Route 666 (2004)

for marimba solo and percussion quartet


2004. This work was commissioned by my friend and colleague Leigh Howard Stevens. The idea for the music initially came from some music that I heard on the radio that captivated my attention. It consisted of simple harmonies in simple rhythms, over which there were faster and rhythmically active melodic ideas. I used that textural situation to start the ideas for this composition. Three minor triads each a minor third apart form the basic harmonic and melodic language of Route 666. A compositional technique which is new to me, and is used prominently in this composition, is what I call “tiled retrograde”. A series of measures is put in retrograde fashion, however this retrograde process each individual measure is kept in its original order. It is only the bars themselves that are put in retrograde fashion, as if one was picking up a moving a set of tiles in “leapfrog” fashion. One of the most famous and historical roads in America is Route 66. There is a certain mystique associated with that road, which I have tried to capture in the music of this piece. I have added an extra “6” to 66, making “666”. This number sometimes signifies the devil, and is appropriate to this piece, which is devilishly difficult! I have also used a sonic concept that was introduced to me by Robin Engleman of the Nexus percussion group. That group has collected thousands of wonderful percussion instruments from around the world, with many unique and individual sonic properties. Robin commented to me once that he felt composers who wrote music for Nexus should let the individual members of the group choose their own instruments, from amongst their own individual and collective collections of instruments. I felt the same way when I learned that Amadinda was to premiere Route 666. Who am I to tell them what instruments to choose to play my composition? They have also collected instruments from around the world, with many totally unique and individual sonic properties. I determined the general category of instruments for each part, but have let each member of Amadinda determine what actual instruments to play. I am excited by the fact that as a result I will not have any idea what my music will sound like until the very first rehearsal! Some guidelines are given, as follow: Percussion 1 - The sound I have in mind is that of an LP Cabassa. It may be more practical, however, to play this part with sticks, in which case a different instrument would be chosen, possibly small closed hi-hat, or Engleheart ribbon crashers. Try to find some instrument that approximates the sound of a cabassa, yet produces enough volume to balance with the overall volume level of the other four players. If the part is played with sticks, then choose some kind of wooden percussion instrument for m.s 36-40. Otherwise remain on the same instrument throughout. Percussion 2 - Instrumentation (notation key provided with the part): -three low drums (preferable double headed, and sounding like low tom toms. traditional concert ton toms are acceptable as a last resort) -two medium drums (conga drums are the right kind of sounds) -two high drums (timbale and bongo are the right kind of sounds) -two wooden instruments (wood block or temple blocks are the right kind of sounds. Generally higher, not lower, such as logdrums) -four cymbals or metal instruments (one china, small and large crash - they must not have along sustain, but rather get out of the way quickly - and one ride cymbal (flat top ride is the right kind of sound). Other metal instruments might be chosen. Keyboard 1 & 2 - It is possible to select many different mallet instruments. The written pitches will sometimes dictate which mallet instruments to play. Other times there may be a choice. Piano is also possible, as is synthesizer, malletkat, etc. Solo Marimba - A five octave marimba is required. If necessary, don’t be afraid to amplify the marimba for balance reasons.  Published by Keyboard Percussion Publications (