Percussionist Tony Oliver will be performing composer James Romig’s new 77-minute vibraphone solo “Spaces” tonight at the Figge Art Museum (225 W. 2nd St., Davenport) starting at 6 p.m.
“Tony Oliver is a marvelous percussionist whose performances are both musically sensitive and technically accurate — exactly the qualities necessary for sharing a brand-new work with an audience,” Romig said in a Western Illinois University release. This will be the world premiere of the work — Romig is professor of music composition at WIU, Macomb.
“Tony and I have been friends since we were undergraduate music majors at the University of Iowa, and we’ve collaborated on countless projects over the years,” he said. “He’s one of my favorite musicians, and one of my favorite people. It has been immensely rewarding to collaborate with him on this new work.”
Romig’s “Still,” for solo piano, was performed at the Figge in 2018 and was recognized as a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize.
“Tony has been a contributor to QC musical culture for 30+ years, quietly and expertly doing his thing in the percussion section of the QCSO, as a soloist and chamber musician, and as a conductor of wind ensembles and percussion ensembles at Augustana,” Romig said Thursday.
“Spaces” was composed in 2021 for Oliver in celebration of more than 30 years of musical collaboration and friendship, according to Romig’s website. Oliver has been a member of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra since 1991.
“Still” was performed at the Figge by Romig’s wife Ashlee Mack, Knox College Associate Professor of Applied Music.
“She performed the hour-long work for solo piano, in the same gallery where Tony will be playing Spaces,” said Romig. “I’m honored to have my music serve a small role in the museum’s big cultural contributions to the Quad Cities community.”
The vibraphone is a ringing keyboard percussion instrument, “capable of conjuring a dreamy, contemplative atmosphere of gentle timbre and intriguing harmony,” the composer said. “Spaces” comprises eight movements, each about 10 minutes long and played without pause.
“Each one is different, but they’re similar enough that listeners might have a feeling of deja vu when they recognize certain musical gestures and phrases that return throughout the 80 minutes of music,” he added.
“Tony and I have collaborated on many projects over the 30 years we’ve known each other,” Romig said Thursday. “He’s one of my favorite musicians and one of my closest friends, so when the pandemic hit and all of us artists were forced to reassess what our goals were, it seemed like a great project to create something new with my old friend.”
At the Figge tonight, you can come early to enjoy a cash bar starting at 5 p.m. in the lobby. The performance at 6 p.m. will be in the second-floor galleries. There will be seating, but listeners are encouraged to alternate between watching the performer and wandering the galleries.
Romig is a two-time Copland House award recipient and has served as artist-in-residence at national parks including Everglades, Grand Canyon, and Petrified Forest. His primary teachers were Charles Wuorinen and Milton Babbitt, and he holds degrees from the University of Iowa (BM, MM) and Rutgers University (PhD). He has been on faculty at Western since 2002.