, poohbah of all things telematic and intermedial at IUPUI, may be stationed out of Indy these days, after spending 1995 to 2007 as professor of music at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. But it's fair to say that Deal retains an interest in the Alaskan landscape — one in line with that of a guy still based out of Alaska, composerJohn Luther Adams
Both Adams and Deal have composed long-form percussion-centric pieces with names drawn from indigenous Alaskan languages: Adams' Inuksuit, written for a gigantic percussion ensemble that may include which may require use of "topographic maps, GPS units, two-way radios, cellular telephones, backpacks, tents and camping gear, off-road vehicles and other such tools"; and Auksalaq, a multimedia opera concerning climate change written by Deal and University of Virginia professor Matthew Burtner.
Auksalaq, which recently won an innovation award from Internet2, a networking consortium for global researchers and scientists, will receive its world premiere in New York in October 2012. A portion of the opera was performed at the Intermedia Festival in Indy in 2010.
And now a recording of Adams' Four Thousand Holes featuring Deal on percussion has been named one of the top ten classical albums of the year by New Yorker classical critic Alex Ross. The 33-minute piece for percussion, pianist and electronics was recorded last year in Boston, with Deal joined by a frequent collaborator, pianist Stephen Drury.
Ross has written effusively of Adams before; he called a 2011 performance of Inuksuit in a New York City armory "one of the most rapturous experiences of his listening life." John Shea had this to say about the piece in the Boston Globe: "Despite a rather majestic climax, Four Thousand Holes unfolds at a measured pace, like a kind of contemplative walk in the woods in which the landscape changes slowly but dramatically over time. There is a spontaneous feel that belies the careful craftsmanship. Drury’s piano part is made up exclusively of chords based on major and minor triads, with Deal’s vibraphone and orchestra bells adding an extra sonic glitter. On top of it all, Adams generates a processed electronic ‘aura,’ derived from the piano lines, and it spreads out like a canopy of sound: dense, rich, and enveloping."
Deal continues to play in the local electronic trio Big Robot, which is at work on an hour-long DVD due for release in 2012.