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Andy Bliss is a percussionist, conductor, professor, and contemporary music collaborator living in Knoxville, TN.

 

He is also a tech enthusiast who is interested in tools and workflows that can reduce friction in creative output.

Posts in Events
Brimstone & Glory
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This Friday I'm thrilled to be conducting Nief-Norf at the Big Ears Festival here in Knoxville, TN on a live film score to the documentary Brimstone & Glory, in collaboration with NYC's Wordless Music. Directed by Viktor Jakovleski, Brimstone & Glory traces the National Pyrotechnic Festival in Tultepec, Mexico, a celebration used to pay tribute to San Juan de Dios. Here is the official trailer to the film.

I was fortunate to be contacted about taking on this project by Wordless Music more than a year ago, and am thoroughly enjoying watching it take shape this week. The film is stunning to watch and the music, scored by Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin, features a percussion quartet concerto with chamber orchestra. Wild grooves and beautiful melodies emerge throughout the score and I've become more and more engulfed with the entire work after each morning of studying. Friday's screening will be the first live performance of the score, using a newly orchestrated version of the score done by Sam Torres.

One of the most poignant moments of the documentary, for me, traces a young boy named Santi and his courageous debate on whether to join the Dia de Los Toros (Day of the Bulls) with his older family members. As a Dad with a son at a similar age, I found myself feeling protective of Santi, and the narrative took me on quite an emotional journey.

I so look forward to joining all 22 musicians on stage Friday for our live score performance of this film in Knoxville's historic Tennessee Theater at 1:30pm. There isn't a better venue out there for such a concert or a better audience/festival to share this project with.

University of Tennessee Percussion Night: Duos
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Tomorrow night my students at the University of Tennessee will be presenting their work in the Fall 2017 Percussion Studio Night (Facebook event info) at 8 PM in the Sandra G. Powell Recital Hall. Join us!

The Studio Recital, as an event, has proven to be a very worthwhile curricular tool and is one of the requirements I used to ultimately replace juries in our program. I love that the Studio Recital puts them on stage, in concert dress, under the lights, in a "real" performance environment which also includes a live audience (few of these parameters are provided in most jury performance environments). Additionally, afterward, they walk away with a program for use in their records as well as a quality live recording (audio + video) which they can also add to their portfolio.

Pedagogically, it has also offered valuable performance experience for younger players. While I believe it to be common for students to perform for each other in studio class and similar formats, students often don't receive much solo performance time with the realities of a recital as outlined above (under the lights, live general audience, etc). Having them step on stage with only one piece to conquer for that evening seems like a very achievable task, setting them up for success their junior year when they have to walk out and hold the stage for an hour. By that time they will have had at least 4 of these studio recital performances under their belt, if not more.

I remember the opening notes of my junior recital and how much my mind was racing. Looking into the crowd and seeing friends from so many different parts of my life in one room was equally heartwarming and confusing. I remember thinking things like "Why is my uncle sitting next to my friend from high school? Do they know each other?" Meanwhile, I'm stepping up to the marimba to play some very soft Keiko Abe notes to open the show, which... let's just say didn't feel particularly controlled that night. I'm hoping the Studio Recital gives the students a bit more of a footing when they step on stage for their own recitals as they get to the end of their degree programs, having had a few swings at the plate prior to that night.

This semester, the Percussion Night event has a theme of "Duos." For me, this is a performance combination that often gets missed as our percussion ensemble will usually focus on works for 3 or more players. There is some fantastic repertoire out there to be explored for duos and I'm excited to hear the wide variety of performances tomorrow evening. The inspiration also came from the Wagner-esque event we had last semester as all of the solos had us there for way too long...

For those in the Knoxville-area, please consider stopping by to hear some of this great repertoire tomorrow including Seeds by Leonardo Gorosito/Rafael Alberto, Wooden Music by Rich O'Meara, Catching Shadows by Ivan Trevino, Table Talk by Alyssa Weinberg, Dance Groove Drifting (from Book of Grooves) by Alejandro Viñao, Passacaglia by Anna Ignatowicz, and Karakurenai by Andy Akiho. In addition, the UT graduate students will be performing Zyklus by Karlheinz Stockhausen, ...And Points North by Stuart Saunders Smith, and a world premiere commission for cello + percussion by Tyler Eschendal.

Finally, a big thank you to Abby Fisher who has been doing an incredible job running the program this semester while I'm away on paternity leave!