Garth Baxter is a composer that is making a reputation with his original music that incorporates the beautiful melodies of the classical romantic period with the adventous harmony and melodic colors of the modern classical language. Baxter earned his music degrees from Pepperdine University and California State University at Northridge. Furthermore, he studied composition with Robert Hall Lewis, Joseph Wagner, and William Thornton. His compositions for chorus, orchestra, symphonic band, piano, organ, flute, voice, and guitar, as well as other instrumental combinations, have been performed throughout the world. Baxter’s compositions are published by Columbia Music Company, ALRY Publications, Les Productions D.OZ, Voices of Training, Guitar Chamber Music Press and Mel Bay Publications. He has received numerous awards, commissions and honors for his music. Baxter has just released an ambitious project consisting of multiple ensembles performing his music. The album is titled Resistance.
“Resistance,” the title track, is a solo piano composition that is a prime example of Baxter’s harmonic style and command of the modern classical genre, while still maintaining a melodic structure that is easy to follow. Pianist Andrew Stewart performs the composition with energy and brings out the melodic essence in a manner that is meaningful and easy to follow. The rhythmic structures are just as interesting as the colorful harmonies. The upper extensions of the chords are focused on creating beautiful musical colors. Baxter also fashions tension and release with the use of driving rhythms and poly-rhythmic figures. The form has defined climaxes and melodic developments, at almost seven minutes, the piece takes the listener on journey of musical exploration. The middle section uses space just as much as it does intense chord voicings and rippling arpeggios. Even though the music is intense, Baxter always maintains a balance of melodic flow and tension and release. The quiet section after the big dissent chords are even more impactful because of the intensity leading up to the moment. Baxter’s cadential section is sublime, he takes us back to simple romantic harmonies and melodies, ending with a clear and restful cadence.
“Des Larmes Encadrées” is a composition for piano and soprano saxophone. Kenny Baik plays alto saxophone and Bonghee Lee performs on the piano. The themes have a flair of Romanticism in the construction, but Baxter makes the melodies colorful with imaginative chord tones. Atonality and serialism is not what Baxter uses to convey his 20th century classical style, instead he expands the Romantic style to include more adventous harmony and rhythm. The interaction between the saxophone and piano is of note here, both are featured as the lead instrument, the accompanying instrument and as a solo feature. The traditional role of the woodwind playing the main melody with the piano only providing support is not adhered to here, and that makes for a powerful musical statement. Baxter has a gift for developing a clear and energetic contrapuntally complex style and that is what makes this composition most significant.
Resistance displays Baxter’s ability to combine Romanticism with elements of 20th and 21st Century classical sounds. Baxter’s music employs a unique system of melodies that are memorable through harmony, that is tonal and expands the usual diatonic patterns. Baxter composes melodies that do not confirm themselves to outline major or minor triads. His compositions have elegance and a sense of adventure and that is what makes them so exciting to behold.
February 8, 2019