Saturday, March 30, 2013

Michael Gordon: Timber

"Gordon felt an urge to 'clear my mind of pitches and orchestration,' as he said in a program note. So he set about writing an hour-long piece for percussion, a study in pure rhythm. Unsure of what instruments to use, he brought his sketches to the Dutch ensemble Slagwerk Den Haag. After a failed attempt with tomtoms, a member of the group fetched a simantra -- a long, thin slab of wood that, in Eastern Orthodoxy, is used to summon worshipers. ... Gordon decided that six percussionists would hammer on simantras of varying lengths and timbres. His punning title was 'Timber.' ... As repetitive patterns multiply and accelerate, swelling and fading in rapid succession, six-note melodies flicker out of nowhere. Early on, there's an electrifying passage in which Gordon takes an already complex polyrhythmic scheme -- twenty-four pulses in a bar against twenty-one against eighteen against sixteen against fifteen against twelve -- and doubles the quantities, so that a blizzard of beats ensues. The piece resembles 'Drumming,' [Steve] Reich's percussion tour de force of the early seventies, yet it's more jagged and eruptive" (Alex Ross, "Musical Events," New Yorker, 1/7/13).

View catalog record here!


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