• Nico Muhly
  • Pulses, Cycles, Clouds (2016)

  • St. Rose Music Publishing (World)
  • Percussion ensemble
  • 6 min

Programme Note

Pulses, Cycles, Clouds is a piece for large mixed percussion ensemble written for the 50th anniversary of the Boston University Tanglewood Institute.

At its core is a group of four marimbas, surrounded by various bells and other mallet instruments; unpitched instruments here are primarily played by an ensemble of amateur percussionists.

The piece obsesses over a cycle of eleven chords, introduced slowly through the beginning of the piece. Each chord is announced by a large vertical moment with bells, vibraphone, and a sudden shift in tonality. The four marimbas then relax into a series of soft interlocking patterns, over which an ensemble of glockenspiels and crotales plays a simple rhythm in a complex relationship to the other instruments. Eventually, the pulse disintegrates entirely, into a vision of a night sky: insects, unexpected interruptions - a walk around a quite landscape. Eventually, the pulse returns, but nocturnally subdued.

The piece is meant to echo, in its way, the thrill of community music-making, the joy of sharing a pulse, and the various connections both rhythmic and interpersonal I made at BUTI two decades ago.


Preview the score