The Face of Water (2014) for Brass and Percussion – Marilyn Shrude

The Face of Water for Brass and Percussion examines some of the many characteristics of our source of life—water. Upon receiving this commission about a year ago, I was struck by the volatile weather we were experiencing not only in Ohio, but also throughout the world. Storms, floods, drought, extreme temperatures—all were part of a daily record of activity. For weeks on end we experienced the force of the elements and were reminded of how powerless we are when nature follows its intended course.

The work is in three short movments, Flowing, Frozen and Turbulent, the second seguing into the third. It opens with lines that gently unfold in a fluid manner, congeal for a short time, and then proceed. The following movement concentrates on static blocks of sound that remain suspended in time—frozen! The activity throughout is slight; chords trade between instruments so that the timbral transformation is subtle and imperceptible. Ominous rumblings from the percussion introduce the third movement, begin to build, and finally burst into a more violent interchange between the instruments. The section ends quietly as the turbulence drifts into the atmosphere only to begin the cycle again.

The Face of Water was commissioned by the International Women’s Brass Conference for the Monarch Brass Ensemble.



The music of composer Marilyn Shrude is characterized by its warmth and lyricism, rich timbre, multi-layered constructions, and complex blend of tonality and atonality. The result is a bright, shimmering and delicately wrought sound world that is at once both powerful and fragile.

Shrude received degrees from Alverno College and Northwestern University, where she studied with Alan Stout and M. William Karlins. Among her more prestigious honors are those from the Guggenheim Foundation, American Academy of Arts and Letters, Rockefeller Foundation, Chamber Music America/ASCAP, Meet the Composer, Sorel Foundation (Medallion Winner for Choral Music 2011), and the National Endowment for the Arts. She was the first woman to receive the Kennedy Center Friedheim Award for Orchestral Music and the Cleveland Arts Prize for Music.

Shrude has been on the faculty of Bowling Green State University since 1977 and recently received the university’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award (April 2014). Active as a composer, pianist, teacher, and contemporary music advocate, she has consistently promoted American music through her many years as founder and director of the MidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music (1987-99) and as chair of the Department of Musicology/Composition/Theory at Bowling Green State University (1998-2011). She currently serves as Coordinator of the Doctoral Program in Contemporary Music. Together with saxophonist, John Sampen, she has premiered, recorded and presented hundreds of works by living composers both in the United States and abroad. Her most recent work, Libro d’Ore (Book of Hours)for solo violin and orchestra was premiered by Ioana Galu and the Central Ohio Symphony in May 2014 and will be given its European premiere in Sibiu, Romania in June 2014.