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“A Message From The Emperor” by Martin Bresnick


“A Message From The Emperor” by Martin Bresnick

Performed by Matthew McClung and Lisa Nicol

Mallet Selection for this Piece:


Robert van Sice Signature (M114)

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Medium. The most popular model in the series, this mallet covers the entire range of the marimba and produces a singing sound that is full of life.


Terry Gibbs Signature (M31)

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In his short parable A Message From the Emperor, Franz Kafka describes a glorious being, never seen by his countless lowly subjects, who, from his death bed, dispatches an indefatigable messenger (a prophet perhaps) with a most important message – just for you. For various practical reasons however the message cannot possibly be delivered. And even if it finally arrived the one who sent it will have died long ago.

We live on a small planet, circling a medium sized sun, in an ordinary galaxy, among an unimaginable number of other galaxies. We have lived here for millions of years, awaiting an explanation for this state of affairs. We dream of a great being, who at the last possible moment has sent someone with the message for which we, in the twilight of our days, have been so hopefully waiting. We are still waiting.

– Martin Bresnick


Martin Bresnick was born in New York City in 1946. He was educated at the High School of Music and Art, the University of Hartford (B.A. ’67), Stanford University (M.A. ’68, D.M.A. ’72), and the Akademie für Musik, Vienna (’69-’70). His principal teachers of composition include György Ligeti, John Chowning, and Gottfried von Einem. Presently Professor of Composition and Coordinator of the Composition Department at the Yale School of Music, he has also taught at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (1971-72) and Stanford University (1972-75). He has served as the Valentine Professor of Music, Amherst College (1993), the Mary Duke Biddle Professor of Music, Duke University (1998), the Cecil and Ida Green Visiting Professor of Composition, University of British Columbia (2000), Composer-in-Residence, Australian Youth Orchestra National Music Camp (2001 and 2004), International Bartok Seminar, Director of Composition (2001), Visiting Professor of Composition, Eastman School of Music (2002-2003), Visiting Professor, New College, Oxford (2004), Housewright Eminent Scholar and Featured Guest Composer, Florida State University (2005), Visiting Composer, Royal Academy of Music, London (2005), Visiting Composer, Harvard University, (2009), Visiting Composer, Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea (2009), Macgeorge Fellow, Melbourne University (2010), Composer in Residence (2010-2011) Mannes College of Music.

Mr. Bresnick’s compositions cover a wide range of instrumentation, from chamber music to symphonic compositions and computer music. His orchestral music has been performed by the National Symphony, Chicago Symphony, American Composers Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, New Haven Symphony, Münster Philharmonic, Kiel Philharmonic, Orchestra of the Radio Televisione Italiana, Orchestra New England, City of London Chamber Orchestra, Orquestra Sinfonica do Estado de Sao Paulo, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Oregon Symphony Orchestra, Bilbao Orkestra Sinfonika, and Izumi Sinfonietta Osaka. His chamber music has been performed in concert by The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; Sonor; Da Capo Chamber Players; Speculum Musicae; Bang on A Can All Stars; Nash Ensemble; MusicWorks!; Zeitgeist; Left Coast Ensemble; Musical Elements.

His music has been heard at numerous festivals: Sonic Boom, Bang on a Can, Adelaide, Israel, Prague Spring, South Bank’s Meltdown, Almeida, Turin, Tanglewood, Banff, Norfolk, ISCM, New Music America, New Horizons. He has received commissions from: The Norfolk Chamber Music Festival (1985), Orchestra New England (1986), Connecticut String Orchestra (1986), N.E.A. (consortium commission) (1987), Monticello Trio (1988), Koussevitzky Foundation (1989), Meet-the-Composer Reader’s Digest commissioning program (1992), Greater Bridgeport Symphony (1992), National Endowment for the Arts (1992), Institute of Sacred Music (1993), Macon Arts Alliance (1994), Fromm Foundation (1995), Lincoln Center Chamber Players (1997), Sequitur (1997), Connecticut Commission on the Arts (1997), Meet-the-Composer (1998), Chamber Music America (1999).

He has received many prizes, among them: Fulbright Fellowship (1969-70), Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching at Stanford University (1973), three N.E.A. Composer Grants (1974, 1979, 1990); A.S.C.A.P. Awards (1975-present); Rome Prize Fellowship (1975-76), MacDowell Colony Fellowship (1977), Morse Fellowship from Yale University (1980-81), First Prize, Premio Ancona (1980), First Prize, International Sinfonia Musicale Competition (1982), Connecticut Commission on the Arts Grant, with Chamber Music America (1983), two First Prizes, Composers Inc. Competitions (1985, 1989), Semi-finalist, Friedheim Awards (1987), The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Elise L. Stoeger Prize for Chamber Music (1996), “Charles Ives Living” award, American Academy of Arts & Letters (1998), Composer-in Residence, American Academy In Rome (1999), the ASCAP Foundation’s Aaron Copland Prize for teaching (2000), Berlin Prize Fellow, American Academy in Berlin (2001) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2003), and elected to membership, American Academy of Arts and Letters (2006).

Mr. Bresnick has written music for films, two of which, Arthur & Lillie (1975) and The Day After Trinity (1981), were nominated for Academy Awards in the documentary category, (both with Jon Else, director). Mr. Bresnick’s music has been recorded by Cantaloupe Records, Composers Recordings Incorporated, Centaur, New World Records, Artifact Music and Albany Records and is published by Carl Fischer Music (NY), Bote and Bock, Berlin and CommonMuse Music Publishers, New Haven.

For more information on Martin Bresnick’s works, visit him online:



Equally at home with orchestral, solo, and chamber music, Dr. Matthew McClung has appeared with a wide variety of prestigious ensembles throughout the United States and abroad. He has performed with the Houston Grand Opera, the Houston Ballet, the Hawaii Opera Theater, the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, and the symphony orchestras of Hong Kong, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Corpus Christi, Lexington, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maui, and Honolulu.

As a chamber musician, he has performed with renowned cellist Alisa Weilerstein, the Percussion Group Cincinnati, So Percussion, Strike 3 Percussion, Elemental Percussion, Musiqa, the Houston Composers Alliance, the San Antonio Chamber Music Society, and others. As a soloist, he has been featured on both the ChamberX concert series and Dowling recital series in Houston, with the Shepherd School Percussion Ensemble, the New Sousa Band, the Texas A&M – Corpus Christi Symphonic Winds, and in solo performances across the state of Texas.

Recently the Houston Chronicle raved about his concerto performance with the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, saying “McClung played stylishly and smartly… The performance sang with a distinctive joie de vivre.” Dr. McClung is currently the principal percussionist of the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, principal percussionist of the Glimmerglass Opera company, and Assistant Professor of Percussion at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi.


Dr. Lisa Nicol received a Doctorate of Music in Percussion Performance and a Masters of Music in Percussion Performance from The University of Texas at Austin. Lisa gained a Bachelor of the Arts from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama where she graduated with the highest honors and a certificate in Baroque Timpani. Her teachers include Thomas Burritt, George Frock, Jonathan Haas, Mitchell Peters, Heather Corbett, Pamela Dow and Martin Gibson.

Dr Nicol is the resident timpanist for the Corpus Christi Cathedral and regularly freelances with the Corpus Christi and the San Antonio Symphonies. She has freelanced with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Austin Symphony, Ballet Austin and the Austin Lyric Opera. Nicol has taken part in festivals all over the world including the Aspen Music Festival, the Music Academy of the West, the Rome Festival and has performed at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, Memphis 1996. Nicol has performed at the South by Southwest and Austin City Limits Music Festivals with the African drum ensemble Afrodite.

Dr. Nicol endorses Vic Firth sticks and mallets and Zildjian cymbals.

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