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Forms Of Things Unknown


Youngstown Percussion Collective

Composed by Dr. David Morgan in 2011

Dr. Glenn Schaft – Executive Producer, Released 10 May 2012

 Forms Of Things Unknown is the Youngstown Percussion Collective's commission project with YSU jazz faculty member Dr. Morgan, who composed a one-hour tour de force multi-media presentation. Premiered in 2011, YPC recorded the work at the Dana School of Music and performed it at the Ohio Music Education Association Professional Conference in Columbus and the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown. Available at I-Tunes and CD 

What the critics are saying...

...Morgan brilliantly references ritual music of Northern Brazil, the Congo and Egypt and capitalizes on the numerous musical possibilities that are inherent to the percussion ensemble: pitched and non-pitched instrument, wood and metal, sticks and hands. Above all, the performance by the Youngstown Percussion Collective is spectacular.   

Mike Telin - 7/19/12

...The 12 movements in Dave Morgan’s "Forms Of Things Unknown" inhabit a gumut of sonic worlds. From Asian to African sources and beyond, the music entrances through percussion writing of melodic delicacy and grandeur, rhythmic inventiveness, and diverse colors. The members of the Youngstown Percussion Collective momentarily speak in their own voices in the movement titled “Unknown Unknowns.” Mostly, they apply exquisite artistry to the vast collection of instruments at their fingertips. Grade: A

Donald Rosenberg, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/8/12

...Question: What happens when a composer/jazz musician meets a percussion ensemble? Answer: Forms of Things Unknown.

An interesting concept, this latest release by the Youngstown Percussion Collective—a collaborative ensemble of percussion studio members and faculty of Youngstown State University—is an album-length composition by composer Dave Morgan. The Collective was founded in the 1990s and has steadily pursued collaborative work with composers and other interdisciplinary areas.

The music here is a wandering menagerie of styles and sounds, thoughtfully and sensitively performed by the Collective. Alternately conservative and experimental, the work is more often centered by tonal mallet percussion (mostly marimba and vibes) playing toe-tapping ostinati or lilting melodies. There are unexpected moments, too, such as the movement for guiros, “Kundalini,” the shimmering resonance of metallic percussion in “Amulent,” and—perhaps the most unexpected—the title movement, “Unknown Unknowns,” which begins with spoken word and continues to a very hip groove (think Mike Mainieri meets Stomp!). The work ends with a rousing samba/hip-hop groove, played on traditional Brazilian percussion instruments and plastic buckets/junk instruments. I have to say that, taken in context, this movement works and lends cred[ence] to the work’s title.

Composer Dave Morgan is an interesting hybrid of an academically trained composer with degrees in composition and theory, but who has strongly focused those skills in the jazz idiom. His compositions, however, are decidedly not “jazz.” This work (and recording) aims at being audience friendly and will likely have wide appeal. Bravo to the Youngstown Percussion Collective for pursuing and putting their stamp on an altogether unique project. 

— John LanePERCUSSIVE NOTES, November 2012


And as imagination bodies forth

The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen

Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing

A local habitation and a name.

Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 5, Scene 1

1. Airy Nothing

And as imagination bodies forth

The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen

Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing

A local habitation and a name.

2. Do I Dare Eat a Peach?

I grow old. . .I grow old. . .

I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare eat a peach?

3. Desiring

I dig my toes into the sand

The ocean looks like a thousand diamonds

Strewn across a blue blanket

I lean against the wind

Pretend that I am weightless

And in this moment I am happy

I wish you were here

4. Ritual

To all those who feel the power of the drum, and don’t know why.

To those who dance to its rhythm.

To all the drummers of the world, known and unknown.

To all of them, and to you.

5. Better Angels

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.

Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of

affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every

battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone,

all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union,

when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of

our nature.

6. The Flow

Flow often begins when the person is deeply involved and absorbed in the

activity and is focusing on clearly defined goals with unambiguous

feedback. Individuals report that during the flow experience, time passes

unnoticed, they forget about themselves, and they become lost in the

activity. Individuals in the flow experience often feel a very pleasant

sense of transcendence, alignment, a goodness of fit between themselves,

others involved in the same activity, and the activity itself. Flow produces

a sense of timelessness and boundlessness. . .

7. Bindu to Ogis

It is only when you begin to understand that if you and I are truly in love,

if I go to the place in me that is love and you to the place in you that is

love, we are “together” in Love. We start to understand that what love

means is that we are sharing a common state together. That state exists in

you and it exists in me. Now the enlightened being-what happens to him

is that he changes the nature of his love object from a specific love object

to it all, finally. You would say that an enlightened being is totally in love

with the universe, in the sense that everything in the universe turns him on

to that place in himself where he is love and consciousness.

8. Kundalini

Esoteric Tantric drawings depict a fine spiritual channel running from the

base of the spine to the crown of the head. Along this path, known as the

sushumna, seven chakras or “wheels” of spiritual energy each contain

certain Gods and Goddesses. In Kundalini yoga, the goddess named

Kundalini rises up through the sushumna, piercing or awakening one after

another of the seven charkas. They blossom like lotuses at the touch of

her divine energy. When she reaches the top chakra, the Thousand

Petaled Lotus, above the crown of the head, the devotee is fully

enlightened. Those who practice Kundalini yoga awaken the subtle

kundalini energy through breath control, meditation, and sometimes

through ritual sexual union.

9. Unknown Unknowns*

There are known knowns; there are things we know we know.

We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know

there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown

unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know.

10. Entrainment

The whole universe is a single mechanism working by the law of rhythm;

the rise and fail of the waves, the ebb and flow of the tide, the waxing and

waning of the moon, the sunrise and the sunset, the change of the seasons,

the moving of the earth and of the planets - the whole cosmic system and

the constitution of the entire universe are working under the law of

rhythm. Cycles of rhythm, with major and minor cycles interpenetrating,

uphold the whole creation in their swing. This demonstrates the origin of

manifestation: motion has sprung from the still life, and every motion

must necessarily result in a dual aspect. As soon as you move a stick, the

single movement will make two points: the one where it starts and the

other where it ends, the one strong and the other weak. It is this mystery

that lies hidden under the dual aspects in all phases and forms of life. The

reason, cause and significance of all life is found in rhythm.

11. Amulet

Let’s play this little game. We’ll do it for fifteen seconds. You focus on

the tip of your nose and you note the breath going in and out. You don’t

follow it into your body and you don’t follow it out into the universe. You

just notice it right here. You’re like a parking lot attendant, and your job

is simply to notice a car that goes in and one that goes out. That’s all you

do—just sit right there and notice it. We’ll just do it for fifteen seconds.

During that time don’t think about anything else.

12. The Only Dance

The only thing you have to offer to another human being, ever, is your own

state of being. You can cop out only just so long, saying I’ve got this

fine coat--Joseph’s coat of many colors--I know all this and I can do all

this. But everything you do, whether you’re cooking food or doing

therapy or being a student or being a lover, you are only doing your own

being, you’re only manifesting how evolved a consciousness you are.

That’s what you’re doing with another human being. That’s the only

dance there is!

Program Notes:

Forms of Things Unknown is a concert-length piece written for fifteen percussionists. The piece is in a circular form that reflects the cycles of time and the earth and each movement flows into the next via textual interludes. The percussion writing reflects my contemplation of the artistic possibilities inherent within various dichotomies, including pitched and “non-pitched” percussion, strict notation and improvisation, metal and wood, sticks and hands, harmony/melody and rhythm, loud and soft, tradition and innovation, cerebral and visceral, and space and time.” 

A wide variety of music and artists are reflected and referenced in the piece, including ritual music of Northern Brazil, the Congo, and Egypt; global percussionists including Glen Velez and Nana Vasconcelos; jazz vibraphone artists such as Dave Samuels, David Friedman, Gary Burton, and Mike Manieri; the Minimalism of Terry Riley and Steve Reich; and seminal percussion works by Western composers including Iannis Xenakis, John Cage, and Toru Takemitsu.

The piece was commissioned by the Youngstown Percussion Collective, a YSU student organization advised by Dr. Glenn Schaft. YPC past-president, Bob Young said “This project has challenged our musical minds as well as brought the members closer together in search of a common goal. The world premiere should be an exciting event.” YPC member Jeff Farber concurs, “This piece will definitely challenge our abilities. But, moreover, I see it opening our world-view (because of the many different cultures the music draws from) and opening our imaginations on how to use sound, motion, and theatrics to create a truly captivating performance.”

Dr. Glenn Schaft says “This project provides our students the rare opportunity to participated in an entire artistic project from its very conception, through planning, fundraising, performance, recording a compact disc, mixing and mastering the recording, and distributing the music worldwide, all the while working on a daily basis in meetings and rehearsals with a world-class composer in David Morgan, who just happens to be a faculty colleague at the Dana School of Music and Youngstown State University. Our students are fortunate to have the opportunity to present a great piece of music to the world and this experience will enrich their lives for many years to come.”

Morgan agrees, saying “the best thing about this project from my perspective is the opportunity to work closely with Glenn and the percussion students throughout the process of taking a project from its initial conception to performance.”

Notes by D. Morgan and G. Schaft


Sarah Sexton-Belz, Mineral Ridge, OH

Keith Born, Bethel Park, PA 

Ed Davis, Poland, OH

Evan Gottschalk, East Palestine, OH

Matthew Hayes, Coshocton, OH  

Dylan Kollat, North Jackson, OH 

Roger Lewis, Youngstown, OH 

Dustin May, Westerville, OH   

Moriah Placer, Warren, OH  

Nick Sainato, Boardman, OH

Jeff Farber, Boardman, OH

Troy Schaltenbrand, Allison Park, PA

Megan Seivert, Miamisburg, OH

Robert Young, Austintown, OH   

Eric Zalenski, Bloomingdale, OH   


About Dave Morgan

Dave Morgan is a jazz bassist and composer who has performed with a wide variety of artists, including Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Lovano, Arturo Sandoval, Cedar Walton, James Moody, Benny Golson, Larry Coryell, Mose Allison, Jim McNeely, Bob Brookmeyer, and The Cleveland Orchestra. His latest recording “The Way of the Sly Man” is inspired by the ideas of the Greek-Armenian mystic G.I. Gurdjieff. The recording, featuring Jamey Haddad, Dan Wall, Jack Schantz, Howie Smith, and many other fine musicians, was made possible by grants from Chamber Music America, the Doris Duke Charitable Trust, and the Bascom-Little Fund. Morgan also composed the music for CD The Surprise of Being—Live at Birdland by the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra featuring Joe Lovano. A concert by the Tri-C JazzFest by the Jazz Unit featuring Ernie Watts of Morgan’s transcriptions and arrangements of the music of Frank Zappa earned an Award of Achievement from Northern Ohio Live. The American Wind Symphony Orchestra has commissioned several original compositions and arrangements, including “The Art of Seven” (2008). The Polish Philharmonic Orchestra recently recorded “Reflections and Meditations,” which will be released on Centaur Records in Fall 2012. His compositions “Romance for Flute and Strings” and “Three Vignettes” for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra are also available on Centaur Records. More information is available on his website, Morgan is Associate Professor of Jazz Studies and Double Bass at Youngstown State University.


About Glenn Schaft

Dr. Glenn Schaft is Associate Professor and Director of Percussion Studies at Youngstown State University where he has served since 1996. He directs the YSU Percussion Ensemble, teaches private and group lessons, performs with the Faculty Jazz Group, serves as faculty advisor for the Youngstown Percussion Collective, and is founder of the SMARTS RHYTHMS Drum Circle Educational Outreach Program. His performance and teaching credits include over thirty-three years of experience in classical, contemporary, world, jazz/improvised, and popular music. He is an educational artist endorser with Zildjian, ProMark, Remo, and Black Swamp Percussion. He has performed and presented clinics throughout the United States and China. He is a member of the Percussive Arts Society where he serves on the College Pedagogy and Drumset Educators Committee's. 

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Credits and thanks:

            •Dr. Michael Crist (chair) and Dr. Bryan DePoy (dean) for your support on behalf of the Dana School of Music and the College of Fine and Performing Arts throughout this project.

            •Dr. Stephen Gage (director of bands) for your support.

            •Lori Factor, Anna Ruscutti, Michele Lepore-Hagen for your assistance with the programs.

            •Dr. J. Paul Louth (music education) and the YSU-OCMEA students for you assistance with our programs and the Dana exhibit.

            •Thanks to OMEA, especially Gary DeVault, Jared Plasterer, and Roger Hall for you support.

            •Our percussion corporate sponsors - Zildjian, Remo, ProMark, Black Swamp, and Dynasty.

            •Thanks to my students for all your dedication and hard work.

            •We are all grateful to Dave Morgan for the great music!

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