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Michael Gordon

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Timber (2009)
Work Notes
Certain restrictions apply.
Publisher
Red Poppy
Category
Works for 2-6 Players
Year Composed
2009
Duration
1 Hours 0 Minutes
Programme Note
Michael Gordon Timber (2009)
Slagwerk Den Haag

First performance:
June 16 2011
Slagwerkgroep den Haag
The Hague, Korzo Theater, Netherlands

Note:
Timber is an evening-length tour de force scored for six graduated wooden Simantras — percussion instruments devised by French composer Iannis Xenakis. The work brings the physicality, endurance and technique of percussion performance to a new level. Here, Gordon shapes the music in both polyrhythmic and dynamic waves of textures — often each players' hands are in separate rhythmic 'worlds,' each traversing a different dynamic contour from loud to soft to loud, similar in some respects to his solo for percussion, XY.

Much of Gordon's music demonstrates a deep exploration into the extreme possibilities and stunning nature of rhythm, as well as the enriching, yet disturbing, multi-dimensionality of polyrhythmic layers — what has been termed in his music to be "glorious confusion." Timber takes these elements and explores the extreme possibilities of rhythm and texture to a beautifully intense degree. The new evening-length work is a unique and exciting addition to the world of percussion.

Timber was commissioned by the dance company Club Guy and Roni, Slagwerkgroep den Haag and Mantra Percussion.

Performances
Date
Title
  • 15 OCT 2014
    Denmark
    NorthArc Percussion Group
    Ane Marthe Holen, Sigrun Rogstad Gomnaes, Daniel Paulsen, Henrik Larsen,;Pontus Jennifer Torrence

    Other Dates:
    16-18 October - Denmark
  • 07 OCT 2014
    Los Angeles, CA
    LA Phil New Music Group
    So Percussion
  • 16 APR 2014
    Netherlands
    Het Muziektheater Amsterdam
    Juanjo Arques; Matthew Rowe, conductor

    Other Dates:
    17-30 April; 1-7 May - Netherlands
  • 26 FEB 2014
    Musik-Akademie (gr. Saal), Basel, Switzerland
    Ensemble der Musikakademie Basel
    Christian Dierstein, conductor
  • 14 NOV 2013
    San Francisco, CA
    San Francisco Contemporary Music Players
  • 19 OCT 2013
    Columbia, SC
    Nief-Norf
  • 30 APR 2013
    TimberRemixed
    Brooklyn, New York
    Mantra percussion
  • 07 APR 2013
    Music Biennale Zagreb
    Zagreb, Croatia
    Slagwerkgroep Den Haag
  • 15 MAR 2013
    Timber Country Premiere
    maerzmusik 2013
    Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Berlin, Germany
    Slagwerkgroep Den Haag
  • 09 MAR 2013
    Vancouver New Music
    Vancouver, Canada
    Mantra percussion
  • 08 MAR 2013
    Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Slagwerkgroep Den Haag

    Other Dates:
    21 March - den Toonzaal, DenBosch, The Netherlands
    16 May - Langezwaag, The Netherlands
  • 13 DEC 2012
    Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York
    Mantra percussion

    Other Dates:
    14,15 December - Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York
  • 04 NOV 2012
    Nashville, TN
    Blair School of Music
    Michael Holland, conductor
  • 21 OCT 2011
    Timber Country Premiere
    X Avant New Music Festival/The Music Gallery Toronto, ON Canada
    Mantra Percussion
  • 14 OCT 2011
    Timber US Premiere
    Bowling Green State Univ. Bowling Green, OH
    Mantra Percussion
  • 16 JUN 2011
    Timber World Premiere
    The Hague, Korzo Theater
    Slagwerkgroep Den Haag

Reviews
Timber is one of the few compositions by a classical composer to achieve (rather than merely mimic) a felt sense of unmediated ritual. Although preoccupied by the notion of ritual, Xenakis’s insistence on filtering and re-focusing it through the prism of contemporary rationalism always ran the risk of sounding like parenthetical commentary, rather than becoming the thing itself. While Gordon’s choice of the simantra – an instrument devised by Xenakis resembling a block of 4×2 wood and struck by a mallet – was a deliberate reaction against a seven-year period of writing orchestral music that stretched from Decasia in 2001 to Dystopia six years later, what results is no mere exercise in palette-cleansing. Nor is it an exercise, per se, in resolving the considerable technical challenges of writing for an instrument whose chief assets are its relatively short sustaining of the struck note, and an astonishingly rich spectrum of overtones. While technical issues are certainly addressed – and in a dazzling multiplicity of workings out – Timber, across its five incrementally hypnotic movements accrues to itself both the quiet, concentrated, intensity of ritual and its recourse to often raucous or rapturous expression. Initially, each of the six simantras is played by one musician – here, collectively, the Dutch ensemble Slagwerk Den Haag, for whom the piece was written – with the first three parts performed with the sextet in a circle. The remaining two parts require a change of physical positions that allows the musicians to play two simantras each, opening up all manner of extraordinary polyrhythmic possibilities. It is the more discernibly simpler rhythmic structures of the first three parts – virtually amoebic-like compared to the complex biotic structures found in the concluding parts – that inculcate the mantra-like tropes of a ritual forming itself. Intense as the experience of listening to it is, one can only imagine what it must be like to play: the overall effect being to find yourself enveloped in a series of overlapping latticeworks that are in a state of constant flux. But the relative simplicity of the one-to-a-part opening movements does not preclude complexity. There’s an astonishing section in Part 3 in which machine-gun rapid notes are sent spinning around the six soloists (who play with utter concentration and expressiveness) like a ball spinning in a roulette wheel. It’s here you begin to realize the immense achievement of Timber, a piece that seems altogether organic and self-creating. That impression is given greater force in the two concluding parts, where Gordon makes surprisingly rich and inventive use of what he describes as the “stark palette” of the simantra. He is blessed by the precision playing of Slagwerk Den Haag, who give virtuosic shape and substance to the clattering ebb and flow of the music in impeccable performances throughout. Despite beginning with the slenderest of resources, in Timber Michael Gordon has created something with an incantatory power that is, in the truest sense of the word, mesmeric. The spacious recording, in the Dutch radio studios in Hilversum, is excellent, especially when heard on headphones.
Michael Quinn, The Classical Review,2/13/2012
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