When I first went to see Evelyn Glennie perform, the thing that struck me most was not her marimba playing - which is spectacular - but that she suddenly announced she was a 'rock chick' at heart, sat behind the drum kit and went wild.
I has always wanted to write as piece for drum kit and orchestra and decided to base the second party of this concerto, (Manhattan Rave), on contemporary rave music using drum kit and the orchestra as a 'sampled' orchestra behind. My original idea was to use real Stravinsky samples (i.e. three second bursts of the Rite of Spring etc), but as the piece developed this became unnecessary.
The chords in the orchestra start with triplet open tirads across the beat and as the piece develops the harmonies and rhythms become more and more aggressive and complex until complete anarchy takes over. After a huge climax this is a short coda section for vibaphone and flugelhorn reminiscent of Miles Davies and Gray Burton, bringing back echoes of the theme from 'African Sunrise'.
The first section, 'African sunrise', is all played on the marimba and uses many different timbres of the instrument from the low almost choral opening (accompanied by thunder and rain machines) to the virtuoso middle section (on the top part of the marimba) to the lyrical final section (played in octaves on the middle of the instrument).
One thing I did want to avoid in this concerto was too much running around from the soloists - and to concentrate on one or two instruments and explore their potential as fully as I could. The soloist only plays marimba, and vibraphone during the piece and the only running about involved is to the bar afterwards.
© Dave Heath
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