I recently composed a work for concert organist James Flores and I was delighted today to hear his new recording of the piece. I made a YouTube video for it, and you can find it here:
Of the premiere performances of my works this is one of the very best. Along with the Cleveland Chamber Choir's 2017 premiere of my setting of the Kyrie Eleison and Dr. Vidas Pinkevičius's recording of For Vidas (A Fughetta in the Phrygian Mode) (for Organ), James's recording of Meditation (According to Byzantine Modes) is among the top three best premieres of my music.
In some organ compositions I am very specific about registration, phrasing, etc. However, I sometimes leave much of the interpretation up to the performer. Some performers enjoy this freedom, but there are some for whom such a gesture drives them nuts ("just tell me what to play!"). This latter attitude is not a fault or weakness in the performer, not does it reflect poorly on the performer's skill; it's simply a different artistic approach, neither worse nor better than that of the performer who is freer in their interpretation.
Only in a few places in the score of Meditation did I suggest which stops (or their lengths) and manuals, etc, should be used. The piece has almost no phrase markings and few dynamic markings. Nonetheless, James, to use an American colloquialism, "nailed" this piece. His interpretation and excellent artistic taste are well displayed here. He tapped into the Byzantine liturgical spirit of the music with the ease of someone who was raised in the Greek Orthodox tradition!
As the title indicates, this composition is based on the traditional Byzantine Orthodox modes or "tones." Byzantine chant and music theory, like ancient Greek music, is a very complex but fascinating study, and only a much longer blog post could even give an adequate introduction to the subject. For those who would like to learn more about traditional Byzantine liturgical music I would direct your attention to the website of New Byzantine Publications: http://www.newbyz.org/.
Suffice it to say:
- While this composition is based on the modes, it extends them and builds off of them. Most often the modes appear transposed so to retain a tonality based on the tonic "E."
- The Byzantine modes most frequently employed/built off of in this composition are the 1st Mode, the Plagal of the 1st Mode, the Plagal of the 2nd Mode, and the 4th Mode.
I hope you enjoy both this new composition and James's outstanding performance of it!