Jon Paul Mayse - Composer


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When I was little, I played with Legos.

A lot.

It’s possible entire summers were spent on the floor of my room, sunlight streaming in, blocks in hand. I never bothered to follow the instructions and just made whatever I felt like. I think that may have influenced my present compositions.

Assembly, for recorder trio, is simply playing with some musical blocks, building new things from the basic materials of a work. Little musical objects (a clockwork rhythm, a murmuring gesture, stillness), are presented in varied states of construction.

Premiered in London, March 2019 Charlotte Barbour-Condini, Tabea Debus, and Olwen Foulkes

(performers in recording below)

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            Bassoonapocalypse is joyride through the awesome sounds of the bassoon and guitar effects pedals.

            The bassoon plays wildly unusual techniques, such as multiphonics, harmonic trills, air noise, and percussive articulations, which are run through a chain of guitar effects pedals. The electronics performer, or "pedalist", is fully devoted to precise knob-turning and button mashing, turning these "stomp-pedals" into dynamic instruments in their own right.

            The resulting cacophony is an extension of the already extended vocabulary of the bassoon. The octave pedal extends the range, the distortion expands the timbral identity, and the reverb pedal enriches the sound and provides some relief for the bassoonist, who must breath.

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Cello Duet

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This Cello Duet is a short, single movement rondo in a neo-classical style. The A sections features intense dialogues between the cellists, such as alternating passagework, exchanges of melody, clustered chromaticism, and extreme differences in tessitura. The B and C sections feature oppositions in texture and articulation: Elegaic/Lyrical vs Aggressive/Marcato; Galant/Maestoso vs. Pizzicato/Joyful.

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Color Studies for Cello and Percussion Quartet

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The Color Studies for Amplified Cello, 3 Percussionists, and Timpani is an exploration of color through music. Both movements explore timbre using precise and unorthodox playing techniques.

The first movement explores Reds. The percussion section creates a rapid and intense timbral counterpoint through specific drum attacks in a relentless texture, similar to the intense flickers of reds and oranges in a flame. This is in dialogue with an analogous texture in the cello. This lets up into a soft section, bowed vibraphone and splash symbol, interspersed with recollections from the tom-toms and percussive cello drumming. A cello cadenza with percussive and standard cello techniques leads into a recapitulation of the initial frenzy.

            The second movement, Blue, is one long transformation from light blue to the deepest, darkest blue, as if descending from the atmosphere into the deepest depths of the ocean. The movement begins with the cellist rubbing the strings, creating a sound like air. A percussionist imperceptibly begins a long crescendo. Temple bowls on the timpani sound like bells followed by rushing air. Crotales and vibraphones follow with similar, though fuller, sounds. This thickening of sounds continues, leading to a climax of a melancholy melody over deafening tam-tam overtones, tremolo mallets, and rubbed timpani. The rest of the movement is a further descent, ending with detuned timpani and cello, sounding like the aching of the ocean itself.

            The movements are tied together by a synthetic scale, derived from the melancholy melody of Blue.

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Daybreak/Nocturne for Sextet

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Daybreak/Nocturne, for flute, Bb Clarinet, Violin, Cello, and Piano, are a cycle pair in which each movement can lead directly into the other. Daybreak, a five-part rondo, explores various methods of sound production in each of the instruments. In Nocturne, a heavy atmosphere is pierced by increasingly an aggravated cello.

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Radiance for Bassoon and Electronics


Radiance for Bassoon, Live Electronics, and Lights depicts moments in scripture in which God’s presence is made manifest.

The first movement, Genesis, refers to Genesis 1:2, in which His Spirit came over the deep. The bassoon moves between it’s lowest Bb, a fundamental note, and mutliphonics while the program refracts the sound into four harmonies, emanating from each speaker. The lights create a sun rise over a sea, with occasional amber bursts as reflections from the waves.

The second movement, Elijah is a meditation on Elijah as he waits by the brook (1 Kings 17). The bassoon moves between three musical materials: a repetitive note (time passing); low, manic outbursts (despair/psychosis); and a high, lyrical line (hope/calling out). The lights and electronics react to each register of the bassoons sound; obscuring, granulizing, and distorting the sound.

This movement moves directly into the third, Prayer. Here is Christ praying on the mountain (Luke 9:28-36). The bassoon alternates between multiphonics which emerge from the lowest and the highest notes of the instrument. This metaphor works on two levels: us/Christ reaching up to the Father and him reaching down to us, and Christ’s literal transformation on the mountain top in Luke 9. The electronics are mapped to the register of the bassoon, partitioning the sound to visually illustrate the dialogue between low/high, Father/Son.

The fourth movement depicts the appearance of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:19). The bassoon plays a fanfare, with each staccato note triggering a building harmony and a jewel color from the lights. This builds in anticipation until the glory of the New Jerusalem is fully revealed in large masses of harmony and unrestrained fanfares.

The piece ends in a reflection on His Glory as revealed Exodus 34:35. The bassoonist, bathed in golden light (as Moses was when he descended from the mountain), moves between multiphonics, tremolos, and frenetic, upwards scales. This builds towards an ecstatic climax before meditating on some final multiphonics.

The electronics were written in Max/MSP and use DMX-512 protocols. Each sound and visual element is derived or controlled by the incoming sound of the bassoon.

Radiance was premiered by Dominic Panunto in Philadelphia at he Live/Wire Opera Festival.


Sonata for Cello and Piano

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            The Sonata for Cello and Piano is a dialogue between the two instruments. After a short exposition and a piano monologue, the cello and piano engage in a dialogue. The cello begins each sequence with a recall of the opening melody, a series of fourths and half-steps, which is soon countered by the entrance of the piano on a different material. Each sequence also explores a different texture/timbre.

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String Trio

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The String Trio is a study of biblical Light and Darkness.  Darkness is portrayed by scratch tones, extreme dynamics, and fast, nervous figurations, while Light is portrayed by harmonics, longer tones, and a rising melody, which is taken from my setting of the end of the Easter Exultet:

May this flame, be found still burning,

By the morning star, the one morning star…

At the outset, the Light theme emerges out of scratch tones, which then crescendo into a series of alternations between hammered and harmonic chords. After a number of episodes, the piece ends with a meditation on the baptism of Christ, in which all the instruments play short harmonic notes and the Light theme appears in the viola (the Son), then cello (the Father), the violin (Descending Dove).

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Tapas for Bassoon and Cello

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Tapas is suite of miniatures, based on the Spanish small-plates cuisine of the same name. The premise is the performers are free to pick and choose which "tapas" they want to perform, just as a diner would only eat the dishes that appealed to them. Contained in this suite are pieces based on extended techniques, such as harmonics, multiphonics, microtones, and percussive noises, as well as pieces based on styles, such as the French overture or a canon on a slinky, "Pink Panther"-style melody.

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Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano

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The Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano is a short series of excursions from a simple theme. These excursions take fragments of the theme and create new textures out the basic idea, such as a tight contrapuntal duet based entirely of a neighbor tone. The work moves through these fragmented excursions, culminating in an exorbitantly Romantic finale.

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