portrait photography

 Joseph Zeltsman (1908-2008) – my father (Marcus’ first child), a musician (violin and woodwinds), and professional portrait photographer
• Martha Wheeler Zeltsman (1922-2006) – my mother, an excellent nature photographer and co-owner and manager of the Zeltsman Photography Studio in Parsippany, New Jersey
      Holiday greetings on answering machine messages in 
2004, 2005 and 1990. Then, my father speaks about some of the portraits he took that were displayed in my folks' retirement home (even though they depicted strangers) [recorded by me in 2006 when he was 98]. 
      Shortly after this, my father had a stroke that left him with aphasia. The remainder of his life, he could speak quite expressively, but almost entirely in gibberish. Music had always been at the core of our strong connection. The aphasia didn’t impede our conversations because, to me, his expressive gibberish was like music. It’s interesting that he gave an example of a man who could get to be 100 years old, since he lived to 100 himself.

Prelude 4 | Martha Zeltsman, 1989; Lyle Mays 1989; Ian Finkel, 1988; Gunther Schuller; 2007 – answering machine messages

• Lyle Mays (1953-2020) – a friend who loved deep-dive conversations, a celebrated jazz pianist and composer
      I sometimes wrote Lyle letters (pre-internet) when the Pat Metheny Group was on long tours that their management company would forward. I premiered Lyle Mays Mindwalk for solo marimba, Somewhere in Maine with Marimolin, and Eberhard at Zeltsman Marimba Festival 2009. A recording of Eberhard was Lyle's last project, and received the 2022 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition posthumously. 
• Ian Finkel (1948-2020) – xylophone virtuoso, my mallet teacher during high school, a profound influence
This would not be an album of adaptations, transcriptions and arrangements if Ian Finkel hadn’t shown me that the world of possibilities for what can be played on mallet instruments is infinite.
• Gunther Schuller (1925-2015) – composer, conductor, horn player, author, historian, educator, publisher, music producer; as remarkable and dedicated a musician as ever lived, another profound influence
      I worked with Gunther first as a percussionist performing in contemporary music concerts he conducted in my early 20s, then at his publishing company for 8.5 years 
in my later 20s/early 30s based in his home, then as the producer for a few solo and Marimolin albums I recorded, and while preparing performances of two pieces he composed for me: Phantasmata and Marimbology. I am now an advisor for The Gunther Schuller Society.

Prelude 5 | Steve Mackey, regarding Mochi and ailments of aging, 2005

• Mochi (1994-2007) – our dog (an 85-pound Black Lab/Golden Retriever mix), described by my dear friend and ex-husband in an answering machine message

Prelude 8 | Gunther Schuller (age 88) on inner hearingLouis Andriessen (age 74) on his dreams

[interviewed together at Boston Conservatory On Creativity, February 2014– just over a year before Gunther  died]
 Louis Andriessen (1939-2021) – a friend; considered the most influential Dutch composer of his generation
      Louis was astoundingly well-read and very knowledgeable about history and world politics. At the same time, he had an ever-playful spirit and relished many small delights of daily life. He constantly introduced and included people and wove a rich fabric of artists inspiring and influencing one another. (Gunther greatly admired Louis’ music.)

Inspiration for the title, purple music


Executive Producer: Nancy Zeltsman

Tracks 1, 2
Recorded by Ted Paduck
• Cohen recorded in David Friend Recital Hall, Berklee College of Music – Boston, MA | July 6, 2023 | Mixed by Ted Paduck 
• Messiaen recorded at Mix One Studios – Boston, MA | May 23, 2012 | Mixed by Steve Rodby

Tracks 3, 4, 5
Recorded and mixed by Michael Seifert and David Alan Shaw at Suma Recording Studio – Painesville, OH | June 11, 12 & July/August, 2023

Mastered by David Alan Shaw at Suma Recording Studio

Nancy is a Pearl/Adams Artist. "Structure in Emotion" was recorded on the Nancy Zeltsman Signature marimba made by Adams Musical Instruments. 

The Nancy Zeltsman Series of mallets by Encore Mallets is made by Salyers Percussion.

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CD booklet design: Nancy Zeltsman with Kevin Hannon 

Photo of Nancy: Claudia Hansen
Other photos: Nancy Zeltsman
• Top photo (CD cover) was taken at the Elizabeth Street Garden, New York City (May 2023).
• 2nd photo from top (CD back cover photo): Boylston Street in Boston
• Middle photo (CD center): Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, MA (May 2022)
• The house with a purple roof is from a painting by Vincent Crotty.
• That’s an ochre sea star at the New England Aquarium.

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Thanks to
the fabulous people and companies mentioned above and to Mike Thompson, Doug Perkins, Sharan Leventhal, Howard Skempton, Moto Fukushima, Michael Norsworthy, Rachel Xi Zhang, Joey Flynn, Skip Hadden, Dave Wentling, Berklee College of Music, Andrew O’Keefe, Boston Conservatory at Berklee, Matthew Larson, Nicholas Strawn, Case Western Reserve University Department of Music, Rachel Kuret, Shawn Lafrenz, Dan Ainspan, and Bruce Salyers.

Arrangements by Nancy Zeltsman, Rachel Xi Zhang, or Joey Flynn are not published or available. (Sorry; maybe at some point …)

Copyright 2024 Nancy Zeltsman