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David Lang

Publisher: G. Schirmer

the anvil chorus (1991)
Red Poppy
Solo Works (excluding keyboard)
Year Composed
7 Minutes
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Programme Note
David Lang the anvil chorus (1991)
Composer Note:

When percussionist Steve Schick asked me to write him a solo piece I wanted to do something that showed percussion's connection to real life activities. I didn't want to work with the pretty instruments, like vibraphone or chimes, that were invented so that percussionists could play politely with other musicians. I wanted to write a piece that reminded the listener of the glorious history of percussion — that since the beginning of time people have always banged on things as a result of their professions.

Then I remembered that I had once read a book on the history of blacksmithing, and I had become particularly interested in how medieval blacksmiths used song to help them in their work. Although small jobs could be accomplished by individual smiths, larger jobs created an interesting problem — how could several smiths hammer on a single piece of metal without getting in each other's way? Smiths solved this problem by singing songs together which would control the beat patterns of the hammers. There was a different song for each number of participating blacksmiths — obviously, a song that allowed for three hammer strokes would be confusing and even dangerous if used to coordinate four smiths.

My solo percussion piece The Anvil Chorus also uses a "melody" to control various beat patterns. The "melody" is played on resonant junk metals of the percussionist's choosing, and, by adding certain rules, it triggers an odd accompaniment of non-resonant junk metals, played both by hand and by foot.

— David Lang

  • Cantaloupe Music:
  • Soloist(s)
    James Larter, percussion
  • 13 MAY 2017
    Mahalia Jackson Theater, New Orleans, LA
    Jessica Lang Dance

    Other Dates:
    20 May - Cullen Theater Wortham Center, Houston, TX
  • 14 JUL 2016
    Rheingau Musik Festival
    Frankfurt Am Main, Germany
    Simone Rubino
  • 09 APR 2016
    Chicago, IL, United States
    Visceral Dance
  • 10 NOV 2014
    Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam
    Sax & Stix

    Other Dates:
    12 November - Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 16 APR 2014
    Het Muziektheater Amsterdam
    Juanjo Arques; Matthew Rowe, conductor

    Other Dates:
    18,17,19,21-30 April; 1-7 May - Netherlands
  • 01 FEB 2014
    Miller Theatre, Columbia University, New York, NY
    Steven Schick, percussion
  • 02 APR 2009
    The Louise T Blouin Institute, London
    Joby Burgess, percussion

    Other Dates:
    3 April - The Artix, Bromsgrove
  • 15 MAR 2008
    The Bluecoat, Liverpool
    new noise (Janey Miller, oboe; Joby Burgess, percussion)

    Other Dates:
    17 April - King's Hall, Newcastle University, Newcastle
  • 13 FEB 2007
    Firth Hall, Sheffield University, Sheffield, Yorkshire
    Joby Burgess
  • 06 FEB 2007
    Reid Concert Hall, Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, Scotland
    Joby Burgess
  • 26 MAY 2006
    Bergen International Festival
    Håkonshallen, Bergen
    Håkon M¢rch Stene, percussion

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