“Every piece has a story,” said Magrill, professor of music at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. “It’s a sonic snapshot of a particular time.”
After 23 years at UCO, Magrill has an abundance of pieces and stories to go with them. His latest collection of them is the album “Cello Music of Samuel Magrill: Volume II,” following 2004’s initial installment. Tess Remy-Schumacher, professor of cello at UCO, is the principal performer on both discs.
The new release features the dramatic, 17-minute “Remy 2002,” which was written for Remy-Schumacher as a welcome present when she arrived at the university.
“It uses ‘re-mi’ as a motive and ‘2-0- 0-2’ as a fingering pattern on the cello,” Magrill said.
The three suites of “East West Duo” have a story as well.
“I was working with an Indian dancer and transcribing Indian music into Western notation,” he said. “It has ragas and talas, and all these canons you wouldn’t find in Indian music.”
But cello is not the only instrument for which he writes. Magrill, who composes primarily on piano, has written for a variety of instruments and ensembles since coming to UCO, including electroacoustic works, wind symphony pieces and even larger projects.
“I got involved with the opera, and they were all-encompassing,” he said. “It was a big undertaking for a lot of people.”
Magrill should know, as he wrote not just one, but a trilogy of children’s operas based on Greek mythology, as told by Nathaniel Hawthorne. That project lasted from 1997 to 2001, ending right before Remy-Schumacher arrived at UCO. He then shifted his focus to cello, which proved a prolific genre for him.
“There were so many pieces that we got into a backlog,” he said. That backlog resulted in having enough pieces for two CDs. And the backlog isn’t done. “I’ve worked on some other things, so perhaps we could do a third.”
He wouldn’t be opposed to it, having enjoyed the creative process.
“This CD was a very satisfying process. I learned a lot about the music business doing this,” said Magrill. Or as far as anyone can learn about the industry, that is, in today’s rapidly changing music environment.
“Distribution is changing,” he said. Noting the shifts in the musical landscape, he uploaded both “Cello Music” volumes to the independent music online retailer CD Baby. And although his run of cello pieces has been prolific, his wide-ranging composition interests are moving on.
“I’m getting more involved in choirs. Probably in the next few years, I’ll be writing more choral music,” Magrill said, noting a recent woodwind quintet and full-band tango. “There are a lot of different kinds of things going on. It’s been exciting having so many groups to work with and supportive colleagues to do exciting activities.”
photo Composer Samuel Magrill and cellist Tess Remy-Schumacher. Photo/Mark Hancock