COMPOSITION reviews

SOLO FLUTE

Amendment Blues No.1, for solo alto flute/voice (2011)

“…spoken-word monologues interwoven with flute melodies in Janice Misurell-Mitchell’s Amendment Blues No. 1.” —Chicago Magazine  http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/August-2013/Best-New-Music-Series/

 Blooz Man/Poet Woman, for flute/voice (2004)

“The second half of the concert had a striking opening with Janice Misurell-Mitchell performing her own work, Blooz Man/Poet Woman, for amplified flute and voice. The text combines two poems by Chicago poet Regie Gibson. Following her captivating recitation of the poem, Misurell-Mitchell performed the poem again, simiultaneously with the amplified flute. At times she spoke into the flute, at others times she sang the words. Flutter tonguing, spitting sounds, overblowing, thickly-tongued passages and other contemporary flute techniques punctuated specific words, provided outbursts, or melded into the voice part in this highly creative work.” —Sharon Mirchandani, Journal of the International Alliance for Women in Music

border crossings at sunset, for flute/voice (2008)

“The sunset as depicted in this piece is a kind of haiku-like celebration of the actual moment of the sun setting that will never come again in exactly the same way… Misurell-Mitchell’s music has this same ability to live in the moment, to be so nuanced that no two performances are ever the same.” Seth Boustead, Vanishing Points CD, liner notes

Mobius Trip, for solo flute (1973):

“A work for solo flute by Janice Misurell-Mitchell takes the Mobius strip as its visual starting point, developing one chunk of sound and exploring its permutations as it travels down an imaginary “strip” …Mobius Trip conquers a problem often found in contemporary music literature: the work preserves the integrity of its theoretical premise while maintaining a purely esthetic guise.”—Kate Rivers, The Washington Post

Motel…loneliness, for voice/flute (1997)

“Janice Misurell-Mitchell revealed herself as composer/performer/improviser in Motel…loneliness, for flute/voice, a piece which received well-deserved, long applause from the audience.” Hilary Tann, Journal of the International Alliance for Women in Music

Profaning the Sacred II, for flute/alto flute/voice (2008)

“By far the most avant-garde work on the program was Profaning the Sacred by Janice Misurell-Mitchell…The words of the poems [by Allen Ginsberg and Regie Gibson] were spoken into the flute as it was being played, and they were growled, mumbled and shouted, almost unintelligible as though they were burbled from under water…Although not a typical setting of lyrics, the poems were presented effectively, and were given an especially caring performance.”—Susan Cohn Lackman, Journal of the International Alliance for Women in Music

“…the text evolves into a display of flute pyrotechnics, including key slaps, multi-phonics, and singing certain key words into the flute while playing. The instrumental addition captures the essential spirit of the poems in a manner reminiscent of Ginsberg’s own performances.” Pamela Murchison, Journal of the International Alliance for Women in Music

Sometimes the City is Silent, for solo flute (2002)

“The title track Sometimes the City is Silent was commissioned by the National Flute Association for the 2003 High School Soloist Competition, written by Janice Misurell-Mitchell…Sometimes is a modern piece complete with a wide range of flute effects and extended techniques: singing while playing, tongue pizzicato, tongue stops, whisper tones and flutter tonguing. None of these are easy to accomplish, and to shift so rapidly from one to another with breaking the flow of the piece shows real finesse. This solo work is intense and yet incredibly intimate.  We hear every breath, every punctuation, practically every thought, as Meerenai moves through the music.” Instant Encore

“The flutist offered a worthy solo turn in Janice Misurell-Mitchell’s Sometimes the City is Silent.  Written to the composer’s own poem, Shim is require to sing into her instrument as well as play, yet the music offers an evocative urban portrait.” Lawrence Johnson, Chicago Classical Review 

Sub-Music and Song, for solo flute (1983)

“Janice Misurell-Mitchell’s Sub-Music and Song for solo flute was a personal and original contribution to the literature for that instrument, unconventional in its use of bent tones, markedareas of pitch fluctuation on single tones, and sound resulting from three different modes of overblowing quartertones. The agile and disjunct material of the first part was well-balanced by the Song’s melodic substance, which added essential weight to the whole.” Robert Hall Lewis, Perspectives of New Music

“The composer’s Sub-Music and Song, for solo flute (1983) was developed from an improvisation. The first section, Sub-Music, is filled with rough, jagged figures that eventually become more refined in the Song.  The music flows from a knowledge of flute technique and could only have been written by a flute player.” Michael Johns, Journal of the International Alliance for Women in Music

Una voce perduta: in memoriam, Ted Shen, for solo alto flute (2003)

“Una voce perduta: in memoriam, Ted Shen, is more free flowing than Uncommon Time and lovely in its  own way. Another avant-garde piece with extended techniques…the compositional style here reminds me of Takamitsu.  Sound and space are mingled to create a kind of wordless haiku that is simple and straightforward.” Nicole Riner, The Flutist Quarterly

“Janice Misurell-Mitchell’s “Una voce perduta: in memoriam, Ted Shen” from 2003 was a touching tribute to the late Tribune freelance arts critic. The composer chose the alto flute for its tonal resemblance to Asian bamboo flutes, but in other respects its home is the Western world. Letters from the dedicatee’s name were used as pitch material in this brooding and tightly controlled monologue.” Michael Cameron, Chicago Tribune

Uncommon Time, for solo flute, or flute and frame drum improvisation (1991)

“The title work, Uncommon Time (1991), was commissioned by the National Flute Association and is performed by flutist Mary Stolper and percussionist Dane Maxim Richeson. The combination of composed flute music with frame drum improvisation works very well here, and both Stolper and Richeson give exciting performances. Stolper’s ease transitioning between lyrical flute playing and extended techniques is noteworthy, and her performance sounds as fresh and improvised as Richeson’s.” Pamela Murchison, Journal of the International Alliance for Women in Music

“Uncommon Time for flute and frame drum improvisation is a breath of fresh air—rhythmically tantalizing, tuneful, and a great utilization of some of the flute’s many extended techniques…This composition can keep both performer and audience satisfied, and I loved every short, precious minute of it.” Nicole Riner, The Flutist Quarterly

 


 

Flute(s) with Other Instruments

The Art of Noise, for flute/alto flute/voice and percussion (2011)

“Composer Luigi Russolo’s book,The Art of Noises (1913), which encourages composers to use all possible sounds, is the starting point for Janice Misurell-Mitchell’s contribution to this album; both Misurell-Mitchell’s piece and this album’s title were adapted from the title of Russolo’s book… Misurell-Mitchell’s work…creates an interesting sonic landscape where there is plenty of conversation between the flute and an array of percussion instruments. A collection of extended flute techniques, including percussive tonguing, timbral trills, and singing while playing adds to the overall sound of this work.” —The Flute Review http://thefluteview.com/2013/08/meeranai-shim-cd-review-by-tammy-evans-yonce/

“…The heart of The Art of Noise is in the fluid gulf of timbre that lies between Ms. Shim’s flute and the percussion instruments of her A/B Duo comrade Chris Jones. Indeed, the piece is more about the similarity of sounds the two performers and produce than the distinctions. The flute and percussion’s metallic and earthen characters (the latter achieved in the flute through Ms. Shim’s fantastic singing/playing) complement and are cast in relief of each other through the composer’s crisp, adroit phrases.” —Jay Blatner, Sequenza 1

Everything Changes, for flute/voice and percussion (2007)

Everything Changes, a flute/voice and percussion performance by Janice Misurell-Mitchell and Dane Maxim Richeson, set the tone for the discussion to follow by giving an echo to the idea of change and prompting us to listen to the conflicting notions that change is possible and in the same breath is impossible. Performing the poem, Everything Changes by Bertolt Brecht, Misurell-Mitchell (flute/voice) stutters into her flute the audible words like change and breath, overemphasizing repetition and the possibility for change derived from perseverance. On percussion, Richeson keeps to steady vignettes from marches to suggest “no change.” This spoken word/musical performance, while a bit funny at times as Misurell-Mitchell’s face took on some very tense and teeth bearing moments as she put strength to the word change, made a great segue into a politically charged panel discussion led by educator/activists William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.” —Erin Dziedzic http://erindziedzic.blogspot.com/

“Misurell-Mitchell’s performance with Richeson incorporates both the original German and English translations of Bertolt Brecht’s poem Alles wandelt sich. Misurell-Mitchell explores the text vocally and instrumentally, choosing sibilant or percussive sounds on the flute evocative of the consonant sounds of both languages.” —Pamela Murchison, Journal of the International Alliance for Women in Music

On Thin Ice, for flute and marimba (1998)

“After a bold flute introduction, the marimba enters as the flute presents lyrical yet detached lines …punctuated by the constantly moving marimba part. As the conversation flows, the marimba seems to finish thoughts, echoes or sometimes take over when the flute becomes more subdued…Janice Misurell-Mitchell’s expert musical incorporation of extended techniques into the composition is integral rather than decorative.” —IAWM online (Concert Review: IAWM 2009 Annual Concert), Cecilia Hamilton

“From the arresting flutter-tongued flute opening to the delicate, sublimely soft ending, On Thin Ice grabs hold of the listener’s attention and doesn’t let go…the lines unfurl with interesting, subtle development. They are often contrapuntal but never overly mathematical, a simple but joyous interplay of two musicians deeply engaged in a dialogue.” Seth Boustead, Vanishing Points CD, liner notes

On Thin Ice, for flute and guitar (1988)

“Janice Misurell-Mitchell’s On Thin Ice, for guitar and flute, is a ten-minute workout for both instruments. An improvised quality is felt through rhythmic separation of the lines; this also allows moments of simultaneity, such as at cadence points, to be doublly arresting…” —Michael Johns, Journal of the International Alliance for Women in Music

“Misurell-Mitchell’s On Thin Ice, …has its moments of cliffhanging humor as a willful flute soars and dives with abandon.” —Ted Shen, Chicago Tribune

Profaning the Sacred, for clarinet/bass clarinet, flute/ alto flute/voice (2000)

“Janice Misurell-Mitchell’s Profaning the Sacred…is, to say the least, an experimental piece…Misurell-Mitchell performs the flute/alto flute/ voice part, and she does so quite ingeniously; she speaks through her flute while playing, and the words are perfectly recognizable, making the effect reminiscent of synthesized voice sounds one may have heard in popular or commercial music…Often times both parts seem to be randomly exchanging ideas, although multiple listenings prove otherwise…[E]xperimental music fans may very well feel compelled to perform it at their next event.” —Michele Gingras, CD Reviews, The Clarinet

 


 

Solos for Other Instruments

Dark was the Night, for solo guitar (1994)

“…a spare, improvisational sounding solo guitar work that sends chills down my spine every time I hear it…There are the normal slide sounds and bent notes that you would expect, but these are set against atonal sounding passages, slaps on the strings and nimble finger picking that create an unforgettable impression. As the piece progresses it becomes more and more a traditional slide guitar song and more and more blue, as if Misurell-Mitchell is taking us deeper and deeper into Blind Willie’s haunting sound world.” —Seth Boustead, Vanishing Points CD, liner notes

“The very first gestures of Dark was the Night, a 1994 work for solo guitar, have an almost a Flamenco tinge, but from there the piece quickly morphs into something couched in a more modernist contemporary music language—replete with cascades of harmonics and angular leaps…Later on it feels more like improvisatory folk guitar and by the end it becomes a full on Mississippi Delta blues, slides and all. According to the notes, the inspiration for the piece was “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground,” a classic gospel-blues by Texas songster Blind Willie Johnson (whose 1927 recording of it was sent into outer space on the Voyager Golden Record!). However Misurell-Mitchell uses Johnson’s tune only sparingly and except for the clear homage at the very end, it is almost completely unrecognizable.” —Frank J. Oteri, http://www.newmusicbox.org/articles/sounds-heard-janice-misurell-mitchell-vanishing-points/

Mamiwata, for solo marimba (1998)

“Mike Truesdell’s performance effectively evokes images of the African water deities, after whom the piece is titled. Misurell-Mitchell’s use of marimba is apt, and the transitions from one compositional idea to another reflect the ever-changing, ever-moving nature of water.” –Pamela Murchison, Journal of the International Alliance for Women in Music

“Mamiwata for solo marimba is comprised of atmospheric melodic fragments strung together by delicate beads of sound. It is lovely and abstract…” —Nicole Riner, The Flutist Quarterly

Speechscape, for solo alto saxophone (1983)

“The fragmented gestures presented in the opening are gradually developed and become more active and expansive. The different sections of the piece seem to flow together, rather than to stand in sharp contrast to one another. The composer uses the registration of the saxophone carefully to express relative intensity levels and exploits the altissimo register occasionally…The formal structure is woven effectively into an overall arch form that has a nice sense of balance.” —Michael N. Jacobson, Reviews of new publications, the Saxophone Symposium

 


 

 

Chamber Music

Agitación, for two pianos and percussion

“The disc’s opening track, Agitación, is an ideal introduction to her extremely catholic approach to style and form…it begins with almost a Latin tinge, albeit supporting a cascade of angular figurations…at about 3 minutes in, it starts to manifest a bonafide cool jazz aura, with a timbral combination of piano, vibes and drumset that sounds almost suggestive of MJQ, albeit if a young Cecil Taylor had subbed for John Lewis.” —Frank J. Oteri, New Music Box

“Misurell-Mitchell has said that the opening track Agitación reflects different kinds of agitation: political anger, agitation caused when different musical styles meet and the idea of agitating an audience, pushing them beyond their comfort zone…The music is fascinating in that it demands an emotional response from the listener: this is not passive music but music to partake in, music to debate and ponder aloud…this tireless questioning is never tiresome and by the end the piece leaves you wanting to have a debate far into the night with your smartest friend.” —Seth Boustead, Vanishing Points CD, liner notes

Alone Together, for bass clarinet and double bass (1987)

“…Golden Petals…is a collection of five pieces showing five distinct and distinctive permutations of jazz–the idiom as practiced by Artie Shaw,…Igor Stravinsky,…and as practiced by Janice Misurell-Mitchell in her paradoxical and often haunting Alone Together, for bass clarinet and double bass…explor[ing] the outermost possibilities of instrumental timbre and technique; and push[ing] the concept of thematic variation to impressive heights.” —William Zagorski, Fanfare

“Misurell-Mitchell sent Yeh and bassist Collins Trier loping through the jazz standard Alone Together, at times turning the tune into the smokiest of blues, later giving it atonal angularities.” —Wynne Delacoma, Composers Celebrate With Strong Program, in the Chicago Sun-Times

Alone Together, by Janice Misurell-Mitchell, is a single movement duo for bass clarinet and double bass. The composition begins with a lively melody, then falls into a reverie that slides into a lazy, 3 AM smoky bar haze. There are moments when the listener is lulled into a pleasant reverie only to be sharply awakened by piercing sounds from the bass clarinet.” —Marie Asner, Women of Note, Quarterly

Deconstruction Blues, arranged for bass clarinet and Hammond B3 organ (1991; 2012)

“By scoring it for the much grittier combo of bass clarinet and Hammond B3 organ, Misurell-Mitchell’s off-kilter flights of fancy here sound like a surreal cross between a chamber piece by Ralph Shapey and a Jimmy Smith album from an alternate universe.” —Frank J. Oteri, New Music Box www.newmusicbox.org

“With Deconstruction Blues…the brilliant tone of the Hammond B3 combines with the exquisite sound of the bass clarinet to create a jazz/blues amalgam of unparalleled richness, like biting into a dark chocolate bar filled with caramel.” —Seth Boustead, Vanishing Points, CD, liner notes

Echoes of Obiter Dictum, for flute, guitar and percussion (1979)

“Her short Echoes of Obiter Dictum makes references to her teacher’s [composition]…A gifted writer for the flute and guitar, Misurell-Mitchell had this trio breathily vying for attention in a roundelay that was a delightful, fitting tribute.” —Ted Shen, Chicago Reader

Sermon of the Middle-Aged Revolutionary Spider, for soprano or tenor and nine instruments, with optional gospel choir (1997)

“‘Sermon’ is a monodrama for ‘singing preacher,’ chamber ensemble and gospel choir…[poet, Angela] Jackson’s verses are intercut with lines from the Bible, the Hebrew prayer for the dead and other texts. Musically the piece is every bit as eclectic, moving from modernist classical to funky jazz to gospel idioms. Sometimes angry, mostly inspirational, the piece is a rousing call for political and social action.” —John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

Transfusions, for alto and tenor saxophones, trumpet and trombone (1984)

“Janice Misurell-Mitchell’s Transfusions is a brassy bebop romp emphasizing canon and musical gesture…” —Dennis Polkow, preview, American Women Composers, Midwest, in the Chicago Reader

Vanishing Points/Quantum Leaps, for clarinet, violin, cello and piano (1979, rev. 2011)

Vanishing Points/Quantum Leaps…is a hefty and heavy, three-movement piece scored for clarinet and piano trio—the same forces that Olivier Messiaen used in his Quartet for the End of Time. But whereas that famous work exploits the combinatorial possibilities of various subgroups within the quartet for contrast and great emotional intensity, Misurell-Mitchell mostly keeps the full ensemble in play but revels in how the same material (intervals, rhythmic figures) appears to sound different depending on which instruments are foregrounded.” —Frank J. Oteri, New Music Box

“In Vanishing Points/Quantum Leaps, for clarinet, violin, cello and piano…Janice Misurell-Mitchell uses an exquisitely delicate touch to distort and twist her musical material.”
—Joan Reinthaler, The Washington Post

“The music begins with short, distinct statements by trio, duet, quartet…[in an] impressionistic ‘out-of-time’ sound. The piece is reminiscent of a conversation amongst friends with much to say then vanishing into quiet moments before resuming the conversation.” —Jennifer Kelly, IAWM online

 


 

Orchestral Music

Juba-Lee, for orchestra (2001)

“Mark Parker directed the Oklahoma City University Symphony Orchestra in Janice Misurell-Mitchell’s Juba-Lee. This eclectic composition began with a mysterious introduction spotlighting the flutes, and wound through a series of rhythmic developments to conclude with a bass-heavy syncopated dance.” —Society of Composers, Inc., Guy Vollen

Luminaria, for orchestra (1995)

“The piece is reminiscent of Milton Babbit’s work, Transfigured Notes…Misurell-Mitchell presents a similar image of innumerable pitches flying about,…finally recognizable as themes and motives and as fragments and variations,…making the study of the very crowded music a rewarding one.” —Paula Diehl, A Portrait of American Women Composers, Vol. II CD, liner notes

 


 

Choral Music

Mad Song, for a cappella chorus (1975)

“Mad Song, written by Janice Misurell-Mitchell using text from the poem by William Blake, has an a cappella chorus…mimicking an onrush on sounds: moans, murmurs, clucks, breathless sighs.  These could be the hushed, tormented voices–effectively conveyed through Sprechstimme (sung speech)–a woman gone mad might hear in her head.”  —Ted Shen, Chicago Reader