Return to Chamber Music
Return to Works

STAR BOX (2020) In Memoriam Jacob Druckman

For percussion quartet

First performance presented by Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra featuring Garrett, Mari, Jeff, and Matt, from arx duo and icarus quartet in Santa Barbara, California on 6 May 2022.
Commissioned by Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra
In Memoriam Jacob Druckman
Duration: 6'30"

World premiere recording made by John Corkill, Ian Ding, Kyle Flens, and Cynthia Yeh.

World premiere of the danced version performed by Gregory Beyer, John Corkill, Kyle Flens, and Cynthia Yeh; danced by Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, Nicole Clarke-Springer, Artistic Director; Dancers: Joshua L. Ishmon, Rebekah Kuczum, Alyssa MacCallum, and Mekeba Mali; and Lighting Designer C. Mikhail. Presented by the Logan Center on the 10th Anniversary Birthday Bash on 21 May 2023. Special thanks to Bill Michel, Executive Director of the Logan Center.

STAR BOX could be played by 8 players
(2 players dividing the 4 parts - one player on the mallet instrument(s) and the team-mate player on the other instruments for each of the 4 parts.) Doing it with 8 players ensures that each part is not too technically difficult, etc. If you had an extra player that you did not want to leave out of the project, then that player could, for example, play the Chimes part, etc.

This composition can be paired with CON MOTO. The instrumentations and layout of the two scores are very similar but not identical.

To be performed with dancers when feasible.

CD Available
Augusta Read Thomas: Terpsichore's Box of Dreams

Informal reference recording.

Star Box. Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra

Five quartets of colorful instrumentation ping-pong and hocket quickly between the four musicians who each play:

1: MALLETS (Vibraphone, Marimba, etc.)
2: BELLS (Glockenspiel, Crotales, etc.)
3: DRUMS (Bongos, Congas, Log, etc.)
4: SHAKER NOICE MAKER (Cabasa, Egg shaker, Maracas, etc.)
5: TRIANGLES (of all sizes)

with a virtuosic display of rhythmic agility, counterpoint, and sensitive chamber music teamwork.

Program Note

Music for me is an embrace of the world – a way to open myself up to being alive in the world in my body, in my sounds, and in my mind. I care deeply about musicality, imagination, craft, clarity, dimensionality, an elegant balance between material and form, and empathy with the performing musicians.

My works always spark and catch fire from spontaneous improvisations. It is music always in the act of becoming. I have a vivid sense that the process of the creative journey (rather than a predictable fixed point of arrival) is the essence. Poetry can give language to the ineffable. Music is, in an analogous way, akin to an infinite alphabet. Sounds can become like butterflies, hummingbirds, lights, rocks, trees, webs, gardens, and landscapes.

Organic and, at every level, concerned with transformations and connections, the carefully sculpted and fashioned musical materials of Star Box are nuanced, agile and spirited, and their flexibility allows pathways to braid harmonic, rhythmic, and contrapuntal elements that are constantly transformed —at times at times jazzy, at times groove-like, at times layered and reverberating.

Across Star Box’s 6-minute and 30 second duration, the ensemble unfolds a labyrinth of musical interrelationships and connections that showcase the four musicians in a virtuosic display of rhythmic agility, counterpoint, skill, energy, dynamic and articulative range, precision, and teamwork. Throughout the kaleidoscopic journey, the work passes through various lively and colorful episodes, which propel the musical discourse always amid a sense of pirouettes, fulcrum points, and effervescence.

Following a long and rich tradition of composers who wrote for percussion (Edgard Varèse, Harry Partch, John Cage, and Lou Harrison) over the past 30 years, I have composed extensively for percussion designing works including: a concerto for percussion quartet and orchestra, a percussion quartet playing bells from all around the world, 2 other percussion quartets, solos, and two octets for percussion and string quartet. Additionally, many of my 65 orchestral works feature percussion.

Star Box is to be performed with dancers when feasible and was commissioned by the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra. Commissioning new art is a leap of faith, and as such, artists must always be deeply grateful to those who support the creation and realization of their life's work. I feel profoundly fortunate for the investments made by the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, and I devoted my strongest, most focused efforts to composing Star Box in memoriam of my Yale University teacher, Jacob Druckman.

Music’s eternal quality is its capacity for change, transformation, and renewal. No one composer, musical style, school of thought, technical practice, or historical period can claim a monopoly on music’s truths. I believe music feeds our souls. Unbreakable is the power of art to build community. Humanity has and will always work together to further music’s flexible, diverse capacity and innate power.

— Augusta Read Thomas



Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, Nicole Clarke-Springer, Artistic Director; Dancers: Joshua L. Ishmon, Rebekah Kuczum, Alyssa MacCallum, and Mekeba Mali; and Percussionists: Gregory Beyer, John Corkill, Kyle Flens, and Cynthia Yeh; and composer Augusta Read Thomas. Photo credit: John Zich

Snapshot from world premiere of the dance version during a solo by dancer Joshua L. Ishmon. Photo credit: John Zich
Selected Reviews

BBC Music Magazine, Recording Of The Month, May 2024 A BOX OF RESPLENDENT MUSICAL TREASURES
Kate Wakeling basks in the glow of this shimmering collection of recent works.

"The deft and glimmering Star Box (2020) is another affectingly unsentimental musical memorial, this time written for composer Jacob Druckman, who taught Thomas at Yale in the 1980s. Beautifully performed and recorded, the whole selection has the feeling of a musical treasure trove, resplendent in its sense of vitality, beauty and imaginative possibility."

To obtain examination or performance material for this
Augusta Read Thomas work, please contact Nimbus Music Publishing.