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Lecture Demonstrations

Bringing the Page to Stage: A pedagogical research presentation and demonstration of Gunther Schuller’s Marimbology – Jill Ball & Andrew Busch

The work Marimbology (1993) by Gunther Schuller was commissioned by The Percussive Arts Society, New Music Marimba, Nancy Zeltsman, William Moersch, and Robert Van Sice, with a grant from the Meet the Composer/Reader’s Digest Commissioning Program. In Schuller’s own words, “It is a virtuoso tour-de-force which stretches the technical boundaries of marimba playing to its farthest limits.” Nancy Zeltsman, to whom the work is dedicated, has it listed on her website in the beyond Advanced category of Extremely Difficult. Preparation of this piece requires advanced technical development and a mature understanding of contemporary composition. Our presentation will explore the intersection of pedagogy, creativity, biomechanics, sheer hard work and concentration to bring the black and white page of music to the stage. Marimbology requires the acquisition of new physical skills and mature interpretation to bring alive the musical directives of Gunther Schuller. We will be choosing excerpts from the work’s movements to demonstrate how certain passages required exploring both gross and fine motor co-ordination to fully realise the musical demands of the piece.

Ritual and communitas in John Luther Adams’ “The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies” – Dr. Jamie Drake

American composer John Luther Adams has cultivated a reputation for being an “environmental” composer: his works (either in name or in sonic content) often reference the natural world, and he has long advocated through both his music and writings for greater environmental protections. In his essay “Music as a form of prayer”, Adams writes that his connection to the earth feels “sacred”, and that it inspires him to “discover new musical spaces that invite us to lose ourselves”. I suggest that in fact Adams compositions often serve as a type ritual, and that “The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies” is a prime example. Building on ideas of Byrne, Schechner, Baronowski, and Small, I suggest that ritual (as it relates to music performance) involves entering a liminal state through a voluntary, proactive means, experiencing that state with other participants, and feeling a sense of transportation. I further explore how the score of Mathematics creates this feeling in the performer, how the performer might further communicate it, and how that connection may manifest itself in a feeling of community and/or “communitas” (the suspending of typical relationship hierarchies, as expounded by Victor and Edith Turner) between performer and audience.

Exploring Non-Isochronous Subdivisions on Brazilian Vibraphone Repertoire – Alex Fraga

Traditional percussion pedagogy stresses evenness between notes and consistent subdivision right from the first lesson. However, in the realm of popular music, this evenness can impair performance, making common rhythmic patterns sound too flat or uninteresting. In such patterns, the listener’s interest is not only on the sequence of low and high pitches but in what ethnomusicologists call non-isochronous rhythms. This term refers to rhythms that are not equally distributed over time, and it is a resource utilized in genres such as the Viennese waltz and African djembe playing. Uneven pulse subdivision is an essential component of Brazilian samba rhythms, in which according to Naveda (2011) and Haugen (2020) the third and fourth subdivisions of the quarter note tend to be slightly anticipated. While Haugen classifies samba’s sixteenth notes on pandeiro according to its length (medium-long, short, medium-short, and long), Naveda exposes how this concept varies depending on the instrument that is playing (low-pitched instruments tend to delay the downbeat of each pulse). To date, no research has explored the consistency of the subdivision while accompanying different recordings or even if the performer can repeat the same subdivision consistently. An analysis of different musicians playing the same piece reveals that beat subdivision varies depending on parameters such as tempo, performance venue, and instrumentation. In my presentation, I will first illustrate the diversity of subdivisions used in Brazilian music through an analysis of Jacob do Bandolim’s Assanhado (1966) recordings. Secondly, I will demonstrate how the analysis presented informs my own performance of the piece on the vibraphone. This demonstration posits that subdivision placement, an oft-overlooked feature in music education and performance, is a vital aspect of musicality.

The Hungarian Cimbalom: History, Performance, and Transculturation – Dr. Richard Moore

Two distinct musical traditions exist in the repertoire and performance practice of the Hungarian cimbalom is both a classical and a folk tradition. These approaches are intertwined and can be perceived in both the canon of certain Western Art Music composers, and the performance practices of contemporary classical cimbalists. It can be argued that the Hungarian cimbalom is a Western classical musical instrument in concept, but to this day holds close ties to a Roma and Jewish folk music tradition that in turn laid the groundwork for its very inception. In its relatively brief history, the Hungarian cimbalom sees few changes in design structure. A long-standing tradition of hammered dulcimer practice—especially by Roma and Jewish itinerant musicians throughout Europe—survived well into the twentieth century via a direct correlation to Schunda’s invention. The acclaimed first soloist of the cimbalom, Aladár Rácz, would introduce European audiences to classical works, mostly consisting of transcriptions from the baroque repertoire, performed on the cimbalom. Rácz would go on to premiere the works of Igor Stravinsky, namely the Ragtime for Eleven Instruments, Les Noces, and Stravinsky’s one-act opera, Renard. Today, film and television composers are largely responsible for the cimbalom’s “renaissance.” The cimbalom can be heard on many film scores in Hollywood blockbuster films (as well as the Foreign market), that date back as far as the 1930s. Television and gaming composers are drawn towards the use of the cimbalom for its unique timbre when scoring for it in historical or “period” set dramas, sci-fi features, and documentaries/games about war.

Expanding the vibraphone’s technique: A performers insight as a tool for researching technique – Stephen Solook

A performer’s intimate experience with an instrument offers a unique perspective. Their insight into the subtleties of the instrument can offer opportunity to expand technique, that is most effective when approached as a researcher/practitioner. My presentation will be on my process of expanding the vibraphone techniques of tone quality, my three and four bow technique, bending pitches up and down, non-white noise prepared vibraphone, and using external items as resonators or reflectors. I will use excerpts from my “Vibraphone Etudes for Expanding Technique”, published by Bachovich Music Publications, as well as newer compositions of mine to showcase the techniques in a musical context. I will also present an outline of my process for researching these techniques.