James Wood ‘Kalavinka’



Cosmic percussion dialogues: birdsongs and stars

Composer, conductor, musicologist, instrument designer and percussionist, James Wood’s multi- faceted career has led him into an extraordinarily broad spectrum of musical activities. This latest release ‘Kalavinka’ is a trilogy of works for mainly mallet percussion that arises out of Wood’s fascination with birdsong, a source of inspiration for several of his past works, but also from the ever-changing patterns of constellations. It’s an exploration of a kind of mystical communication between these two themes.

Kalavinka is a mythical being in Buddhist mythology, a giant fantastical bird with a human head. Birdsong has provided inspiration for Western composers since at least the fourteenth century. Jean Vaillant, Clément Janequin, Handel, Respighi, Beethoven, Ravel, Vaughan Williams, François- Bernard Mâche, Jonathan Harvey and of course Olivier Messiaen. For Wood it was his 1997–8 production in IRCAM—with its then new analysis software Audiosculpt— which first offered him the possibility to conduct a detailed analysis of a large number of birdsongs.

The three compositions here, Secret Dialogues, Kalavinka Duos and Kalavinka Quartet, masterfully interpreted by internationally renowned conductor/percussionist Eduardo Leandro together with Matthew Overbay, Ayano Kataoka, Sam Seyong Um are inspired by birdsongs from over twenty different species as well as celestial patterns from various constellations. The instruments’ layered narratives go from percussive to ethereal, showcasing Wood’s ability to translate the universe’s rhythms into a captivating auditory experience and inviting listeners to experience the harmony between the natural and the cosmic.

James Wood was conductor of Schola Cantorum of Oxford before founding both the New London Chamber Choir and the ensemble Critical Band. From 1982–1994 he was Professor of Percussion at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt. In 2007 he left England for Germany, where he continued to work regularly with both instrumental and vocal ensembles such as musikFabrik, Champ d’Action, RIAS Kammerchor Berlin, Collegium Vocale Gent, MDR Leipzig Radio Choir, Rundfunkchor Berlin, Latvian Radio Choir and Helsinki Chamber Choir. His book, Tapping The Source, published in 2022 by Vision Edition, is an in-depth study of musical archetypes from ancient Greece and ancient India and has received universal critical acclaim.


Secret Dialogues 13.25
Eduardo Leandro: marimba
Recorded 8 November 2022

Kalavinka Duos 17.21
Eduardo Leandro, Matthew Overbay: percussion duo
Recorded 23–24 May 2022

Kalavinka Quartet 18.07
Eduardo Leandro, Ayano Kataoka, Matthew Overbay, Sam Um: percussion quartet
Recorded 16–18 August 2022

All recorded in the Recital Hall of Stony Brook University Staller Center for the Arts
Recording and editing: Eduardo Leandro
Assistant: Renan Proença
Post production: James Wood

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