Mark Christopher Brandt
The Butterfly emerges as my thirteenth cd and the first to feature music I have composed but am not the pianist performing on the recording. This is a seven-piece work featuring New York jazz pianist and writer for Catholic Culture Thomas Mirus, along with the Manassas String Quartet, located in Manassas, Virginia. The quartet is comprised of first violinist Emil Cheytanov, second violinist Christopher Dixon, violist Jennifer Bockstege, and cellist Katherine Colburn. This is not the first time Katherine and I have worked together - her incredible virtuosity can be heard on my 2017 cd release The Nightingale.
The string works performed on this project are lyrical, melodic, and technically demanding. I did not intentionally compose the music to be difficult. My music is always composed in order to properly deliver what I hear in my inner ear. The piano on this project, however, was composed predominantly for color and melodic punctuation. That is not to suggest that pianist Thomas Mirus is a mere stand-in for me on this project. While classically trained pianists might dismiss the piano on The Butterfly pieces as less than challenging, true lovers of music will find the performances full of nuance and sensitivity of expression. Tom ultimately equals his virtuoso counterparts in the two solo piano bonus tracks included at the end. One is a deceptively tricky Two Part Invention in D Minor and the other is a full-fisted Sonatina in D Major. Both of these works are among the earliest of my compositions. I felt that it was time to document them and I found Tom more than up to the challenge.
One side note to this project is that upon the completion of the recording, Catholic Culture decided to use my Two Part Invention in D Minor as the opening music for their new podcast series Catholic Culture Audiobooks. This is a brand new podcast series releasing professionally-produced, high-quality audio recordings of Catholic literature narrated by James T. Majewski. James worked with me in the studio as the lead vocalist on my song, The Prophet. It is quite a different piece than the music I composed for The Butterfly and you can visit my YouTube Channel to hear it.
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Violist, Jennifer Bockstege and cellist, Katherine Colburn working out pre-recording details with Mark at the Prince William String Academy, Manassas, Virginia.
A Butterfly view of Session day at Slipped Disc Studios. Engineer Bill McElroy on Mark’s left. Through the glass is cellist, Katherine Colburn (back to camera) and violist, Jenifer Bockstege (facing her). Hidden from view are violinists, Emil Cheytanov, Christopher Dixon, and pianist Thomas Mirus.
The quartet (post session) outside Slipped Disc Studios, Ashland, Virginia. Left to right Katherine Colburn, Jennifer Bockstege, Emil Cheytanov, Christopher Dixon.
String musicians hunting for new sounds in the modern day ocean of same-work-different-player compositions will have moments of shock and awe as they try to wrap their brains around the “live-feel” performance of these pieces. Two of the most demanding pieces, The Rhythm of Involvement and Detachment, and the title track, The Butterfly, were composed in B major and Gb major, respectively, for the richness of sound and resonance that these keys offer. Such tonal centers present unique challenges to even the most accomplished string musicians. This quartet performs each piece with apparent ease and a certain delight is detected throughout the album. The listener will find this music endearing, beautiful and refreshing because of Emil, Christopher, Jennifer, and Katherine!
The purpose of art has always been first and foremost to elevate the mind and the heart to higher realms of consciousness. I experienced this every time I attended a rehearsal with these amazing musicians. In a world of touchy egos and narcissistic attitudes, these four superbly talented string players naturally and effortlessly took turns moving from leader to subordinate in ways that should make the Christian churches and communities jealous, and at the very least ashamed. There was not one bad attitude evident, and in everything they did, their focus was to allow the music to reign supreme, as it should. Their interpretations and suggestions, as well as their musical choices - down to the tiniest detail of bowing, fingering or phrasing - were always spot on. I am a more excellent musician for having encountered these four artists.
The world needs to see and hear more butterflies. There is currently a glut of warped and misshaped cocoons that masquerade as free-thinkers. Beauty is no longer a goal in the modern age. Sameness and group-think is dominating the artistic landscape. Like the butterfly who inspired this music, I hope that more musicians and artists from all genres will be inspired to risk following their dreams; those dreams planted in the heart by God that can only be heard in the depth of our unique and individual souls. I pray that more souls, emboldened with love and exuding their beauty from within, will break forth like the dawn from their cocoons and fly free as our guides to eternity.