Overview

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Commissioned by the Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln and Repercussion, Orbital is for Percussion Quartet and Amplified Orchestra with a pre-recorded backing track. When composing aimed to create the sensation of an "orchestra on steroids," where RePercussion exudes vigorous, youthful energy at the forefront of the performance. Inspired by the perspective of observing planet Earth and the celebration of humanity as a whole, Orbital contrasts with my recent works influenced by environmental disasters and negative human behavior. The composition incorporates unique elements, such as playing parts of the orchestral music in reverse and creating a synchronized audio blend of live and reversed recordings. Described as a spectacular and immersive experience, the fusion of thundering samba rhythms, electronic sound art, and massive orchestral sounds transcends conventional categorization. The performance, praised for its energy, intensity, and modern sound art, engulfs the concert hall in a mesmerizing audiovisual spectacle that defies verbal description. With Repercussion's dynamic virtuosity and the seamless collaboration between the quartet and the orchestra, Orbital presents an innovative and unforgettable total work of art that captivates audiences and leaves a lasting impression.

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Orbital: Concerto
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Are you looking for a concerto with not one, not two, not three, but four percussionists? Containing a PDF of the study score for Orbital: Concerto for Percussion Quartet, Amplified Orchestra, and Pre-recorded Audio, this product is the perfect resource to explore detailed and multilayered percussion writing.
Score - PDF
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Watch and Listen

A curation of Performances, interviews and reviews of my work

In Focus:

Orbital

Performance Notes, Articles, Reviews, John's Messages

Project Details

Orbital

for Percussion Quartet, Orchestra, Live Electronics, Audio

Commissioner: Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln and Repercussion (Simon Bernstein, Veith Kloeters, Rafael Sars, Johannes Wipperman)

Instrumentation: Percussion Quartet Soli + 2(pic).2.2(bcl).2(cbsn) / 4..3.3.1 / Timp.3perc / Strings

Premiered by Repercussion and WDR Funkhausorchester with Gordon Hamilton (cond) on September 23, 2021 at the Cologne Philharmonic Hall, Cologne, Germany

Difficulty Level:
Virtuosic
Duration:
20:00
Type:
Original
Instrument Tags:
Vibraphone
Marimba
Junk Percussion
Mixed Percussion
Tom Toms
Piccolo
Flute
Oboe
English Horn
Cor Anglais
Clarinet
Bass Clarinet
Bassoon
Contrabassoon
French Horn
Trumpet
Trombone
Tuba
Timpani
Percussion
Violin
Viola
Cello
Double Bass
Mallet Percussion
Winds
Brass
Strings
Digital Audio

Programme Note

Commissioned by the Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln and Repercussion (Simon Bernstein, Veith Kloeters, Rafael Sars, Johannes Wipperman)

for

Percussion Quartet
Amplified Orchestra
Pre-recorded Backing Track
Duration 20:30

What is your “musical mission” with Orbital? I understand the extended instruments, and that is already much. Is there anything else?

Really I am trying to create the feeling of an ‘orchestra on steroids’. A mega-orchestra, with RePercussion delivering virile, muscular, exuberant young energy at the front of the performance.
Have you heard the piece? I made a demo that you can hear here:
https://soundcloud.com/john-psathas/oribital/s-W0qrC2j2BhJ (it’s a private link so please don’t share).

Is there another mission, regarding environment/nature or other things or messages?

I have lately written pieces inspired by environmental disaster, and the worst of human behaviour. Orbital is the opposite – it’s a celebration. It is the musical perspective of looking down at planet Earth and witnessing the whole of humanity at once. If you want to see a movie that inspired this piece: http://weareplanetary.com/

Is it true that you intend to play parts of the orchestral music backwards? I read that. Or was that just a fictive example?

True!! I have written a section of the piece, and transcribed what it sounds like backwards. The orchestra will play this. But I will also take the recording of the orchestra playing that same section forwards, and reverse that audio so that it is in time with the orchestra playing the backwards version live. Very hard to explain clearly with words!

Full Instrumentation

‍2 Flutes (2. dbl. Piccolo)
2 Oboes
2 Bb Clarinets (2. dbl. Bass Clar.)
2 Bassoons (2. dbl. Contra.)

4 Horns
3 C Trumpets
3 Trombones
Tuba

3 Percussion (see below)
Timpani
4 Soloists (see below)

Strings

Perc. 1: Glockenspiel, Finger Cymbal, Susp. Cymbal, Piatti, Tam-Tam, Whip, Tambourine (mounted), Bass Drum
Perc. 2: Vibraphone, Tubular Bell, Susp. Cymbal, Piatti, Tam-Tam, Bass Drum
Perc. 3: Triangle, Susp. Cymbal, Bass Drum

Soloist 1: Vibraphone, Junk Metal, Floor Tom
Soloist 2: Vibraphone, Absynth., Sub Bass, Tambourine (mounted), High Roto-Tom
Soloist 3: Marimba, Snare Drum, Drum Pads
Soloist 4: Marimba, Snare Drum, Taiko Drum

Review

English translation of relevant section from Dusseldorf review…………

It seems as if this masterpiece could not be topped. It is therefore somewhat surprising when the conductor then calls the four young drummers from the "Repercussion" ensemble onto the stage. The Cologne-based musicians are already known to concertgoers through their work with other orchestras - Johannes Wippermann (35), for example, is regularly on stage as the first percussionist for the WDR Symphony Orchestra.

The final work of the evening is the composition by John Psathas, which is not even a year old, and the percussion quartet is also involved. And my goodness, what a spectacle they're firing here all of a sudden. Anyone who thought "Star Wars" and "Interstellar" were the flares of the evening will experience a whole fireworks display here. In this "celebration of human energy" the entire concert hall is immersed in a light and sound show. The combination of percussion fury, electronic sound art and massive orchestral sound is so close that the individual tones can no longer be assigned to their origins.

These 20 minutes of pure ecstasy really have it all. Thundering samba rhythms like in carnival, high-tech at its finest, spherical mixed sounds and even a recurring theme in the bass line, which gives the whole thing a hand and foot - a thoroughly ingenious total work of art that can no longer be put into words. You have to see, hear, feel and marvel at it live; this is the most modern sound art that belongs in our concert halls. If you would want to criticise anything about it, it would be that this music tends to be overstimulated because of its scale. An even clearer division into furious sections and one or the other moment to take a deep breath would have made it even more impressive. Precisely for this reason I would like to thank Pärt again for the contract.

What is particularly impressive is how the four young men whirl through their drum arsenal as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Whether on the mixer, on the marimba/vibraphone, on the sampling pad, on a bizarre construction made of traffic signs, ship's propeller and oil bottle or on the mixer - they exude pure energy. In addition, the full background that the orchestra under Gordon Hamilton gives them, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. One cannot praise this exceptional achievement enough!

It is therefore not at all surprising that the hall then gave them a furious round of applause. Almost as one, all listeners stand up and celebrate this memorable spectacle. With such a performance you can't help but surrender to your emotion. If that had been a launch into space, it would have been a total success. This format is therefore also an absolute recommendation for everyone: This is how a visit to the Konzerthaus should look like more often.

Daniel Janz, January 20, 2022, for

klassik-begeistert.de and Klassik-begeistert.at