Derek Bermel (b. 1967) is an American composer who is a native of New York. In addition to composing, Bermel is also a clarinetist and conductor, known for his unique musical style, combining a myriad of different genres. Based on past works, Bermel is able to mix genres such as world music, funk, jazz and classical in order to create a completely new sound. Over the past decade, Bermel has published several works and is especially prolific in chamber and orchestral works. A Shout, A Whisper, A Trace (2009) is a piece scored for full orchestra and is divided into three seperate movements.
A Shout, A Whisper, A Trace is comprised of several different musical genres and as well as cultural influences that Bermel encountered during his travels. The inspiration for this particular piece derived from musical traditions he experienced in Jerusalem as well as the back story of Béla Bartók's immigration to America. After discovering letters that Bartók had written to his beloved home of Hungary, Bermel was inspired to write a piece describing the ins and outs of his journey. Moments of this piece are meant to depict feelings of alienation and fear. Having personally faced the obstacle of adjusting to a new culture, Bermel uses his own experiences to drive the thematic structure of this piece. Bermel pays tribute to Bartók by incorporating hungarian folk tunes within the main orchestral themes. The alternation between the folk tunes and orchestra are meant to emulate the ritornello form of the Baroque concerto grosso. As the piece moves into the second and third movements, Bermel incorporates several different themes based on the musical style of Copland and Debussy. The purpose of this piece is not to evoke fear or sadness in the listener, but instead to be a source of encouragement when experiencing new cultures and traditions. In that situation there will undoubtedly be struggles, but the experience as whole will only enhance you as a person.
I am comparing A Shout, A Whisper, A Trace with another one of Bermel's pieces entitled Dust Dances. Dust Dances was written over a decade ago, however, even back then, Bermel is constitent in his hyrbrid musical style. This piece draws inspiration from traditional African gyil music. Bermel takes the polyrhythms and pentatonic scales of the African tradition and fuses them with the harmonic structure of American music. As a result, the listeners and performers experience an entirely new form of musical collaboration.
Not being very familiar with this composer prior to this assignment, I was not sure what his musical style would be. However, after learning more about him as a composer and a musician, I really respect his philosophy and intention behind his compositions. Bermel promotes experimenation and welcomes any and all types of cultural tradition. By incorporating personal experiences and influences in his music, his compositions have a meaning and a story behind them.
Bermel, Derek. "Orchestra-A Shout, A Whisper, A Trace (2009)." Program notes. 2013 Copyright Derek Bermel. Accessed 02 May, 2014.[http:// http://derek-bermel.squarespace.com/welcome/ http://derek-bermel.squarespace.com/welcome/]
Botstein, Leon. "American Composers Orchestra." Grove Music Online. Oxford 'Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 02 May, 2014. .<http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/A2248000>. .
"New Music: Derek Bermel; A Shout, A Whisper, A Trace." Youtube video. Uploaded by Idyllwild Arts. Posted on May 8, 2013. Accessed on 02 May 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0GEMlS0ldQ