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History of the Nolan Stolz Rock Orchestra:
Formed in 1999 in Las Vegas, the Nolan Stolz Rock Orchestra began as a side project involving arrangements of Mahler and Stravinsky (played by Gale, Nolan, Richard and Steve). Signed to the Tributary label in 2000, the project grew with more arrangements and musicians, and it took several years to record. The project was on hiatus in 2004 when Nolan left Vegas to attend graduate school at the University of Oregon. But, it was there he met Dan Cathey, and the Ravel track was nearly completed in 2007. Two more tracks were completed (Schoenberg and Ives) in Oregon. Nolan completed Bolero at the electronic music studio at The Hartt School (Connecticut)—the school from which he received his doctorate. He created the opening solo of Bolero with the software program MetaSynth by analyzing the spectral content of Dan’s clarinet solo and then creating a resynthesized version using the program’s “Spectrum Synth.” In 2009, Nolan mixed the album at his home in Hartford, Connecticut (only a five-minute walk to the church where Ives got married!). He moved back to Las Vegas in 2010 to join the faculty at the University of Nevada, Vegas. It was there where he reunited with NSRO saxophonist Robby Wingfield, who then mastered the album.
When Nolan moved to South Dakota and Missouri to teach at other universities, the project was again put on hold. But with Nolan living in South Carolina for a few years now, the project has restarted, coinciding with the CD release in December 2017. With NSRO members now spread across the country, a new version of the band was formed in January 2018 for the purposes of live performance: Nolan (drums), Mary Norris (vocals, guitar, keys), Ian O'Donnell (bass, guitar), Craig Ravan (vocals, guitar), and Noelle Taylor (bass, guitar, keys).
Individual Performer Bios:
Dr. Nolan Stolz (arrangements; mixing; producer; engineer; keyboards, guitar, bass, drums) is Assistant Professor of Music at the University of South Carolina Upstate.
Tenor Dr. Jon Lee Keenan (vocals on Schubert) is an active vocalist and jazz bassist in Los Angeles.
Richard Forrester (guitar on Stravinsky and Mahler) is a lawyer and a freelance guitarist in Hawaii. He has a BM in jazz studies from UNLV and additional graduate studies in jazz at the University of North Texas.
John Miner * (guitar on Erb, additional engineering) is guitarist and "ringleader" for Art Rock Circus and appeared with Allan Holdsworth on K2’s 2005 album Book of the Dead.
Kelton Manning * (bass on Erb) has played bass with Art Rock Circus since its inception, and currently resides in California.
*Art Rock Circus (John, Kelton, Nolan) appear courtesy of Tributary Music
Dr. Daniel Cathey (flute and clarinet on Ravel) is a woodwind specialist in Eugene, Oregon.
Gale Winds (flutes on Stravinsky) is a contemporary gospel musician (woodwinds) in Las Vegas and holds a BA in Music Education from UW-Milwaukee. Nolan is her son.
Robby Wingfield (tenor saxophone on Ravel; mastering) is a freelance producer and musician (saxophone and piano) in Las Vegas, where he plays in BAZ: Star Crossed Love at the Venetian and other acts.
Steve Laity (trumpet on Mahler) studied trumpet at UNLV, and has played keyboards with the JPop bands Guitar Vader and Swinging Popsicle.
Larry Ransom III (trumpet on Erb) holds a BM from UNLV and is a freelance musician in Las Vegas.
Milena Albrecht (cello on Ravel) holds is a cellist for the Akron Symphony and the Canton Symphony Orchestra. She holds a master's degree in cello performance from UNLV.
Individual bios for the members of the NSRO live band are coming soon.
Notes about the arrangements
1. Rite of Spring Suite (Stravinsky)
Less than seven minutes of music of Stravinsky’s ballet was excerpted here to form a suite. This arrangement begins at RN12 with the famous bassoon solo played on electric piano. The band enters for a prog-rock treatment of the “Dances of the Young Girls” and via a slick metric modulation, smoothly transitions into passages from “Abduction.” The blazing string parts of RN47 come in the form of a drum solo. “Spring Rounds” opens with a choir of flutes and continues with the heavy E-flat minor passage (guitars tuned down a half-step). The drums take a second solo, this time derived from the winds and strings of RN54. The band continues with an abridged version of “Tribes” and skips ahead several tableaux to the end of “Glorification.” The texture thins to alto flute, keyboard and light drums (RN 131) for “Ritual Action of the Ancestors.” To recreate the power of Stravinsky’s enormous orchestral forces at RN134, the whole band kicks in at 6:16 with a newly-composed rock guitar riff added to the original music. This material is then interpolated with the “chosen one” motif from “Sacrificial Dance” to end the work.
(Stolz: keyboards, bass, drums; Forrester: guitar; Winds: flute)
2. Introduction; Variations on a 12-Tone row by Schoenberg
The introduction quotes the beginning of Schoenberg’s Op. 19, morphing into a jazz-like improvisation that introduces the row from his fourth string quartet (presented as four trichords and then melodically). Variations on this row are then heard throughout the instruments of the rock band.
(Stolz: Steinway piano, guitar, bass, drums)
3. The Unanswered Question (Ives)
This arrangement combines two versions by Ives plus additional material. The solo trumpet (the “question”) is played by electric guitar, but retuned so that the pitches may be played by natural harmonics. The string parts are played by synthesizer, and the woodwinds (the “answers”) are played by electric organ, which get louder, faster and more distorted over the course of the work. A drum set part is added mostly in the role of the strings (slow, steady tempo), but at times incorporates the rhythms of the guitar.
(Stolz: keyboards, guitar, drums)
4. Bolero (Ravel)
This arrangement begins with cello, snare drum, and a resynthesis of Cathey’s clarinet solo that Stolz created using the software program MetaSynth (0:12). It continues with Cathey’s clarinet solo and an added flute (0:58). Keyboards enter playing the harp part, and the cello takes the melody (1:45). The bass guitar enters, and the melody is played by a synthesizer (2:32). The electric guitar enters next with the bass more prominent, and another synthesizer plays the melody (3:19). An electric piano is added, a synthesizer has the melody, and the dynamics are noticeably louder by this point (4:07). The tenor saxophone enters with a non-classical tone, and style (e.g., scooped notes), and the direction of this arrangement becomes evident (4:53). A “rock organ” enters and a distorted guitar takes the melody (with bends and slides) pushing it further into the rock genre (5:40). The rock organ plays the melody with a pedal note and variation of the Bolero rhythm as accompaniment (6:28). To break from the monotony of the recurring melody, an improvised synthesizer solo takes the fore with staccato rock organ “comping” in the background (7:13). The texture thins to make sonic room for the organ/bass guitar soli (8:02). The sax and synthesizer return with the melody (with some ornamentation), and the drum set enters (8:49). A celestial section with accompanying “string pads” introduces to this arrangement a fresh dimension (9:36). The dynamics have reached a peak with bashing drums, blaring guitar, and two synthesizers in harmony soaring above the band (10:23). This arrangement takes an interesting twist: instead of continuing to build to the end, the dynamics suddenly drop and the texture thins (11:05). The drum set, rock organ, bass and guitar reenter as harmonized synthesizers play the lead line (11:57). The intensity builds with the drums’ backbeat and the rock organ “comping” (12:44). Syncopated cymbal-bell hits and rock organ (13:53-14:12) set the tone for next section: a key change (accompanied by double-time feel). The key returns to tonic and feel (14:34), and the piece comes to a close.
(Albrecht: cello; Cathey: flute and clarinet; Stolz: keyboards, guitar, bass, drums; Wingfield: tenor saxophone)
5. Diversions for Four (Other Than Sex) (Erb/Stolz)
Based on Erb’s Diversions for Two (Other Than Sex), this version incorporates improvisation, traditional and graphic notation in the electric guitar and bass parts whilst retaining the trumpet and percussion material from the original work. Recorded Live.
(Ransom: trumpet with Art Rock Circus (Manning: bass; Miner: guitar; Stolz: percussion))
6. Symphony No. 3 I, exposition (Scriabin)
Scriabin’s Third Symphony (“Divine Poem”) begins with a “grandiose” introduction. The C-minor principal theme (“mysterious, tragic”) enters in a fast 3/4 feel (1:12). The mood suddenly changes (“joyful”) at 2:21, and the electric guitar soars above the band (“with spirit and exhilaration”) to transition into the relative major key of E. The second theme is not included in this arrangement; it proceeds to the closing material. The feel changes from 3/4 meter to 6/8 (3:42), and then the introductory material returns (4:18). The final Echord is heard, but then it turns into an E7. In this vein, it is a head-nod to blues, but in the original version, it is actually a German augmented-sixth chord that resolves into the G-minor key that starts the development section (not heard in this recording).
(Stolz: keyboards, guitar, bass, drums)
7. Symphony No. 6, I, exposition (Mahler)
Assigning Mahler’s multiple-layered orchestration to a rock band recorded on a 4-track recorder was a daunting task, but the result was a fulfilling one. The main theme is played by synthesizers, and the accompanying string, bassoon and brass parts are played by the guitar and bass. The woodwind “runs” in mm. 11-12 and violin figure in RN2+6 are heard as drum fills. Bass tremolos in RN5+5 are played by bass guitar and double bass drums. The “Alma” theme (2:15) is played by synthesizers, and later joined by the trumpet (2:57). The excerpt ends just before the return of the opening material.
(Forrester: guitar; Laity: trumpet; Stolz: keys, bass, drums)
8. The Erlking (Schubert, German text by Goethe)
In this version, the Narrator sings in English, but the Father, Son and Erlking sing in German. The driving triplet figures (originally played by piano) are played by guitar, drums (hi-hat and double bass drums). The Father (recorded at a slightly faster tape speed) has a thicker timbre to his voice—originally in G minor, this version is transposed down to E minor (to give the Father a deeper tone and to allow a tenor to sing in baritone range). The Son—sung in falsetto and recorded at a slightly slower tape speed—has a thinner, childlike timbre. The creepy character voice of the Erlking is accompanied by gentler music. This song is Schubert’s opus 1.
N: Who rides there so late through night so wild? A loving father with his young child. He clasps his boy close with his fond arm and closer, closer to keep him warm.
F: (My son, why do you hide your face in fear?)
S: (Oh father, don’t you see the Erlking there? The Erlking with his crown and tail?)
F: (My son, it’s just a patch of fog)
E: (Sweet child o’ mine, come play with me. I’ll play exciting games with you. So many flowers grow along the shore. My mother has many golden robes.)
S: (My father, my father, oh can’t you hear what the Erlking softly promises to me?)
F: (Be calm, be calm my child: It’s just rustling leaves in the wind.)
E: (So won’t you come with me boy? My daughters will wait on you. My daughters lead the nightly dance, and rock, and dance, and sing you to sleep, and rock and dance, and sing you to sleep.)
S: (My father, my father, oh can’t you see? The Erlking’s daughters in the night?)
F: (My son, my son, I can see clearly now: it’s the old grey willows gleaming.)
E: (I love you; your body is perfect for me. But if you resist, I will use force!)
S: (My father, my father, he’s taking me now. The Erlking has hurt me, hurt me.)
N: His father shuddered; his pace grew more wild. He held to his bosom his poor, swooning child. He reached that house with toil and dread. But in his arms his child lay dead.
(Keenan: vocals; Stolz: keyboards, guitar, bass, drums)