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Coyote

percussion quartet (2004)

Live Recording—12.14.04
Percussions de Barcelona


instrumentation

1 marimba (4-octave)
1 vibraphone
1 5-octave marimba (two players)


details

Duration: 16 minutes
Commissioned by: Percussions de Barcelona with support from The American Music Center Composer Assistance Program
Premiere: December 14, 2004
Centro de Cultura Contemporanea de Barcelona, Spain


program note

Coyote was commissioned by Percussions de Barcelona, with additional support from the American Music Center Composer Assistance Program. It is scored for 4 players—1 on marimba, 1 on vibraphone, and 2 on bass marimba. The piece consists of five movements bearing the following titles:

1. openings
2. filigree
3. intensities
4. ecstatic
5. tumble

The composition is constructed from a small amount of musical material built into several short intertwining rhythmic phrases. These phrases appear and reappear throughout the piece, always placed within a different framework. At times the music flashes through a series of these rhythmic blocks, while in other instances it travels through a slow building up or tearing down of a phrase.

While working on this music, I was reading Native American tales about the Coyote. Traditionally, the Coyote is characterized as a trickster or prankster and often appears when life becomes too serious. He creates elaborate plans to achieve some goal that often end up backfiring, or taking humorous unexpected turns. Some Coyote stories teach lessons about how to behave by showing what NOT to do! In a few stories, it is Coyote who places the stars in the sky and creates the constellations. I am particularly interested in this aspect of Coyote; his artistic side, painting animals and legends with stars. Sometimes he is instructed to do so, or sometimes he takes the task upon himself, but in either situation he completes the process by flinging his bag of leftover stars into the sky. It is the playfulness and creative spirit of Coyote; the surprising twists and turns that carefully made plans often take—that are expressed in the music.


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