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cindy mctee

reviews

 

For reviews of Cindy McTee's
AMERICAN CLASSICS NAXOS CD
featuring four orchestral works performed by the
Detroit Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin,
click here.

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GIA "Composer's Collection"
CD

CINDY MCTEE

This GIA "Composer's Collection" offers band music by Cindy McTee (b 1953), longtime composition professor at the University of North Texas. I find it a bit amusing that most of these works were commissioned for orchestra, then commissioned again for adaptation to wind ensemble. Nice work if you can get it! It is a safe bet that they are performed far more often by bands than orchestras. The title of Circuits (1990, originally for chamber orchestra) refers to the use of the repetitive device of ostinato, to the repetition of small sections, and to a very fast tempo. This is the kind of busy, intricate, driving music Cindy McTee especially likes to write. We find it again in California Counterpoint: The Twittering Machine (2003, also originally for orchestra). Reflecting McTee's interest in the paintings of Paul Klee, the work depicts how life goes for little birds—exhilarating flights, sudden stops, and a constant sense that danger could strike at any moment. Finish Line (2006, originally for orchestra), was inspired by futurist paintings of speeding automobiles by Giacomo Balla and is included in a new UNT recording (reviewed in Collections). Timepiece (2001, originally for orchestra) begins amorphously, and then gradually acquires a steady pulse. The big piece. Ballet for Band (2004, originally Ballet for Orchestra), has a fitful but kinetic 'Introduction: On with the Dance'; a humorous ‘Waltz’; ‘Light Fantastic’ that gives prominence to some of the odder, bass-voiced instruments; and a whirling ‘Finale: Where Time Plays the Fiddle’ that reflects on material from I and invokes the spirit of Stravinsky. Only two of these works are in their original form, and even one of those is slightly adapted. Fanfare for Trumpets (2004) is played by six trumpeters instead of the two Ms McTee had in mind (as recorded by John Holt and Keith Johnson, May/June 2005: 212). I do prefer the greater mass of sound created by the student sextet and appreciate their near-perfect intonation and ensemble. Soundings (1995), commissioned by the bands of the Big Eight Conference, is in four movements. ‘Fanfare’ gives attention-getting material to percussion, then to brass, then adds woodwinds. A busy and driving 'Gizmo' leads to a calm 'Waves', and then to a frenetic 'Transmission'. Fascinating pieces, outstanding readings.  

Barry Kilpatrick
American Record Guide

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Chamber Music Concert

. . . part of what made the pieces [various chamber works] so immediately and unfailingly appealing was their generous use of repetition and refrain.

Scott Cantrell
The Dallas Morning News

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SHENANDOAH

The encores included a sweet arrangement of the American folk tune "Shenandoah" by composer Cindy McTee . . . The music was bathed with warm feelings of tradition, love and family -- just in time for Thanksgiving.

Mark Stryker
Detroit Free Press

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. . . [a] beautiful arrangement of Shenandoah.  

Timothy Gaylard
The Roanoke Times

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. . . an attractive and effective Shenandoah . . .  

Tom Moore
CVNC: An Online Arts Journal in North Carolina

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DOUBLE PLAY
for orchestra

When the phrase “inside baseball” pops up in the performing arts, it usually refers to a work that assumes some additional knowledge on the part of the audience in order to be fully appreciated. The jokes in many of the Hoffnung Music Festival recordings, for example, take it for granted that the audience is pretty familiar with the standard classical repertoire.
Cindy McTee’s “Double Play”, the local premiere of which opened this weekend’s symphony concerts, probably counts as “inside baseball” in that it assumes that the listener is fairly familiar with Charles Ives’s 1906 orchestral miniature “The Unanswered Question”. That’s most obvious in the first movement (“The Unquestioned Answer”) of this 17-minute work, which is mostly an expansion on Ives’s original.

As in that original, a slow-moving theme in the strings is frequently interrupted by a “question” theme. In the Ives it’s played by a solo trumpet and never varies. In the McTee a variant of the Ives theme is first stated by the harp and vibes and then (in various transformations) by the winds and brass. A final statement of the theme on wood blocks and cowbells (Spike Jones would have loved that) leads to the lively second movement, “Tempus Fugit”.

Ms. McTee says its fast pace and jazzy harmonies “echo the multifaceted and hurried aspects of 21st-century American society,” but to me it all sounded mostly like a tribute to the “big bands” of the 1950s and 1960s, especially Woody Herman’s various Herds and Stan Kenton. Which, given that Ms. McTee apparently spent her childhood steeped in jazz, is not surprising.

“Double Play” was a great deal of fun to hear, both on Saturday night’s live broadcast with Leonard Slatkin at the podium and again on Sunday at Powell with Courtney Lewis, who replaced Mr. Slatkin for the final matinee. The musicians played brilliantly on both occasions. I hope they enjoyed presenting “Double Play” as much as my wife and I enjoyed hearing it.

Chuck Lavazzi
KDHX.ORG

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The contemporary piece was “Double Play,” a work for large orchestra by Slatkin’s wife, composer Cindy McTee. It had its première in Detroit in 2010, conducted by Slatkin. The first part of “Double Play” is “The Unquestioned Answer,” a takeoff on, and homage to, Charles Ives’ “The Unanswered Question,” with unresolved harmonies in the strings and winds.

Those led to the clocklike rhythms of the second part, “Tempus Fugit,” in which the tempos speed up and move into jazzy, mechanized territory. Time flies to no particular destination, but it’s a fun trip.

Sarah Bryan Miller
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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Conductor Leonard Slatkin leads an intriguing program built around Beethoven's Ninth to open the Los Angeles Philharmonics summer season at the Hollywood Bowl.

In the ode, the German poet Friedrich Schiller venerates the "daughter of Elysium," and Slatkin gave women a voice by devoting the first half of the program to short works by three contemporary female composers.

Not all women composers like to be identified by gender, but this was an inspired bit of programming. Getting an audience to turn from its picnics to music on a warm evening is an ever-growing challenge these days. The female composers piqued curiosity. Their music, moreover, was intriguingly good.

The last piece was "Tempus Fugit," by Cindy McTee. The percussion section is featured. Clocks tick and they, too, are turned back to the jazzy '50s. Exuberant music that Slatkin conducted as an ode to joy, as well he might. McTee is his new bride.

Mark Swed
Los Angeles Times

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. . . an urban sound that is particularly intriguing. Hopefully more of McTee’s work will be offered to Miamians. 

Jeff Haller
ConcertoNet.com

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McTee’s ‘Double Play’ stands out in NOI concert led by Slatkin.

The second piece was a local premiere of “Double Play” by Slatkin’s new bride, Cindy McTee. It was worth the drive. McTee studied with the Polish master Krzysztof Penderecki, and lived in his home for a year. Her music, while unmistakably American-sounding, also hums with Penderecki’s craftsmanship and a catholic array of influences across several centuries. The first part is an homage to Ives, while the second is a mash-up of big-band licks a la Leonard Bernstein and scurrying, frenetic urban passages. Great fun, and well delivered by all.

Robert Battery
The Washington Post

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McTee packed the piece full of gorgeous textures, like in the opening section, “The Unquestioned Answer,” where percussion dappled the sweet, quiet chords in the strings and winds like stars reflected in the lapping tides, pulsing with quiet energy. The “Tempus Fugit” second section, tinged with jazzy harmonies; skittered and wheeled about with great nervous energy that often expressed itself in dueling rhythms. Even though McTee says the two sections can be performed separately, my favorite thing in the whole piece was the transition, with the percussion striking a rhythm against indifferent strings, like a match trying to ignite. Slatkin kept it all humming along.  . . . the work was . . . a ton of fun.

Andrew Lindemann
DMV Classical

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The Detroit Symphony Orchestra's season finale Thursday night felt more like a season opener -- a party, a weekend celebration festooned with glittering masterworks displayed in heady performances. Indeed, there was something to celebrate: the conclusion of conductor Leonard Slatkin's very successful first full year as the DSO's music director. And Slatkin was on the podium, presiding over a generous and splendid mix of music old and new.

The new came first, in the world premiere of Cindy McTee's "Double Play," an ambitious, imaginative and altogether irresistible essay for large orchestra in two movements of head-turning brilliance. "Double Play" brought this year's DSO Elaine Lebenbom Prize to McTee, who teaches at the University of North Texas.
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The work's opening movement, an homage to Charles Ives' "The Unanswered Question," is called the "Unquestioned Answer," and it unfolds in sparkling harmonies and delicately layered textures reminiscent of Ives' 1906 composition. The second part of McTee's "Double Play," called "Tempus Fugit" (or Time Flies), takes a distinctly urban turn with its bluesy harmonies, tumbling syncopated rhythms and brisk tempos.

The two movements are linked by a rhythmically intricate rapping on wood blocks evocative of a cluster of clocks, each ticking to its own beat -- much like the opening scene in the film "Back to the Future."

But what makes McTee's work so compelling is the sheer magic of her orchestral writing. The orchestra is her canvas and she paints on it with the confidence of a master colorist. "Double Play" runs a deceptively brief 15 minutes, a quarter hour jam-packed with energy, musical invention and pure auditory delight.

Lawrence B. Johnson
The Detroit News

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Cindy McTee's "The Unquestioned Answer," the first movement of her crafty diptych, "Double Play," begins with a soft, portentous swoosh of percussion, a primordial orchestral swell and a rising melodic gesture by vibes and harp that reaches for the stars along the leaping intervals of a major 7th and a minor 13th.

The music, wound in existential mystery, unfolds in overlapping layers: Meandering string chords crawl in the basement. Brief bursts of astringent reeds and brass shoot through the texture and a series of solos -- flute, clarinet, violin, bassoon and more -- keep posing more questions. Or maybe the same question asked many ways.

Led by music director Leonard Slatkin, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra gave the world premiere of "Double Play" on Thursday as part of the final subscription week of the season. McTee, 57, is the winner of the DSO's third annual Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Award for women composers.

The eclectic program gleefully hopped through the centuries, opening with McTee, retreating to the height of 19th-Century romanticism with Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 and teenage soloist Peng Peng, dropping back another 70 years to Mozart's "Haffner Symphony" and, finally, boomeranging to the 20th Century and Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite." Diversity is good, but stylistic whiplash made for some unsettling transitions, especially as McTee's sleek contemporary language gave way to Lisztian bravura.

Still, Slatkin and the DSO dove into all of the music with gusto and the 17-minute "Double Play" is one of the strongest new works that the conductor has introduced in Detroit. Insiders will pick up on her wink at Charles Ives' 100-year-old masterpiece, "The Unanswered Question." McTee riffs on Ives' collage aesthetic, his philosophical musing and recurring solo trumpet, whose probing melody McTee remolds and hands to a gaggle of soloists.

Despite the homage, the music maintains its own tension and pacing; its polished voice is spiced with just enough harmonic tannin to leave a bite in the finish. The second movement, "Tempus Fugit" ("Time Flies") opens with wood blocks in a syncopated-clock symphony that drags on too long, before exploding into a jazzy sprint of stuttering brass chords, off-beat accents and wildly undulating bass lines.

Rhythm is king here, and I was occasionally reminded of the eccentric mid-century composer Raymond Scott, whose whimsical, mechanized sound world is most familiar through Carl Stalling's Warner Bros. cartoon scores. Slatkin led a vital, rhythmically secure performance, capturing the heady vibe of the opening movement and the exciting snap of "Tempus Fugit." The soloists all distinguished themselves.

Mark Stryker
Detroit Free Press

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The program began with something really fresh. [Tempus Fugit] starts with overlapping tick-tocks on wooden blocks and takes off from there, revving its engine for 10 lively minutes. It got a warm reception from the audience.

Harvey Steiman
The Aspen Times

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The two-movement “Double Play” amounts to a brilliantly orchestrated exercise. Part 1, “The Unquestioned Answer,” was inspired by Charles Ives’ “The Unanswered Question,” a tradition-shattering musical essay of restrained dissonances and surreal sound patterns that still commands attention and even startles listeners a century after it was written. McTee’s tension-inducing rejoinder develops out of overlapping layers of sound, mysterious in effect, existential in suggestion just as is the Ives. There are moments of near silence, demanding solo passages, and hair-raising orchestral swells, all merging into an amalgam of portent.

Rhythmically intricate tapping of wood blocks, evocative of clocks beating to different, erratic and individual times, links “The Unquestioned Answer” to part 2, “Tempus Fugit” (“Time Flees”), a colorful, inventive adventure in subtle jazz rhythms that gains speed and force as it moves toward an exhilarating conclusion. Slatkin and company played the piece with whiplash precision and magnetic vitality. Composer McTee was present to share in the cheers-suffused ovation.

Peter Jacobi
The Herald-Times (Bloomington, IN)

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. . . The Unquestioned Answer . . . tone ebbing and flowing with alluring color and a welcome freedom from nervous haste.

Bernard Jacobson
MusicWeb International

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A third work was performed, in its Seattle premiere — Cindy McTee’s “Double Play.” Born in Tacoma and educated at Pacific Lutheran University as well as Yale University and University of Iowa, McTee will not be upsetting any apple carts with this piece, composed in two sections but played as one Thursday. It was premiered last year by the Detroit Symphony of which Leonard Slatkin, SSO guest conductor for the night, is the music director. The work is tonally appealing, well-crafted and oiled, making no attempt to be in fashion musically but also making no attempt to go backward in time and spirit. She has plenty of ideas which she has assembled into a coherent whole.

R. M. Campbell
The Gathering Note

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Meanwhile, Saturday night downstairs in the big hall we also heard some pretty exciting noises. Leonard Slatkin conducted a program that began well with a new piece, Cindy McTee's 'Double Play,' which was premiered last June in Detroit, also under Slatkin's baton. The composer managed the huge orchestra with exciting imagination and skill. An amazing palette of delicious sounds unfolded, while an expanded percussion section peppered it all with a lot of fun. The composer took a well-deserved bow.

Rod Parke
Seattle Gay News

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But under this radar of the obvious flies a wonderful surprise, in the form of a newish work by Northwest-born composer Cindy McTee. "Double Play" for Orchestra, premiered less than a year ago by Slatkin in Detroit, is an absolutely crackerjack piece, one of those rare works that is immediately accessible without saccharine. The first hearing is deeply satisfying, with enough substance and delight to invite repeated listening.

The first movement, "The Unquestioned Answer," plays with the themes of Charles Ives' "The Unanswered Question," with fascinating textures from the percussion section and an air of mystery from the harmonic bed of strings. The second movement, "Tempus Fugit," has enough drive and energy to give the "Peter Gunn" theme a run for its money. As the Latin title suggests, time flies, as do violin bows. The composer was at the concert on Thursday night, and she must have been pleased with both the performance and the enthusiastic response.

John Sutherland
The Seattle Times

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The concert's journey began with "Double Play" by American composer Cindy McTee. It is an effective piece in two movements. The title of the first, "The Unquestioned Answer," is an allusion to Charles Ives' "The Unanswered Question." The composer's program note acknowledges Ives' mastery of the juxtapositions she loves to explore.

If "The Unquestioned Answer" was stentorian, McTee's second movement, "Tempus Fugit," was faster, with wit and touches of jazziness. It is well scored.

Mark Kanny
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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DOUBLE PLAY
for wind symphony

Cindy McTee’s Double Play was commissioned by Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony in 2010 and also rescored for wind band, this time at the request of Corporon. McTee juxtaposes sustained, somewhat dissonant sonorities with soaring solo lines and brief moments of repose to create an unsettled mood. The tick-tock of various percussive clocks interrupts a moment of innocence, much like Captain Hook’s dreaded crocodile in the children’s story Peter Pan, and leads to an extended jazzy interlude. The piece concludes with a number of dissonant and contrapuntal jazz figures squaring off against the tick-tocking of the percussion section for a final chorus. At the University of North Texas, jazz is second nature and these musicians swing with style.

Brian Buerkle
American Record Guide

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THE TWITTERING MACHINE

Another standout was McTee’s The Twittering Machine. McTee is a name I’ve heard for years, but without encountering any of her music. This piece was really excellent – the scoring was clear and succinct, the ideas were vivid and clearly audible, and the piece really knew what it was about.

Lawrence Dillon
Sequenza21.com

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SOLSTICE FOR TROMBONE AND ORCHESTRA

Cindy McTee’s Solstice (completed on that day in 2007) is for trombone and an orchestra of strings, brass and percussion. This is ambient and active music, the trombonist requiring agility, but no mutes of any kind, the rhythmically engaging first movement leading to an intense Adagio, trombone as yearning tunesmith and private muse, also a little filmic, and then to a rumbustious finale, the soloist issuing a wake-up call after the previous lonely night. Here the music is industrially coloured, syncopating into big-band territory as this capricious 20-minute score strides confidently to a grandstand finish ... but no, McTee has a rug to pull from under the listener’s ears, for the music dissolves to musing again and fades to nothing. Good piece, superbly played by Kenneth Thompkins (principal since 1997) and backed to the hilt by his DSO colleagues.

Colin Anderson
Classical Source

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Charles Ives' brief "Yale-Princeton Football Game" (1898) raised the curtain . . . Then came McTee's "Solstice for Trombone and Orchestra" (2007) — a fitting sequel since the shadow of Ives' "The Unanswered Question" seemed to hover in the theatrical, large melodic leaps of a major 7th in the solo trombone and the striking feeling of deep-space mystery in the central slow movement.

It's a strong, if sometimes repetitive, work and principal trombonist Ken Thompkins was a charismatic soloist; he handled the difficult, athletic writing with a broad range of tonal colors and vibrato and a smooth way of phrasing that connected the music in long arcs of legato melody.

Mark Stryker
Detroit Free Press

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ARTICLE:

A Trombonist Takes the Spotlight
By Charles Ward
Published by the Houston Chronicle, January 2008

McTee . . . writes music that an audience can like. After the [Houston Symphony] played her Circuits (1990) at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in 2000, I noted that the piece was a "charging, churning celebration of the musical and cultural energy of modern-day America. ... (It) aptly illustrated the electric, almost convulsive nature of American society near the start of the 21st century." After listening to her . . . Solstice, I think it's more winning music.

Symphony trombonist gets a musical treat

Though the Houston Symphony's marketing folks labeled the weekend's program Graf's Mozart and Haydn, the meat lay elsewhere in works for trombone and mezzo-soprano soloists.

Thursday's first performance featured the premiere of Solstice for trombone and orchestra by Cindy McTee as well as Gustav Mahler's Rueckert Lieder. Principal trombonist Allen Barnhill and Rice University opera star Susanne Mentzer were splendid in the two very different types of music.

Solstice is the latest piece commissioned by the Houston Symphony for its principal players. Barnhill and the artistic staff chose McTee, a professor at the University of North Texas. She produced a three-movement piece teeming with a musical language that is distinctly and refreshingly American.

One principal McTee used in the work was the notion of stasis, a term from the sciences that, among other things, can describe a state where things are static or motionless, even if there seems to be a frenzy of activity on the surface. McTee used the idea in all three movements but many times, especially in the first, the result was distinctly similar to the vamping an accompanying ensemble uses for a soloist in popular music and jazz.

Many allusions to jazz dotted the work, products of a musical mind that has absorbed defining styles of American music and turned elements into its own, distinctive voice. Many times Barnhill's solo could be heard as the output of a master wailing away in free jazz. Lots of the chords in the middle movement were straight from the world of jazz ballads (though, again, McTee was exploring other technical elements of style).

Solstice was vibrant and high-charged in the outer movements (notwithstanding the stasis) and evocatively sober in the elegiac middle movement. The only thing I would have liked was an additional segment of music in the first movement to ratchet the tension and energy up even further before going, without pause, into the middle movement.

Barnhill played with masterful control. His tone was burnished, his legato a pleasure for its seamlessness, and the power and agility impressive.

Charles Ward
The Houston Chronicle

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FINISH LINE

. . . it's back to the races with Cindy McTee's 'Finish Line' (2006), inspired by the futurist paintings of Giacomo Ballo, propelled by minimalist techniques, and relentless in its drive.

Barry Kilpatrick
American Record Guide

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The guild-commissioned piece, sponsored in recognition of its 50th anniversary, opened the concert with a far more contemporary sound than anything that followed. Composer Cindy McTee's work, inspired by the [early 20th-century] art movement called futurism and by her love of fast cars, showed off the symphony as the finely tuned machine it is. The piece had a nicely bracing quality, thanks to some occasional dissonance, clever rhythms and hints of the Doppler effect in the horns. Quite fun.

Chip Chandler
Amarillo Globe-News

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EINSTEIN'S DREAM

ARTICLES:

A Dream of Music and Technology
By LeAnn Binford
Published by Playbill, January 2005

Strings and Software Make Music at the DSO
By Scott Cantrell
Published by the Dallas Morning News, March 29, 2005

Relativity in 12 Minutes
By Glenn Arbery
Published by Park Cities People, March 31, 2005


REVIEWS:

Washington-born composer Cindy McTee’s tribute to the intellectual world of physicist Albert Einstein, with his often stated affinity and affection for the music of Bach, proved to be an engrossing experiment in melding traditional orchestral timbres with computer-generated sound images, an exploration of Einstein’s mathematical and theoretical speculations juxtaposed with the supremely logical and often numerically inspired musical creations of Bach. The string and percussion sections of the orchestra maneuvered this challenging score with technical finesse, and the audience seemed intrigued by this amalgamation of traditional orchestral sound with the electronic sonic sources of our own time.

Charles M. Spinning
Arizona Daily Sun

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McTee (who is married to Slatkin, and was warmly applauded at the end of her piece) composed it for the 100th anniversary of the year in which Albert Einstein laid out the basics of modern physics in a series of four papers.

It begins with a pure Bach chorale, and moves to the mechanistic and futuristic, with an emphasis on electronic sounds as the piece goes on, ending as the strings fade out. Second associate concertmaster Celeste Golden Boyer played her solo passages with profound beauty and feeling.

Sarah Bryan Miller
St. Louis Post Disptach

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It was fascinating, ingenious, and even a bit mischievous at times. Like McTee's "Double Play," "Einstein's Dream" clearly shows a lively and playful intellect at work

Chuck Lavazzi
KDHX

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Cindy McTee's "Einstein's Dream" (2004) takes its inspiration from the physicist's search for a grand unification theory. So one way to hear this intriguing 14-minute piece for string orchestra, percussion and prerecorded computerized sounds is as a journey toward a reconciliation of the tension between art and science.

But listening to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and music director Leonard Slatkin perform "Einstein's Dream" on Thursday night brought to mind other conflicts involving the tug-of-war between musical styles that consumed classical music in the last third of the 20th Century.

In this hearing, McTee's computer music stands for modernist complexity and atonality and the mathematical compositional systems that held sway in the '60s and '70s, producing music of great dissonance and abstraction. The computer sounds include all manner of metallic crescendos, shimmering whooshes, percussive bonks and granular and gritty textures that gather like clouds or chatter nervously. Meanwhile, the strings, which open "Einstein's Dream" playing a warm Bach chorale, suggest the nostalgia and comfort of traditional musical values.

Can radical and conservative musical ideas peacefully coexist? Can electronic and acoustic sounds live in the same aural space? Composers have been asking these questions for a while now, but McTee posits them in fresh ways while making the compelling argument that the answer to both is yes.

As the piece begins, the strings and electronics remain isolated as if in their own silos. But slowly elements blur. Each side begins to let down its guard. The strings wade into 12-tone waters while judiciously placed triads reassure wary ears; slippery figures break away from the pack. Computerized bells merge seamlessly with live bells struck by a percussionist.

Most evocatively, a solo violinist plays a feverish, rising melody about halfway through that winks at Charles Ives' trumpet theme from "The Unanswered Question." This is the key bridge of the piece, carrying listeners from the past into the present. McTee sustains the meditative mood, open and slightly spacey, from beginning to end.

Slatkin led a focused, committed performance, and guest concertmaster David Halen from the St. Louis Symphony played the violin solo with a richly burnished sound and yearning emotion.

Mark Stryker
Detroit Free Press

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Einstein’s Dream . . . works out its musical ideas in an eerie timbral landscape. Sounds from the orchestra, like bowed cymbals, scraped gongs, muted brass, and ponticello strings, merge into electronic sounds coming from speakers on stage. Surging up through the ringing, shimmering soundscape, the strings play a Bach chorale at the opening. It’s a bit like classical physics, in its Newtonian clarity, is struggling to make sense of, or within, the universe.

The electronic sounds, even when they are just moving particles, sound large. I don’t mean they are loud or out of balance. They play an equal role, sometimes even a greater role, constituting the musical universe. Bach slowly comes apart (particles return) and by the end, McTee has the orchestra stretch and bend the very fabric of sound. After the strings slowly slide together onto a single unison note, it feels for a moment as though the entire musical universe is contained in the point.

It was an extraordinary first half.

Jonathan Neufeld
The Tennessean

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Great issues – from time and space to subatomic particles – frame quite a clever Dallas Symphony Orchestra program this week.

It opens with the world premiere of a DSO commission: Einstein's Dream, by Cindy McTee, a composition professor at the University of North Texas. This 14-minute piece for strings, percussion and computer sounds honors the centenary of Einstein's theory of relativity. And its sections, played without pause, bear evocative titles including "Warps and Curves in the Fabric of Space and Time" and "Celestial Bells – Wondering at the Secrets."In Dr. McTee's score the orchestra plays along with prerecorded, computer-altered sounds. They range from fairly recognizable bell tones to eerie whooshes to a speaking voice (DSO artistic administrator Victor Marshall) fragmented into mere percussive effects.

Honoring Einstein's devotion to Bach, the strings begin with a Bach harmonization of the Lutheran hymn "We all believe in one God." Busy dithers define "Chasing after Quanta" and "The Frantic Dance of Subatomic Particles." A free-ranging violin solo (ably played by concertmaster Emanuel Borok) floats over "Pondering the Behavior of Light." In the end, after oozing clusters, strings set dissonant chords aglow before gradually uniting on the pitch E – for Einstein.

Led by music director Andrew Litton, the DSO gave a convincing account Thursday evening, at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center. Dr. McTee gave a personable spoken introduction to the piece, and she was warmly applauded at the end.

Scott Cantrell
The Dallas Morning News

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The world premiere of Einstein's Dream by University of North Texas Professor Cindy McTee on Thursday night at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center set the mood for an evening of immensely compelling music-making with a strong philosophical undertone. For 14 fascinating minutes, McTee creates an eclectic and constantly ear-catching mixture including musical quotation from Bach, a human voice electronically manipulated and dozens of other devices pulling irresistibly to a final unison E (in honor of Einstein's famous formula).

Wayne Lee Gay
The Star-Telegram

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The year 2005 is the centenary of the published genius of Albert Einstein. Cindy McTee, a composer from Texas, chose to create her musical vision of this anniversary. A recording of sounds began "Einstein's Dream," and continued in and out through the piece, while the LSCO added strings and percussion along with the electronic input. While this concept is not new, it does mark another first for Friesen and the LSCO. The recording offered bells, chimes, bubbles and screeches as the instruments played a chorale. The piece ended on a perfect unison note, as if defining the complex clarity of Einstein's thinking.

Samuel Black
The Duluth News Tribune

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FANFARE

Cindy McTee's Fanfare for Trumpets, though very brief, holds one's attention as two trumpets seem to have a sort of musical argument.

Robert McColley
Fanfare Magazine

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. . . trumpet mavens should relish Cindy McTee's urgent Fanfare, in which the two instruments imitate and compete with one another . . .

Donald Rosenberg
The Gramophone

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This listener was also drawn to Cindy McTee's Fanfare for Trumpets and Martin Mailman's Concertino for Trumpet as outstanding examples of writing for the trumpet.

Peter Wood
The International Trumpet Guild Journal

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BALLET FOR BAND

Please also see reviews of the orchestral version. . . . a bubbly Introduction, a humorous Waltz, and a whirling Finale . . .

Barry Kilpatrick
American Record Guide

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The concert on this newest release is, like the others in the series, varied and entertaining, ranging from Frank Ticheli’s explosive, high-energy Symphony No.2 to Cindy McTee’s Ballet for Band, a whimsical, fragmented tribute to dance rhythms.

Rad Bennett
GoodSound!

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ADAGIO

This is a beautiful work of very intense emotion . . .

Robin McNeil
Opus Colorado

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Dr. McTee, who teaches at the University of North Texas, has produced a number of impressive compositions, and her Adagio for string quartet, performed Friday night, does nothing to spoil her record. In fact, it would make a decent substitute for Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings as a solemn commemorative piece. The work is a transcription of a movement of Dr. McTee's Symphony No. 1, which was premiered by the National Symphony. The new format is unusual in that Dr. McTee has taken away one violin from the traditional string quartet and added a second cello. This emphasizes the gravity of the piece without imparting any sense of imbalance. . . . although often highly chromatic [the quartet] does not seem in the least abrasive. It's an impressive work.

Olin Chism
The Dallas Morning News

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There is much to engage the ear . . .

Tim Smith
The Baltimore Sun

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. . . a throaty elegy . . .

Steve Smith
The Washington Post

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. . . lush string writing . . .

Allan Kozinn
The New York Times

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SYMPHONY NO. 1: BALLET FOR ORCHESTRA

The dance impulse found further expression in McTee's Symphony No. 1: Ballet for Orchestra (2002), whose third movement takes its inspiration from "La Valse" -- though every bar of this imaginatively scored, 30-minute, four-movement work is infused with kinetic movement. McTee proudly wears her influences on her sleeve, yet manages to slip the noose of mocking bird cliches and pastiche.

The elegiac slow movement for strings alludes to a chromatically sighing melody by Krzysztof Penderecki and Barber's famous "Adagio for Strings." Scampering jazz rhythms -- dig the pizzicato bass -- animate the first movement. Brassy elbow jabs and faux drum-set percussion in the finale suggest a pas de deux between Stravinsky and Max Roach.

The energy and syncopated vernacular also brought to mind film scores of the '50s by Leonard Bernstein, Elmer Bernstein and Alex North, and the music sounded like something Jerome Robbins might have enjoyed choreographing. Slatkin led a dynamic performance of sharply accented rhythms and a delicious tension between fervor and relaxation, though the percussion was too stiff to swing.

Mark Stryker
Detroit Free Press

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. . . rhythmically vibrant and immensely entertaining . . .

David Hurwitz
Classics Today

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Brilliantly orchestrated . . . the work is notable for its energy, its sense of movement and the skill with which it brings disparate elements into harmony. Although it uses some modern techniques, the effect is . . . extremely audience-friendly. Audiences are likely, in return, to become McTee-friendly.

Joe McLellan
Classical music critic emeritus of The Washington Post
redludvig.com

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Her compositional muse, she says, "begins as a rhythmical stirring and leads to a physical response," which in this case resulted in a smartly assembled, traditionally structured work that shamelessly borrows licks from [a] myriad sources -- jazz, Beethoven, Ravel's "La Valse" and much more -- but fuses them with highly original skill into a single voice, the composer's own. McTee wrote it on commission for Slatkin and the NSO, who advocated her juicy inventions with stylish commitment, most particularly in the final movement where motifs zigzag freely over a taut rhythmic canvas.

Ronald Broun
The Washington Post

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. . . the symphony . . . comes across with a gritty energy and abundant cleverness. There is much to engage the ear - from the growling, down-in-the-depths woodwind solos of the first movement and dark lyricism of the second, to an affectionate take-off on Maurice Ravel's La Valse in the third and groans of exotic percussion instruments punctuating the jazzy fourth. Structural clarity and sophisticated orchestration add to the assets. McTee's style falls into that neo-tonal category so prevalent today, but avoids turning faceless.

Tim Smith
The Baltimore Sun

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In the explanatory notes for her Symphony No. 1, subtitled "Ballet for Orchestra," Cindy McTee evokes such literary heavyweights as Jung, Byron and Milton. Sidestepping such portent, however, the piece borrowed more liberally from other sources, particularly Beethoven, Penderecki, Ravel and jazz. The result was a well-crafted, attractive and athletic synthesis that provided ample opportunity for the orchestra to shine, including an audacious extended contrabassoon solo in the first movement, a throaty elegy for the strings in the second and a boisterous, Bernsteinian jazz blowout in the finale, which the audience rewarded enthusiastically.

Steve Smith
The Washington Post

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The program's centerpiece was Ms. McTee's work, a four-movement tour of dance forms through which philosophically broader materials are woven. The lush string writing in the slow movement, for example, makes passing allusions to Krzysztof Penderecki's Requiem and Barber's Adagio for Strings; a touch of "La Valse" wafts through the Waltz movement; and the finale touches on everything from laid-back country fiddling to the brutal fortissimo chords of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" and some decidedly jazzy brass writing.

Ms. McTee's sense of organization kept the work from becoming a pastiche: as diverse as its ideas were, they seemed to unfold naturally within an orchestral fabric that used the ensemble's full coloristic range. The work's dance impulses also gave the program its theme. (Click here for complete review.)

Allan Kozinn
The New York Times

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TIMEPIECE

. . . [Andrew] Litton brought along a souvenir from his Dallas years, a curtain-raiser that he commissioned from Cindy McTee called "Timepiece" . . . an engaging, pulsating, grooving mechanism . . .

Richard S. Ginell
The Los Angeles Times  

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Cindy McTee's "Timepiece" got the concert off to an enjoyable start. The work was written in 2000 for Litton and the Dallas Symphony on the occasion of the orchestra's centennial. In her spoken remarks, she mentioned her upbringing in jazz and that's what came through strongly in "Timepiece." Which is not to say that it is jazz but that it has that air. The flittering lines cavort like scat and the language is dissonant but in the decorative and cool way of jazz — it bites and sizzles. The brass and percussion get used a lot; dance is never far away (the woodblock keeps returning with a ticktock beat to restore order). All in all, it's one of the more successful fusions of the jazz and symphonic styles that I've heard and it could have gone on longer than it's eight minutes as far as I was concerned.

Timothy Mangan
The Orange County Register

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Timepiece is another flashy (in a good sense) McTee score . . . [with its] unique brand of rhythmic disjunction and wood/percussion harmonies that together build both fascinating structure and visceral excitement. She is never less than fascinating when she plays with seeming incongruities: the "possibility of suspended time and the opportunity for continuous forward movement." And the infusion of humor, another McTee trait, notably keeps Timepiece worth hearing again and again.

Mike Silverton
Fanfare Magazine 

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[Timepiece] is bold, concise, elegantly crafted and intentionally clear. There is an intelligence and clarity of architectural design beneath the surface of this exciting, rhythmic landscape.

Citation from
The American Academy of Arts and Letters

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Apart from a couple of patches of glimmering string chords, [Timepiece] chattered and bristled for all its eight minutes. With crosscuttings of time signatures, little rhythmic gestures were dovetailed and set scrambling one another. The piece was exhilarating and cleverly wrought . . . 

Scott Cantrell
The Dallas Morning News

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The third world premiere [Timepiece] presented by the Dallas Symphony in its 1999-2000 season was easily the most successful. [It] was succinct, eventful and intelligent in the hands of conductor Andrew Litton.In the program notes, McTee revealed the use of an octatonic scale and a 12-tone row in the piece; the listener is more aware of an appealing aura of ambivalent tonality and general avoidance of dissonance -- and of constantly engaging orchestral tone color. The effects are often gently humorous: percussion noises puncture cloudlike textures in the strings and quasi-minimalist repetition takes surprising turns .Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 is frequently thrown out as bait at orchestral concerts featuring new music, apparently on the theory that audiences will sit through a new piece to hear this old favorite. At last night's concert, however, not only was the new piece by McTee immediately approachable, but the performance of the Tchaikovsky was remarkably fresh and ear-opening.

Wayne Lee Gay
The Star-Telegram

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As any Texas orchestra traveling abroad should, the Dallas Symphony has included a work by a major Texas composer. Cindy McTee . . . has mixed moments that recall Bernstein, Glass and Mahler, and she stirred in bits of humor and tossed in lively counterpoint in Timepiece, a succinct tribute to the turn of the millennium that will represent the best in contemporary American composition for the European audiences.

Wayne Lee Gay
The Star-Telegram

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Cindy McTee's Timepiece, commissioned and premiered last season by the DSO, again impressed as an exuberant and finely crafted nine minutes' worth.

Scott Cantrell
The Dallas Morning News

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. . . an invigorating curtain raiser.

Scott Cantrell
The Dallas Morning News

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"Timepiece" is a fine program opener . . . built upon the ticking sound implied in its title. It contrasts blocks of breathing, gentle string chords with episodes of industrious busyness. The recurring ticking gives the music an air both mechanical and funky, like a soundtrack for a film about a factory in the Jazz Age.

Anne Midgette
The New York Times

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[The first section] contrasts a wild variety of percussion set against a bed of muted strings providing strangely comforting dissonance. In the second sections, the work becomes decidedly more brassy and energetic. Relying on chord textures and rhythm more than melody, this piece is accessible and evocative, and the composer was well congratulated by the audience when she came out for a bow.

John Sutherland
The Seattle Times

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. . . Timepiece is bright, energetic and richly flavored . . .

R.M. Campbell
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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Timepiece by Texas-based Cindy McTee, proved a totally exhilarating exploration of momentum. Archly-patterned string figurations underpinned wind cantilenas in ticking textures perfectly proportioned to the piece's length. Under Andrew Litton, the Dallas players delivered it with exuberant delight.

Christopher Morley
Birmingham Post

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To open the evening, Kahane brought Dallas composer Cindy McTee onstage to introduce her evocative Timepiece, in which the orchestra churned with a tick-tock intensity reminiscent of John Adams and Steve Reich - but with a recurring eight-tone scale and splash of color that gave this eight-minute piece a vibrant, fresh individuality.

Marc Shulgold
Rocky Mountain News

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EINSTEIN'S DREAMS

[Einstein's Dreams] is an immediately likable work . . . whose seven movements are, at worst, interesting, and, at best, simply beautiful. The use of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, vibraphone, and piano gives attractive instrumental color to musical ideas of substance.

Olin Chism
The Dallas Morning News

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SOUNDINGS

Cindy McTee's Soundings [is] a brassy, high-tech musical clock, with strikingly ingenious wind writing. A waltz-like opening fanfare leads into the jagged brass fragments and mechanical whirring of "Gizmo," followed by "Waves," which offers soothing brass and wind swells over percussion tremolos. McTee's entertaining work concludes with an out-of-control, infernal machine-like "Transmission," a jazzy and audacious finale. McTee's Soundings is a delightful work, an irresistible blend of imaginative wind writing with a genuine and wry sense of humor, rare in contemporary music.

Lawrence A. Johnson
Fanfare Magazine

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Cindy McTee shows a deep understanding of the possibilities of the [wind] medium in her exciting and expressive Soundings.

Stephen Hicken
American Record Guide

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CIRCLE MUSIC

Cindy McTee, who is married to conductor Leonard Slatkin, studied with Krzysztof Penderecki in Poland. In 1988, she wrote Circle Music, giving it no specific form. It is based on the presenta- tion of musical fragments in an order to be determined by the players. Thus, this delightful piece can vary completely with the artists who perform it.

Maria Nockin
Fanfare

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The most novel piece is Cindy McTee’s ‘Circle Music III’. Composed in a quasi-aleatoric style, fragments of phrases or musical cues are given to each performer, serving as the basis for what you might call a “choose your own adventure” type of composition. Although McTee is specific about how musicians should perform it, executing its performance with spontaneity means that no performance will ever be the same.

Schwartz
American Record Guide

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Cindy McTee's "Circle Music IV," for horn and piano, is a thought-provoking piece centered on the soothing sonority of an ever-present major chord, over which dissonances freely surface.

David Abrams
Syracuse Herald-Journal

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. . . a thing of haunting beauty.

Scott Cantrell
The Dallas Morning News

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CIRCUITS

. . . a boisterously jazzy sprint . . .

Mark Stryker
Detroit Free Press

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The program began with the New York premiere of Cindy McTee's "Circuits," a churning, propulsive exercise in orchestral momentum. Instrumentally sharp-edged and rhythmically insistent throughout, it stood apart from its more opaque companions.

Alex Ross
The New York Times

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Cindy McTee brings to the world of concert music a fresh and imaginative voice. Circuits . . . fairly bursts forth with energy and orchestrational flair. This is more than your usual post-minimalism. It is a full-fledged talent that begs not to be categorized but to be recognized as a true original.

Citation from
The American Academy of Arts and Letters

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Last night's program at the kennedy Center opened with a Slatkin specialty, a recently written "accessible" work by an American composer. Cindy McTee's "Circuits," completed in 1992, chugs along for all its six minutes at a very steady if urgently quick pace. McTee avoids the rock-influenced composer's tendency to overuse the percussion section. The percussion parts are central to "Circuits" yet remain humbly, whimsically in an accompanying role, and she makes charming use of bright, perky instruments – cowbells, wood blocks, a glockenspiel. Despite the electronic title, the piece is on a perceptibly human scale; indeed at moments "Circus" might have been a more appropriate title. I wish they had played it twice.

Pierre Ruhe
The Washington Post

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[Circuits ] lasted only six minutes, but its energy, crisp orchestral color and lively percussion left me wanting much more.

John Huxbold
The St. Louis Post Dispatch

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[Circuits ] is a whirlwind of a piece in which repeated patterns fly by with relentless energy. McTee has a knack for joining fragments into nonstop figures, and her percussion writing runs the gamut from subtle to booming. Other composers in recent years have latched onto this bright, breathless style, but McTee makes a refreshing thing of it in six minutes.

Donald Rosenberg
The Plain Dealer

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Circuits, a frequently performed work, is an exuberant piece for orchestra whose elements include some fast ostinatos that could arguable be considered minimalist, and some sharp punctuation by the percussion that brings on irreverent thoughts of Spike Jones and his City Slickers. It's a blast, and a refutation of the charge that modern composers don't know how to express joy.

Olin Chism
The Dallas Morning News

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McTee explained Circuits in such terms as "energy," "movement" and "circles." In this work she transposes those qualities into a witty, exciting essay, its unfailing continuity based on persistent melodic-rhythmic motives repeated with subtle variations.

Cecilia Porter
The Washington Post

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. . . a brief barnburner of a score . . . Circuits has minimalist leanings, but is richer in its tonal palette and harmonic textures . . . with its whirring string passages punctuated by rippling percussion . . . 

Channing Gray
The Providence Journal

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With its racing ostinato figures, percussion pratfalls and daredevil stunts, and jazzy syncopations, [Circuits] has an almost Keystone Kops kind of wit. It zips by on fast-forward and you're left breathless and chuckling at the end.

Ellen Pfeifer
The Boston Globe

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. . . music with visceral appeal.

Gary A. Panetta
The Peoria Journal Star

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. . . a delightful 10-minute romp that combined jazzy brass, whimsical percussion and driving, repetitive string phrases . . .

T.J. Medrek
The Boston Herald

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Slatkin opened his account in hard-edged fashion with the aerobic busyness of Circuits by an American composer, Cindy McTee. Short circuits are normally regarded as undesirable but I doubt if anyone found fault with this Circuits for being short. It belongs to the category of trim, fast, precisely engineered music that measures out its distance and reaches it on time, without the slightest suggestion of dawdling or indulgence. It has affinities with the brisk, fat-free music Michael Torke wrote for the Olympic Games in Atlanta and might well be used to focus the minds of athletes getting ready for sudden and decisive movement.

Roger Covel
The Sydney Morning Herald

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Circuits . . . was a charging, churning celebration of the musical and cultural energy of modern-day America. From repetitive ideas reminiscent of Steve Reich to walking bass lines straight from jazz, Circuits refracted important American musical styles of this century. Similarly, the kaleidoscope of melodies, musical "licks" and fragmented form aptly illustrated the electric, almost convulsive nature of American society near the start of the 21st century.

Charles Ward
The Houston Chronicle

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"Circuits" . . . packs enormous fun into less than five minutes of music. The idiom is approximately minimalist, but far from mechanistic - it's all urban exuberance, intricately detailed, full of surprising orchestral color and more than slightly wacky.

Mike Greenberg
The San Antonio Express-News

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The short, festive work was . . . as vital and seamless as electric current.

Wynne Delacoma
The Chicago Sun-Times

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"Circuits" was . . . fast-paced, highly energetic, extremely rhythmic, full of unusual percussion effects and just plain delightful.

Nat Bauer
The Rockford Register Star

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McTee's "Circuits: A Concert Overture'' opened the concert in a brisk, forward-looking fashion. With the strings as a strong undercurrent of power and the winds and percussion acting as bright and bold flavoring, ``Circuits'' speeds along its merry way. Born in Tacoma and a former student of the eminent Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki, McTee has fashioned a pleasant and melodic work that would give any concert a proper sendoff.

R. M. Campbell
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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A modern piece that was just plain fun, Circuits got the night rolling.

Abbie Dombrock
The River Cities' Reader

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Though the "Concerto for Saxophones" might have been the most unusual work on the Omaha Symphony's first Masterworks program of the 2007 season, it wasn't the only draw. The orchestra, under the direction of music director Thomas Wilkins, also performed American composer Cindy McTee's dizzying "Circuits," and Tchaikovsky's masterful "Symphony No. 4 in F Major."

Ashley Hassebroek
Omaha World-Herald

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PSALM 100

[Psalm 100 ] is a gorgeous piece of choral writing, vividly dramatic and highly complicated, with convoluted textures resolving into a consonance that sounds as if the gates of heaven had opened.

Melinda Bargreen
The Seattle Times

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METAL MUSIC

In Metal Music, Cindy McTee puts sixteen metallic voices in five epigrammatic movements . . . to engaging rhythmic and timbral ends. It's a treat to listen to.

Mike Silverton
Fanfare Magazine 

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. . . [Metal Music] the first of two imaginative pieces that framed the concert.

Karen E. Moorman
CVNC: An Online Arts Journal in North Carolina

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PSALM 142: THRENODY

Psalm 142: Threnody should become part of the consistently performed recital repertory.

R. C. Morgan-White
Tallahassee Democrat

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"M" MUSIC

Cindy McTee's "M" Music . . . is direct and fairly light, but has [an] . . . easily graspable focus: you are never scratching your head in puzzlement over some intrusive effect, or, more essentially, over the character and substance of the piece itself. The seven-movement work is also quite varied from one section to the next, featuring unexpected contrasts and much thematic and harmonic freshness. Even the Bach-borrowing in Baroque Bypass (no.4, track 5) is a cleverly conceived pastiche. Night Song (no. 7), perhaps the highlight of the work, is haunting in its otherworldly saxophone theme and chime-like harmonies.

Robert Cummings
Computer Music Journal

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Cindy McTee's "M" Music, for alto sax and tape, begins as an electroacoustic confection of sax-with-technology, engages between in some . . . entirely electronic introspections . . . , and ends, sax-with-technology, on an elegiac note. The stylistic range impresses, as does the composer's mastery of craft.

Mike Silverton
Fanfare Magazine

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Another hot composer, Cindy McTee, struts her stuff with "M" Music. While the reliance on algorithmically-generated counterpoint is suitably fashionable, McTee long since demonstrated her uncommon mastery of this inherently unpromising medium. And her remarkably sinuous live saxophone writing . . . lifts this piece above the usual algorithmic ruck. As always for this superbly talented composer (check out her Metal Music), this composition is a winner.

Brian McClaren
Tuning Digest

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IMAGES

. . . clever in concept and very useful to include in a horn recital.

The Horn Call