"On Thursday evening at the Rialto Center for the Arts, Georgia State University’s neoPhonia New Music Ensemble presented tête–à–tête (literally “head-to-head” but more meaningfully “private conversation”) as one of the cultural offerings of France-Atlanta 2017. The program was a mixed bag of 20th- and 21st-century solo and chamber works that included a pair of commissioned world premieres, one by French composer Philippe Hurel and one by American Atlanta-based composer Nickitas Demos, who is also neoPhonia’s artistic director. neoPhonia has what one might call an “open roster” of musicians, drawing from GSU faculty and students and professionals outside of the university as needed for each program. For this particular concert, a half dozen professional musicians, mostly contemporary music specialists, were drawn together from diverse ensembles for the occasion. From Paris, France, flutist Patrice Bocquillon and clarinetist Dominique Vidal, both of Ensemble Fa, who are friends and colleagues of Atlanta-based flutist Matthieu Clavé, who is a member of Chamber Cartel, as is violist Sprite Crawford. Also included were flutist James Zellers, principal flute of Atlanta Opera, and percussionist Stuart Gerber, co-artistic director of Bent Frequency, the only GSU faculty member among the six."
"The concert concluded with the second world premiere (and the other highlight) of the evening, “inconsequential intricacies” by Nickitas Demos, for two flutists (Clavé doubling on piccolo, Bocquillon playing bass flute), clarinet (Vidal) and percussion (Gerber, playing vibraphone and marimba). Like [Philippe] Hurel’s “Études,” it is a busy piece, complex in its detail, but differing greatly in individual style and musical language. Noteworthy is the prominent role of the bass flute, which has a solo and often serves as a stable presence amid the work’s often complex contrapuntal details."
- Mark Gresham
Review of the CD, Citizens of Nowhere (Albany Records - TROY 1439):
"Citizens of Nowhere, the title track of the recording, by Georgia State University composer Nickitas Demos is an energetic work that engages the audience from the start. Demos’ describes the piece as active, “rootless and constantly shifting,” which is an apt account of the aesthetic. Adding to this sense of constant shifting, Long switches between clarinet and bass clarinet while Baker switches between alto and soprano saxophone. Especially notable is the blend between clarinet and soprano saxophone in the technical passages. Repeated single notes interjected with active, technical passages brings us back to center and gives the listener a chance to “catch their breath” before moving on to more technical passages. Near the end, the lyrical section between the bass clarinet and soprano saxophone demonstrates a lovely, expansive melody. The work itself tackles themes presented in an article by Paul Kingsnorth for The New Statesman. Among this article’s themes, the work addresses the concept of “place;” the prevalence of people blindly occupying generic, universal and interchangeable environments; and challenging people’s desire (or apathy towards) interaction with the communities and diversity that surrounds them."
- John Masserini
"After intermission came the centerpiece of the evening, the program’s principal raison d’être: the Southeast regional semi-finals of the Rapido! Composition Contest. Back in June, it was revealed that entrants to the competition were required to write four to six minutes of music in a theme-and-variations form for violin, clarinet and piano over the course of the 14 days within which the score would be due to the competition. The three semi-finalist composers for the Southeast competition, whose works were selected from a number of anonymous entries, were Eric Benaim, Nickitas Demos and Peter Van Zandt Lane. It is one of five Rapido! regional semi-finals nationwide.
Demos is professor of composition and coordinator of composition studies at the Georgia State University School of Music, and founding artistic director of GSU’s neoPhonia new music ensemble. His entry was 'Dance for the New Mandarins,' which emphasized accumulation of driving rhythmic elements."
- Mark Gresham
"The showcase finale was Nickitas Demos's "Long Journey Home": A Double Concerto for Celtic Fiddle and Bluegrass Fiddle. The opening movement, "Hard Rain Comin', focused on Klein's Celtic fiddle. Bissonett responded, each artist overlapping the other rather than playing in tandem until the end of the piece where they got to go at each other and drive the concluding crescendo.
The regional differences in fiddle playing disappears in the slower second movement, "No Time Left to Be Young," which gets rather celestial sounding early on. There was a nice moment where Brett Linsky's oboe hands off the theme to Bissonett, and another between the violin and Tyler Kaiser's guitar.
With "Reunion" Bissonett goes into full bluegrass mode in a section that had elements I found quite reminiscent of "Orange Blossom Special." There was not as much dueling between the two fiddle styles as the title of the piece led me to expect, but that final section was another highpoint of the concert."
- Lawrance Bernabo
Review of the CD, Citizens of Nowhere (Albany Records - TROY 1439):
"The next piece, Citizens of Nowhere, is by Nickitas Demos, the only Atlanta composer represented on the disc and a colleague of Baker’s and Long’s on the GSU faculty. His office, in fact, faces that of Long, and he is likewise a clarinetist. Demos was one of the original artistic directors of Bent Frequency, before Baker or Long joined the group. So the musical connections are close.
Citizens of Nowhere takes its name and inspiration from a 2003 article in The New Statesman by English author and political activist Paul Kingsnorth. The structure of the music is loosely based on the article’s themes, with moods that are generally unsettled and ungrounded but in the end are brought to resolution. The resolution comes, Demos says, in response to Kingsnorth’s concluding assertion: “The rest of us can join the citizens of nowhere in their empire of the placeless, or we can build new relationships with our own landscapes and our own communities. We can build on our pasts or dismiss them; bleach the human rainbow or loudly defend awkward, stubborn, unprofitable diversity. Somewhere or nowhere. The choice is ours.”
- Mark Gresham
In a year-end review of dance events entitled “The year in review: Atlanta dance goes ‘Off the Edge’ with innovation, new voices” my ballet, Pavo was listed as one of the “Notable Atlanta Dance Performances of 2012.” The authors write, “Though she is better known as dancer, Atlanta Ballet veteran Tara Lee proved herself a choreographer to watch with the debut of her ‘Pavo’ in May. Her hallmark sensuality as a performer was evident in much of the movement she created in the ambitious collaboration with composer Nickitas Demos…Her piece, with its detailed quickness and innovative partnering, was a bold departure from convention.”
- Cynthia Bond Perry, Andrew Alexander and Kathleen Wessel
"In its third concert, the new music series Magnetic South made the leap to present music written exclusively in our adolescent century. Friday night in the College of Charleston’s Simons Center Recital Hall, an ensemble of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra’s section chairs performed “Echoes of Antiquity,” the oldest piece, written in 2006.
Magnetic South is a collaboration between the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and the College of Charleston Music Department, formed in the beginning of 2012 to provide Charleston with a complete classical music culture, featuring works from the 20th and 21st centuries.
The evening ended with the world premiere of Nickitas Demos’ “Beautiful Kingdoms.” In three movements, Demos represented the three stages of life, defined in his mother’s death — a struggle of joy and sorrow during earthly time; a placid Byzantine hymn used in Greek Orthodox funerals; and the “new kingdom” in which reunion will take place.
These musicians are eager and capable, working with conductor Yiorgos Vassilandonakis to support new music. This series is a welcome and much-needed acknowledgement of the music written in our lifetime."
- Leah Harrison
"Big, Bright, and Beautiful Noise by Nickitas Demos lived up to its title with big sounds, good interplay between the parts, and building wide-open chordal structures that culminated with a huge chord and unison rhythms that brought the work to its conclusion.”
- Gary Mortenson
"[Tara] Lee’s “Pavo,” later in the program, was bold and ambitious. She not only debuted a new piece (with the aid of assistant choreographer Jesse Tyler, another Atlanta Ballet dancer), but it was set to original music by composer and Georgia State University professor Nickitas Demos. “Pavo” featured a live band that included a horn player, a cellist and … a DJ.
Inspired by the symbolism of the peacock, which is able to digest poison and then produce even more colorful plumage, “Pavo” seemed a ritual transformation. As the music began with the loud pounding of a conga drum, a spotlight went to dancer Christine Winkler. She stood in the back corner of the stage in apparent contemplation, svelte in a flesh-colored costume embellished with touches of the peacock’s blue-green. Then, at stage center, a circle of light appeared in which five dancers paced around and around and around. A single figure, John Welker, stepped into the circle and struggled to break free.
When Winkler began to dance, she was primal and otherworldly. She moved with incomprehensible speed, one leg inscribing circles in the air as if writing in a mysterious language. Then, set to ritualistic drumming, the other dancers’ bodies began to ripple as if poison were coursing through them. Their legs took on odd shapes and unusual angles, punctuated by quick and bird-like tics of hands, feet and heads.
To DJ Jennifer Mitchell’s strong beat, a metaphoric storm ensued, followed by a spectacular duet by Winkler and Welker. Winkler, as the peacock — a benevolent, almost supernatural being — helped Welker break out of the cycle in which he had been bound. Peacock-blue paint spread from her to him, as if her healing power had transformed him into a figure capable of the same ability.
“Pavo” was clearly inventive. But as is often the case with new choreographers, there was a tendency to include too much. With the strengths of “Pavo,” however, Lee’s choreography is off to a fascinating start."
- Cynthia Bond Perry
The [Atlanta Ballet] also gives the new work "Pavo," created by the Atlanta Ballet's own principal dancer Tara Lee, its world premiere. The piece is a meditation on the spiritual symbolism of the peacock, usually associated with beauty and pride, but here celebrated for its aspect of transformation, specifically its ability to digest some species of poisonous plants which allegedly make its plumage more vivid and beautiful. The piece becomes especially dramatic under Robert Hand, Jr.'s precise lighting design, which carves the floor and space into stark sections, and by Atlanta composer Nickitas Demos' pulsing live score for DJ and three musicians. The piece opens with dancers in tense, conforming postures, walking in rigid circles which gradually release through an agitated storm of movement. Especially lovely is the duet at the piece's center, danced splendidly by Christine Winkler and John Welker on opening night. With paint on her arms, she leaves gentle, but transformative traces on his body, points of contact that become literally visible.
- Andrew Alexander
"The third Atlantan on the program, Nickitas Demos, is the local composer I'd nominate for Most Likely to Become Famous and earn a serious national reputation. His 13-minute 'Tonoi I' (1999), for solo viola, was the first in his set of abstract works for solo instruments (now seven in number) and harks back to Italian modernist Luciano Berio's trend-setting 'Sequenzas.' But Demos' bold voice is his own. Played by the work's dedicatee, Tania Maxwell Clements, her viola voice exceedingly lovely and caloric, the music moves along a compelling emotional journey. Like the best of Demos' music, it's substantive and accessible and personal, not derived from any '-ism.' After every Demos performance I scratch my head and wonder: Can he push himself to the next level?"
- Pierre Ruhe
"On the evidence of the chamber pieces heard here, [Demos'] music is emotionally direct and powerful in an essentially tonal language which most should find easily accessible. Indeed there is an openness to the music which is thoroughly welcoming, without ever being merely populist. The earliest piece here, Mnimosinon...is moving and richly expressive...The Suite for Oboe, Viola and Piano...is an exciting, musically sophisticated piece, full of tonal complexity and structural sophistication without ever running the risk of being merely clever. ...The whole makes a fine trio which deserves to be more widely played and heard...a rewarding programme of chamber music... Demos is certainly a composer whose ears are open to many different musical idioms, but who is able to synthesise them into coherent music of a distinctive kind. There is much here that I will return to frequently, I suspect."
- Glyn Pursglove
Review of the 2008 Society of Composers, Inc. (SCI) National Conference hosted by the School of Music and the Center for Hellenic Studies at Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA. Conference host: Nickitas Demos. Reviewed by Luke Gullickson
“Hultgren…switched to the electric cello for Atlanta-based Demos’ Tonoi IV with its driving, aggressive machine-gun rhythms and arching, ascending arpeggios, making use of digital echo in the middle section then a brief spate of fuzz-box filtering in a latter portion. Demos was one of only two American composers represented on the program…At the end of the show, audience members checked off their choice for the evening’s prize-winning composer…Atlanta composer Nickitas Demos.”
- Mark Gresham