• marimba
  • 12 min

Programme Note

Commissioned by New Music Marimba, Percussive Arts Society
World Premiere: November 7, 1993

Composer Note:
Marimbology was written in the summer of 1993 on commission from New Music Marimba, Percussive Arts Society, William Moersch, Robert Van Sice, and Nancy Zeltsman, with a grant from the Meet-the-Composer/Reader’s Digest Commissioning Program. The work is in four contrasting movements, exploiting not only the wonderfully rich sonorities of the five-octave marimba, but its remarkable technical/virtuosic and expressive capacities. The opening movement, marked Scherzando, begins with a light trickle of high register sounds (like a tiny high-lying mountain spring), gradually running its course into the lower register, growing dynamically along the way, and eventually evolving into a jaunty scherzo in asymmetrical meters and odd rhythmic patterns. But soon the piece reverses itself, the long downward opening run now heading upwards (like running a film backwards) to a “sudden-death” chordal climax. The second movement, Rhapsody, explores the darker and more harmonic qualities of the marimba. The middle section consists of one-hand tremolo pedal points accompanying the dramatic fanfare-like gestures. The movement ends on a quiet, contemplative note. The ensuing Sarabande is stately in character, closing with a chorale-like passage and a wispy “after-thought.” The Finale, Toccata, features a plethora of ragtimey syncopations and jazzy swing. It is a virtuoso tour-de-force which stretches the technical boundaries of marimba playing to its farthest limits.

— Gunther Schuller