FIRST STEPS FOR SOLO MARIMBA
The more time I spend teaching four mallet marimba, the more I realize that there is a massive gap in contemporary marimba repertoire aimed at beginner level players. There certainly are a lot of beginning level pieces, but far fewer pieces are designed to help players who have just learned to hold four mallets transition from technique exercises to actual music. Far too often, I see beginner students become too ambitious in their choices in repertoire when they first start out. This often leads to the student becoming overly frustrated and more likely to give up altogether. I wrote the "First Steps" to help solve this specific problem.
Step Number 1: Walks in the Park
Walks in the Park is the first piece in the collection. For this piece, I wanted something that introduced the performer to double vertical strokes as well as single independent strokes since they are extremely common in most marimba repertoire. I also wanted something with a bit of motion, because a lot of pieces aimed towards beginners in mind tend to be a little stagnant. In my mind, the performance of this piece should evoke images of walking through a park during the magical time of year when the leaves are just starting to change colors.
Step Number 2: Pitch Black Night
Pitch Black Night is focused solely on developing a player's single independent strokes, particularly the inside mallets. When writing this piece, I was sitting in my room looking out of the window into a perfectly still dark night outside. Everything seemed slightly peaceful, but that peace could be broken at any moment. I want the audience to be transported into a darkness that swallows you whole. Needless to say, this is an opportunity to explore the darker side of the marimba's sound quality.
Step Number 3: Footprints in the Sand
Getting away from the doom and gloom of
Pitch Black Night, Footprints in the Sand is lighthearted and offers an opportunity to work on emphasized notes within a musical phrase. Since the marimba is a percussive instrument, it makes sense that our repertoire makes use of accents within a grouping of notes to create a melodic line. The melodies in this piece remind me of being at the beach as a child as well as the excitement and wonder that came with being in such a place.
Step Number 4: Through the Forest
Through the Forest gets its title from the idea that forests have some areas that are very densely populated with trees and some areas that are bare. This piece follows that same format. The beginning and ending of this piece is very sparse, while the middle is filled with moving sixteenth notes.
Step Number 5: Song
Song is by far the prettiest piece in the collection. This piece is meant to portray a melancholy song, perhaps sung by someone in a love story. There are moments of both happiness and sadness in this piece, with one emotion never quite taking over the other. This gives the performer an opportunity to put his or her own take on a piece of music. Is the person singing the song in love, or the victim of unrequited love? That is for the audience to decide after they hear the piece.
Step Number 6: Labyrinth
Labyrinth is the most technically and musically challenging piece in the collection. The piece introduces triple laterals, another common stroke type in contemporary marimba literature. This piece is my musical portrayal of a vast cave with lots of hidden pathways and caverns. In these sort of spaces, sound seems to bounce off the walls for a very long time as the echoes fade away. I tried to emulate that kind of soundscape here.