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Joan Tower

Publisher: AMP

Strike Zones (2001)
Publisher
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Category
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Year Composed
2001
Duration
20 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)
Percussion
Programme Note
Joan Tower Strike Zones (2001)
Composer Note:

I hesitated to use the title Strike Zones because of its military and baseball connections, but there are no associations with these particular areas, and the title does seem an apt description of the music. It came to mind because most percussion instruments are struck, of course, and in this work I have given each instrument (for instance the vibraphone that opens the piece), or group of related instruments (such as the “family” of cymbals later on), a degree of time and space in order to explore the particular “DNA” or personality of the instruments involved.

In addition to the vibraphone, the instruments appearing in solo prominence are the marimba, glockenspiel, hi-hat, snare, and xylophone; the groups assigned similar prominence are the cymbals, a group of small instruments used softly (temple blocks, small woodblock, maracas), and the drums (used aggressively). Two of the cadenzas on the hi-hat and drums are given a small window of time for Miss Glennie to do her own improvisation on them. In addition to the soloist, two percussionists from the orchestra are positioned in the audience section of the hall, each with four crotales and mounted castanets, one equipped also with a portable glockenspiel, the other with sleigh bells; from their distanced perspective they engage in two sets of trios with Miss Glennie, who remains on stage.

The only percussionist on stage other than the soloist is the orchestra’s timpanist, who has several solos. The role of the orchestra itself in this work, which runs about 20 minutes, is to “amplify,” extend, and surround the various percussion instruments with a similar timbral “zone” of its own.

—Joan Tower



Performances
Date
Title
  • 17 MAY 2014
    American Music Festival
    EMPAC, Troy, NY
    Albany Symphony
    Evelyn Glennie, percussion; David Alan Miller, conductor
  • 19 APR 2013
    Williamstown, MA
    Berkshire Symphony
    Cassandra McClellan; Ronald Feldman, conductor
  • 31 JUL 2012
    Aspen, CO
    American Academy of Conducting at Aspen Orchestra
    Matthew Stiens, percussion
  • 21 NOV 2008
    Detroit, MI
    Detroit Symphony Orchestra
    Evelyn Glennie, percussion; Ludovic Morlot, conductor

    Other Dates:
    22,23 November - Detroit, MI
  • 27 SEP 2008
    Houston, TX
    University of Houston
    Franz Anton Krager, conductor
  • 19 OCT 2006
    Nashville, TN
    Nashville Symphony
    Anu Tali, conductor

    Other Dates:
    20 October - Nashville, TN

Reviews
But the real dazzler of the festival was Strike Zones, Joan Tower's 2001 percussion concerto, on the same program. Ms. Tower wrote the work for Evelyn Glennie and tailored it to her iron-clad technique, unerring musical instincts and magnetic personality. But the student percussionist here, Nicholas Tolle, was unfazed: moving down the line of instruments arrayed across the stage, he gave a full-throttle performance of this rhythmically complex, irresistibly visceral score. And the student orchestra matched him in vitality and color.
Allan Kozinn, The New York Times,8/4/2007
The writing in her percussion concerto, Strike Zones, was nearly always zooming forward with an inexorable beat.
Joseph Dalton, Albany Times-Union,8/3/2007
[Strike Zones] included many beautiful moments, for the orchestra with or without the soloist. Late in the piece, two percussionists on the highest balcony struck up a dialogue of tintinnabulations with Ms. Glennie, and these two continued into the conclusion. Rattling on castanets, they precipitated the end, and went on with undiminished intensity as it engulfed them. The whole story of the sorcerer's apprentice was here in a few frightening seconds.
Paul Griffiths, The New York Times,10/15/2001
Tower focuses the action on the instruments themselves, using them sequentially rather than simultaneously; she explores the sonic possibilities of each one, from the lightest touch to the heaviest battery....Each instrument takes on a distinctive character and the orchestra reflects and amplifies it. The vibraphone is used meditatively, with its pulsing vibrato set against a hazy background. The high-hat is given a flamboyant solo cadenza that recalls its jazz temperament. Strike Zones is an episodic piece, but the episodes have interest.
Philip Kennicott, Washington Post,10/5/2001
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