Recordings of Derek Bermel and Danny Elfman have been nominated in the Grammy Awards 2023. Bermel’s 2016 string quartet Intonations, recorded by the JACK Quartet and released on Naxos this year, has been has been nominated in the Best Contemporary Classical Composition category. Elfman’s Percussion Quartet (2019) features on Third Coast Percussion’s Perspectives disc, released this year on Cedille Records. It has been nominated in the Best Engineered Album (Classical) category.

Bermel’s Intonations was commissioned by the 92nd Street Y and the Tanglewood Music Center. The 21-minute piece is inspired by Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel The Invisible Man. Its three movements evoke different aspects of Ellison’s sound world from the 1940s and 50s – jazz, blue, and film scores - and the sounds of Harlem. The first movement “Harmonica” summons the blown and drawn chordal sound of the titular instrument, before the onset of rhythms inspired by jazz and gestures to film noir. The following “Hymn/Homily” begins melancholically before releasing its energies. The finale, “Hustle”, opens with swaggering, dissonant chords; a grungy section follows, with intense overbowing, before the piece struts to its bluesy conclusion. 

Third Coast Percussion premiered Elfman’s 20-minute quartet, which is cast in four movements. To date they have given 17 performances of the piece across the United States, with more planned for 2023. A film of them performing the piece is available to view here.

The quartet reflects Elfman’s formative experiences encountering the music of Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and Harry Partch, as well as his interested in the musical traditions of West Africa and Indonesia. It was composed after Glass invited Elfman to compose a companion piece for his work Perpetulum at the Days and Nights Festival in Big Sur, California, who commissioned the piece. “I had to ponder it over for 1.3 seconds before agreeing”, Elfman says. His 2022 Percussion Concerto was premiered by Colin Currie and the London Philharmonic Orchestra in March this year and has already been taken to the US and Germany, with more dates set to be announced.

The Grammys take place on 5 February 2023.

[Intonations] gives uncannily effective “voice” to the sounds of Harlem, be they a wheezing harmonica, a blues guitar sliding into microtones, throaty and gritty street talk or an absentmindedly strummed banjo, for which the JACK proved invariably masterful musical mimics.
Los Angeles Times

[Intonations] is mightily character-driven music, not once lacking for personality or a willingness to explore a range of extended techniques.

The Arts Fuse (Jonathan Blumhofer), October 2022

In Danny Elfman’s entertaining, finely structured Percussion Quartet there are moments of poetry and, in the last movement, a spectral haunting with chimes.

Gramophone (Laurence Vittes), August 2022

Third Coast Percussion and Danny Elfman are a match made in heaven. The American composer's scintillating approach to rhythm and orchestral colour is showcased in a dazzling Percussion Quartet…

BBC Music Magazine (Michael Beek), August 2022