Hear The Final Two Tracks from SYZYGY’s New Album

Tracks by student composers sizzle, breathe; works by Uriah W. Rinzel (M.M. Composition, ’14, M.M. Theory Pedagogy, ’15) and Nathan Courtright (M.M, ’13) complete year-long creation of album


The final track of SYZYGY’s new album opens with a sizzling viola riff from 2013 Meadows Prize winner Nadia Sirota. Cello, vibraphone, guitar and piano jump in to make Orca (2013), by Uriah W. Rinzel (M.M. Composition, ’14), an urgent, dramatic piece. Punctuated with staccato bursts, quiet passages, and morphing elements of heavy metal and classical music, Orca is meticulously in sync, “in the pocket” in every phrase.

Like every track on the album, Orca (2013) didn’t come together magically. It took gusto, elbow grease and a precise group effort.

“There were a lot of complexities between getting an electric guitar sound to be right, getting a balance with the piano and the vibraphone, figuring out where we wanted to put the viola,” says Artist-in-Residence and Director of Chamber Music Matt Albert, who mentored the students along with violist and 2013 Meadows Prize winner Nadia Sirota and Associate Professor of Music Composition and Theory Xi Wang.

“And there was a time crunch for sure. We all started to feel it,” he says. “I remember a specific moment when I called a break, and Nadia came into the studio. We talked with our engineer Alex Overington about what we had to do and how much time we had to do it. We went back in the studio and just did it. It was scary, but we did it.”

Orca (2013) features performances by Sirota on viola, Elizabeth White (B.M. Cello Performance, ’15), Derrick Horne (B.M. Composition, ’14 and M.M. ’16, Composition) on electric guitar, Daniel Medina (M.M. Percussion Performance, ’14) on vibraphone and Yumi Palleschi (M.M. Piano Performance, ’15) and engineered by Overington.

The track CelestiAlignment comes from student composer Nathan Courtright (M.M. Composition, ’13) who thinks of the process as an evolution and a journey into the unknown.

“Seems like every time I write for an instrumentation, I’ve never written for that instrumentation before,” he says. “I was most nervous about the horn, I’ve never written for the horn in the chamber setting.”

“Here we go. This is the first you’ve done it without a guide,” says Courtright, addressing himself. He leapt into the project headfirst.

When Courtright mentioned this to Albert, Albert reminded him that Courtright took it as an opportunity to try things, get out of his comfort zone and stretch as an artist.

Hear CelestiAlignment (2013) by Nathan Courtright, with performances by Andrew England (M.M. Horn ’14), Matt Albert and Lisa Peterson (P.D. Violin, ’15) on violin, Steven Juarez on viola, Nomin Zolzaya (P.D. Cello ’14) and engineered by Overington. The track’s intent, as well as the title’s meaning, was to showcase the “flurry of ideas” that popped out of working closely with SYZYGY.  Courtright says it’s his “debt of gratitude” to the group.

With the final tracks out there, the SYZYGY team looks to the future with their completed album. So, what’s the dream scenario?

“The idea that something that we helped create, we as performers had helped inspire, got played by someone else,” says Albert. “I think that really is the goal, the dream for this: that something we helped create—Nadia, Alex, the composers, the performers—might get played by somebody else. That’s one of the best results that can happen.”

Read more on the inception of SYZYGY’s new album and Matt Albert, Xi Wang and Nadia Sirota.