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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Guy Vollen is composing a future

  • Kansas composer Guy Vollen last made news with his “Where Seldom Is Heard,” a fantasy overture for concert band that celebrated the  150th anniversary of his native state  in 2011.



    This year he had a March premiere for “Carnival of Souls,” a symphony for winds and percussion with added cellos and basses, harps and electronics.

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  • Kansas composer Guy Vollen last made news with his “Where Seldom Is Heard,” a fantasy overture for concert band that celebrated the  150th anniversary of his native state  in 2011.
    This year he had a March premiere for “Carnival of Souls,” a symphony for winds and percussion with added cellos and basses, harps and electronics.
    “It was premiered by the Wichita Wind Ensembles Professional Band under the direction of Dr. John Taylor,” Vollen said by e-mail. “I’ve been a member of the Professional Band since it began in 2007 as a member of the horn section. The premiere performance was a gratifying success, but the hall was not ideal  for the expansive ensemble I specified in the score.”
    He hopes to rectify that by producing a high-quality CD recording.
    “I want to place the fantastic musicians of the Professional Band in a hall that will bring out the best in their  sound, as well as adding a full complement of low strings for the richest texture possible,” Vollen said. “The finished recording will be available in a digital file in the future, but the physical CD will be a limited edition.”
    He added that the CD will be a quality piece of work, and not just musically.
    “I have commissioned glass artist Molly Noon to create an original work to be photographed for  the  CD’s cover and liner notes,” Vollen said.
    He said that the work, which is in three movements played without a break, is about 18 minutes long. The three movements, titled “Venus on Stilts,” “Virtue in Chains” and “The Creature Whose Substance Is Bliss,” form a narrative arc based in part on Dante’s “Divine Comedy.”
    “It progresses from spiritual death and bondage in  the first movement to celestial harmony in the ecstatic finale,” Vollen said. “The musical language is chromatic but not atonal, with emphasis based on long-term melodic development.”
    He said that the piece is important to him personally because it brings together several aspects of composition that he has been fascinated with for years.
    “It is scored for wind band, a medium I love for its diverse palette of tone colors and rich sonorities,” Vollen said. “The addition of strings and harps ties it both to the orchestral tradition and to the legacy of pop music studio wizards like Brian Wilson and Enoch Light. It builds on the tradition of ‘visionary’ symphonic music by such composers as Hector Berlioz, Charles Ives, Olivier Messiaen and David Maslanka, and, finally, the music’s electronic component adds both another layer of sound and a DIY aesthetic that is, paradoxically, handmade.”
    He said that he has been composing and putting together ensembles for the last 20 years, and is also passionate about ragtime and early jazz.
    Page 2 of 2 - Vollen was born in Fort Scott and grew up in Pittsburg. His father, Gene Vollen, served many years as Pittsburg State University music department chairman. His mother, Linda Vollen, is a violinist and served as president of the Kansas Federation of Music Clubs.
    “I took piano lessons as a kid and played French  horn in the high school band,” Vollen said. “It was in high school that I got interested in composing music.”
    He has lived in Wichita since 1992 and has earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from  Wichita State University. He completed his doctorate in composition at Florida State University. He has  taught at WSU and Hutchinson Community College. His wife, Laura, is a clarinetist and bass clarinetist and teaches private music lessons.
    Vollen is currently trying to raise $10,000 to cover expenses of making the CD through Kickstarter.com, a funding platform for creative  projects. Deadline to raise the money is 3:37 p.m. EDT Aug. 8.
    “All of the money raised will go to the performers or toward recording and production expenses,” he said. “Kickstarter funding is all-or-nothing, so if we don’t reach the goal by the deadline, this won’t happen.”
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