03.01.16"Correlates" Solo CD Review - Percussive Notes

Joseph Van Hassel
Soundset Recordings

This is a prime example of what a solo percussion recording should be. The recording quality is high, and the tracks contain an eclectic mix that gives the listener a clear view of the performer’s musical personality.

From the beginning of the disc, the performer attracts the attention of the listener. The first track is an inspiring work for snare drum and electronics, Dan VanHassel’s “fzzl," which utilizes the snare drum as a resonance chamber. Joseph Van Hassel then takes us to the compositional mind of Stuart Saunders Smith with “On: Empty." Following the serious tone of Smith, the performer changes pace to a “play" on familiar nursery rhyme rhythms with Jennifer Bernard Merkowitz’s “And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon." Michael Barn- hart’s “Epitaphs" utilizes mbira, speech, and a wooden-tongued marimbula. In my opinion, this is the “tune" that will remain with the listener. To close the disc, Van Hassel performs “Marimba Suite," which includes short, contrasting works by Allen Otte, Stuart Saunders Smith, David MacBride, and Dan VanHassel.

Van Hassel’s use of various instrumentation and the incorporation of speech, electronics, and perhaps some unfamiliar instruments provide a listenng experience that is highly enjoyable. Bravo to Van Hassel for his wonderful performance and programming of this fine disc.

—T. Adam Blackstock

11.01.15"Response (after Brün)" Composition Review - Percussive Notes

Response (after Brün)
Difficulty: IV
Joseph Van Hassel
Media Press

snare drum, bass drum, suspended cymbal, wind gong, 2 cowbells, 2 woodblocks, 2 metal pipes

The subtitle of this work, “after Brün," is a reference to Herbert Brün, a pioneer in electronic and computer music. Joseph Van Hassel’s goal is to invigorate an awareness and appreciation for Brün’s music.

Structured in ten short movements that are performed attacca, this piece
is scored for multiple percussion and electronic track. Joseph Van Hassel’s approach in melding these two components is rather interesting. All elements of this composition are intended to be balanced and equally important. Yet, the articulate nature of a majority of the percussion
instruments is contrasted by the electronic soundscape of the track. This dichotomy requires heightened awareness and sensitivity from the performer. With no discernable pulse in the computer-generated part, the performer uses time references to sync with the track.

Consisting mainly of short thematic ideas, a majority of the material is moderately difficult. However, there are moments where the composer overlaps motives. This requires the performer to execute a one-handed multiple bounce roll. Van Hassel is very attentive to the timbral possibilities of the instruments. In addition to being detailed about the implements, ranging from wood dowels to soft yarn mallets, he is very specific with the instruments in the “timbre pads." Both of these collections include a cowbell, woodblock, and metal pipe that are to be definite in pitch. These meticulous elements combined with the performance demands make this piece suitable for advanced performers.

—Darin Olson