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Ennead (2019) 9'
percussion ensemble • nine players

Ennead (en·​ne·​ad | \ ˈe-nē-ˌad)

a group of nine persons, things or dieties

I set out to compose a piece that would feature the often minimized percussion instrument, chimes. The chimes (or tubular bells) first appeared in classical music settings dating back to late 19th century France. Over the centuries the instrument has primarily been called upon to provide musical effect often replicating the sound of church bells or clock bells. For some time now I’ve been thinking about what it would be like to “deconstruct” a typical set of chimes, ordinarily played by one musician, and create a work for chimes ensemble. A standard set of chimes is configured in a rack with 18 individual notes set up like a keyboard instrument. In separating and dividing up a set of chimes unexpected effects are now possible.

Written for nine percussionists, each player is assigned two chimes a major 6th apart. The performers create various timbres utilizing a palette of implements such as chime hammers, yarn/cord mallets and triangle beaters. Additionally, the piece employs hand dampening techniques found in Indonesian gamelan orchestras. Pitch bending is also possible by striking the chimes and immediately submerging it in small vessels of water. A personal note of gratitude to Susan Powell and the OSU Percussion Ensemble for allowing me the opportunity to experiment with and workshop this first ever (as far as I know) “chimes ensemble” concept. The finale of the work, if for no other reason, is worth the endeavor!

00:00 / 08:35

Monkey Mind (2016) 8'30"
percussion quintet

From an instrumentation perspective, I sought to create a vehicle in which various instruments themselves are intertwined and connected both physically as well as aurally. Two marimbas serve not only as the melodic backbone of the work but also as surfaces on which to directly place instruments. Influenced by iconic American composer John Cage’s prepared piano works, Monkey Mind infuses prepared glockenspiel bars affixed with binder clips and rubber bands, which are placed between accidental notes on the marimba. Rattles are sometimes placed on the marimba bars creating a buzzing effect reminiscent of traditional Guatemalan and West African marimbas. Other small instruments such as synthetic blocks, tamborims, guiro, castanets, and a log drum are integrated into the overall set-up, and when combined together with the marimbas create a ‘hybrid’ or multi-percussion soundscape. A pseudo-drum set weaves together non-Western instruments alongside more familiar drum set components. This globally inspired drum set highlights instruments such as the West African djun-djun and donno (talking drum), Chinese tom-tom, almglocken (Swiss cowbells), riq (Egyptian tambourine), tamborim (Brazilian frame drum) and kanjira (South Indian frame drum). Improvisation plays a key role in Monkey Mind whereby the performers are offered several opportunities throughout the work to explore and venture away from the written material. Central to this work is the use of pitch bending, or portamento. The raising or lowering of pitch overall occurs in a number of ways, both rhythmically and harmonically. Gliding pod rattles across the keyboard instruments, bowing of marimba bars, striking then dipping crotale notes into bowls of water are just a few techniques utilized to create this portamento effect. The concept of a monkey mind is derived from the Buddhist principle that describes a state of restlessness, capriciousness, and lack of control in one's thoughts.

Monkey Mind
00:00 / 08:38

Tasmanian Devils (2016) 6'
percussion quintet

A devil chaser is a Southern Asian percussion instrument made from bamboo. The instrument vibrates when struck against the hand, creating a rich buzzing sound originally used by early villagers to ward off the devil and evil spirits. This instrument is featured prominently in Tasmanian Devils, which was composed especially for the Sympatico Percussion Group. Scored for five percussionists on three marimbas, each player utilizes one marimba mallet and one devil chaser throughout the work. The devil chaser, or buzz stick, passages along with the marimba material are highly intertwined. These hocketing passages create dense textures punctuated by the pseudo-melodic material created by the devil chaser.

The size of a small dog, Tasmanian devils are the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world. This characteristically loud and endangered species is native to Tasmania, a small island located off the southern coast of Australia. Conservation efforts continue to this day to preserve the existence of this ferocious but important creature in the Tasmanian ecosystem.

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