• Formed in 1999 in Las Vegas, NSRO — the Nolan Stolz Rock Orchestra began as a side project involving arrangements of Mahler and Stravinsky (played by Forrester, Laity, Stolz and Winds).
• Signed to the Tributary label in 2000, the project grew with more arrangements and musicians, and it took several years to record.
• Project was on hiatus in 2004 when Stolz left Vegas to attend graduate school at the University of Oregon. It was there he met Daniel Cathey, and the Ravel track was nearly completed in 2007. Two more tracks were completed (Schoenberg and Ives) in Oregon.
• Stolz completed Bolero at the electronic music studio at The Hartt School (Connecticut)—the school from which he received his doctorate. He created the opening solo of Bolero with the software program MetaSynth by analyzing the spectral content of Cathey’s clarinet solo and then creating a re-synthesized version using the program’s “Spectrum Synth.”
• In 2009, Stolz mixed the album at his home in Hartford, Connecticut (only a five-minute walk to the church where Ives got married).
• Stolz moved back to Las Vegas in 2010 to join the faculty at the University of Nevada, Vegas teaching music theory and composition. It was there where he reunited with NSRO saxophonist Robby Wingfield, who then mastered the album.
• The album came available for digital download in 2011. It was officially released January 2018 upon release of the physical version.
• A live version of the band was formed in South Carolina with Mary Norris (vocals, guitars, keys), Ian O'Donnell (bass, classical guitar), Craig Ravan (lead guitar, vocals), Nolan Stolz (drums), and Noelle Taylor (keys, guitars, bass).
1. Rite of Spring Suite (Stravinsky)
Less than seven minutes of music of Stravinsky’s ballet was excerpted here to form a suite. This arrangement begins at RN12 with the famous bassoon solo played on electric piano. The band enters for a prog-rock treatment of the “Dances of the Young Girls” and via a slick metric modulation, smoothly transitions into passages from “Abduction.” The blazing string parts of RN47 come in the form of a drum solo. “Spring Rounds” opens with a choir of flutes and continues with the heavy E-flat minor passage (guitars tuned down a half-step). The drums take a second solo, this time derived from the winds and strings of RN54. The band continues with an abridged version of “Tribes” and skips ahead several tableaux to the end of “Glorification.” The texture thins to alto flute, keyboard and light drums (RN 131) for “Ritual Action of the Ancestors.” To recreate the power of Stravinsky’s enormous orchestral forces at RN134, the whole band kicks in at 6:16 with a newly-composed rock guitar riff added to the original music. This material is then interpolated with the “chosen one” motif from “Sacrificial Dance” to end the work.
(Stolz: keyboards, bass, drums; Forrester: guitar; Winds: flute)
2. Introduction; Variations on a 12-Tone row by Schoenberg
The introduction quotes the beginning of Schoenberg’s Op. 19, morphing into a jazz-like improvisation that introduces the row from his fourth string quartet (presented as four trichords and then melodically). Variations on this row are then heard throughout the instruments of the rock band.
(Stolz: Steinway piano, guitar, bass, drums)
3. The Unanswered Question (Ives)
This arrangement combines two versions by Ives plus additional material. The solo trumpet (the “question”) is played by electric guitar, but retuned so that the pitches may be played by natural harmonics. The string parts are played by synthesizer, and the woodwinds (the “answers”) are played by electric organ, which get louder, faster and more distorted over the course of the work. A drum set part is added mostly in the role of the strings (slow, steady tempo), but at times incorporates the rhythms of the guitar.
(Stolz: keyboards, guitar, drums)
4. Bolero (Ravel)
This arrangement begins with cello, snare drum, and a resynthesis of Cathey’s clarinet solo that Stolz created using the software program MetaSynth (0:12). It continues with Cathey’s clarinet solo and an added flute (0:58). Keyboards enter playing the harp part, and the cello takes the melody (1:45). The bass guitar enters, and the melody is played by a synthesizer (2:32). The electric guitar enters next with the bass more prominent, and another synthesizer plays the melody (3:19). An electric piano is added, a synthesizer has the melody, and the dynamics are noticeably louder by this point (4:07). The tenor saxophone enters with a non-classical tone, and style (e.g., scooped notes), and the direction of this arrangement becomes evident (4:53). A “rock organ” enters and a distorted guitar takes the melody (with bends and slides) pushing it further into the rock genre (5:40). The rock organ plays the melody with a pedal note and variation of the Bolero rhythm as accompaniment (6:28). To break from the monotony of the recurring melody, an improvised synthesizer solo takes the fore with staccato rock organ “comping” in the background (7:13). The texture thins to make sonic room for the organ/bass guitar soli (8:02). The sax and synthesizer return with the melody (with some ornamentation), and the drum set enters (8:49). A celestial section with accompanying “string pads” introduces to this arrangement a fresh dimension (9:36). The dynamics have reached a peak with bashing drums, blaring guitar, and two synthesizers in harmony soaring above the band (10:23). This arrangement takes an interesting twist: instead of continuing to build to the end, the dynamics suddenly drop and the texture thins (11:05). The drum set, rock organ, bass and guitar reenter as harmonized synthesizers play the lead line (11:57). The intensity builds with the drums’ backbeat and the rock organ “comping” (12:44). Syncopated cymbal-bell hits and rock organ (13:53-14:12) set the tone for next section: a key change (accompanied by double-time feel). The key returns to tonic and feel (14:34), and the piece comes to a close.
(Albrecht: cello; Cathey: flute and clarinet; Stolz: keyboards, guitar, bass, drums; Wingfield: tenor saxophone)
5. Diversions for Four (Other Than Sex) (Erb/Stolz)
Based on Erb’s Diversions for Two (Other Than Sex), this version incorporates improvisation, traditional and graphic notation in the electric guitar and bass parts whilst retaining the trumpet and percussion material from the original work. Recorded Live.
(Ransom: trumpet with Art Rock Circus (Manning: bass; Miner: guitar; Stolz: percussion)
6. Symphony No. 3 I, exposition (Scriabin)
Assigning Mahler’s multiple-layered orchestration to a rock band recorded on a 4-track recorder was a daunting task, but the result was a fulfilling one. The main theme is played by synthesizers, and the accompanying string, bassoon and brass parts are played by the guitar and bass. The woodwind “runs” in mm. 11-12 and violin figure in RN2+6 are heard as drum fills. Bass tremolos in RN5+5 are played by bass guitar and double bass drums. The “Alma” theme (2:15) is played by synthesizers, and later joined by the trumpet (2:57). The excerpt ends just before the return of the opening material
(Stolz: keyboards, guitar, bass, drums)
7. Symphony No. 6, I, exposition (Mahler)
Assigning Mahler’s multiple-layered orchestration to a rock band recorded on a 4-track recorder was a daunting task, but the result was a fulfilling one. The main theme is played by synthesizers, and the accompanying string, bassoon and brass parts are played by the guitar and bass. The woodwind “runs” in mm. 11-12 and violin figure in RN2+6 are heard as drum fills. Bass tremolos in RN5+5 are played by bass guitar and double bass drums. The “Alma” theme (2:15) is played by synthesizers, and later joined by the trumpet (2:57). The excerpt ends just before the return of the opening material.
(Forrester: guitar; Laity: trumpet; Stolz: keys, bass, drums)
The Erlking (Schubert, German text by Goethe)
.(Keenan: vocals; Stolz: keyboards, guitar, bass, drums)
Nolan Stolz Rock Orchestra: Erlking (Schubert) Live
Nolan Stolz Rock Orchestra: The Unanswered Question (Ives) Live