Stephen Karukas is a graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy and a student at Indiana University, where he studies music composition, percussion performance, and computer science. He has been a performance fellow at nief-norf and a student in electronic music programming at IRCAM (Paris, France). His primary composition teachers have been Claude Baker, P.Q. Phan, Don Freund, and Jay Hurst.
Karukas has composed music for ensembles including Fifth House Ensemble, Definiens, Hutchens/Myers Duo, and the percussion ensembles at California Lutheran University and Indiana University. His works have been featured at festivals such as the Navy Saxophone Symposium, Midwest Composers Symposium, Frontwave New Music, and the RED NOTE Music Festival, as well as at numerous institutions around the world including CCM, University of Iowa, University of South Carolina, Appalachian State University, Idyllwild Arts Academy, Interlochen Arts Academy, Columbia College Chicago, IRCAM (France), ESMDM (Mexico), Indiana University Bloomington, and IU South Bend.
His works are published by C. Alan Publications, Strikeclef Publications, and himself.
“This piece will be approximately 10 minutes long, written for alto saxophone and percussion quartet. It will be characterized by its constantly evolving sound, blending and morphing timbres in ever-changing ways, especially within the percussion quartet. The quartet will act as one meta-instrument, and the alto saxophone will dive in and out of the quartet’s sound, sometimes playing a soloistic role and other times thickening the texture. Within the quartet, harmonic sounds will morph into non-harmonic ones by fading between non-pitched and pitched instruments with similar timbres. This will give the saxophone an opportunity to be its own harmonic compass while the percussion provides an exciting rhythmic backdrop, and the morphing effect will also distort the way the audience perceives the material. As the harmony fades away and non-pitched sounds emerge, individual instruments will begin to sound more distinct, and rhythmic patterns will take over for pitch as the driving force behind the music.
This unique combination of saxophone and percussion quartet in this piece also allows the saxophone to “fill in the cracks” of the equal-tempered marimba and vibraphone with subtle microtones in order to give the illusion of bending their pitch up or down. Conversely, the percussion is able to fit within the sound of the saxophone, mimicking the contours of its melody and giving rhythmic energy to the long notes. With this piece, I will be exploring a wide array of unique timbral combinations afforded by the instrumentation while keeping my harmonic and rhythmic ideas exciting and accessible by a diverse audience.”