Program Notes for November 12, 2013 

LIKE CLOCKWORK by Jennifer Higdon

Like Clockwork was commissioned in honor of Percussion Professor Dean Witten for three decades of teaching at Rowan University in New Jersey. Higdon was asked to write for a large group of percussionists, and thought it a marvelous thing to think about the passing of time, and all of the young musicians who had been trained by Professor Witten. The piece is like a giant clock, with all of the percussionists moving around to various keyboard percussion (at one point everyone is on marimba; at another they are all on metal keyboards). It's like a giant machine, tick-tocking along, chiming all the way. The idea of a commission was an inspiring to Higdon as a way to commemorate an anniversary of someone who has influenced so many people.

SUN by Baljinder Sekhon

 Scored for three percussionists, Sun explores a variety of musical energies. From tired phrases to extended climactic passages to short-lived bursts of sound, many segments of music are intertwined and overlaid in a way that creates a singular event (the piece) with various "flares" of sound on it's surface. These segments are often separated by silent moments that, because of their context, each express a different type of energy. 

The instrumentation of the individual percussion parts is very similar; that is, each percussionist has a keyboard instrument, "skin" (containing a drum head), wood, and metal. In addition, the percussionists share one large cymbal that is central to the staging. At times the three performers working towards one musical character. This orchestration and interaction alternates with each performer executing their own layers of sound to create a heterophonic texture. The percussionists use a multitude of techniques to create a palette of nuanced sounds. In addition to common performance practices, they use their hands, fingers, knuckles, arms, and fingernails to muffle, modify, and create a diversity of characteristics. 

This work was made possible through a commission from The Volta Trio and was composed for them in 2010/11. 

THREE BROTHERS by Michael Colgrass

Three Brothers is composed for percussion nonette. It was Michael Colgrass' first composition written on a dare by his instructor Paul Price. These are Colgrass' reflections on writing the piece.

"Price invited me to a percussion ensemble concert in a last ditch attempt to get me to be a serious classical music student. After the concert he asked me what I thought of it. I arrogantly told him I admired the students' playing but that I thought the music was "terrible". These were works by Varese, Harrison, Cage, Cowell, and the other giants of early percussion composition. He tool a long look at me and said quietly, "If you don't like what you heard, why don't you try your hand at it." I was thunderstruck by his suggestion because I thought you had to be dead to write music. He showed me some scores and I immediately dived into my first piece, "Three Brothers" for nine percussionists. We performed the work soon after it was completed (8 May 1950). Then it was published and recorded, and has become a percussion classic, of all things!" 

DAYBREAK by Jack Stamp

"Daybreak was really my very first composition, written in 1974 when I was a sophomore in college. We had an assignment in our percussion ensemble to an arrangement for marimba ensemble. I decided to write an original piece."

KYOTO by John Psathas

Kyoto is an engaging work with a hypnotic groove and constant pulse that sustains momentum throughout. It showcases keyboard percussion with two vibraphones, 5-octave marimba, and glockenspiel. Other percussion instruments add flourishes in this work including triangle, tom-toms, and splash cymbal. One player within the quintet takes on the role as soloist on vibraphone.

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