In the Veracruz region of Mexico, lie some mysterious archaeological ruins: El Tajin, meaning, "thunder" in the Toltec language. This large ancient complex is believed to have once been a ceremonial and commerce center; its construction has been attributed to a tribe related to the Mayas. Still, there are many questions about its inhabitants and the many buildings that today remain smothered in dense jungle vegetation. El Tajin is one of Mexico's most puzzling archaeological sites, as many of the structures seem to refer to the measurement of time. The Pyramid of Niches, with its 365 alcoves, suggests to archaeologists that this pyramid was used as some kind of calendar with each niche representing the days of the solar year. Game courts feature heavily here with over a dozen having been discovered already. It is clear that human sacrifices were made at El Tajin and that these rituals were connected with the games played here.
Ceci N'est Pas Un Jouet (This is Not a Toy)
Two small crank-operated music boxes are needed to perform Ceci N'est Pas Un Jouet. These instruments are widely available on the Internet.
The music boxes should be tuned to two contrasting keys. The piece can be performed as a duo or a solo (one person playing both parts). The music boxes project best after having been mounted on a piece of wood. In addition, it is best to amplify the music boxes with either a standard microphone or contact microphone (affixed to the bottom of the wooden board).
The title of the work was taken from a marking that was printed on the bottom of one of the boxes used to compose and first perform the piece. This music box was made in Paris and on the bottom it read, Ceci N’est Pas Un Jouet, which translates as “This is Not a Toy.”
Danza features the timpani and multiple percussion in a single console. The sounds form a percussion melody in a dancing rhythm. The name says it all, it is a dance for both performer and listener.
This work is filled with the combination of pairs of dissimilar elements. In the isorhythm, an unchanging rhythm is paired with a melody that is in constant motion. The isorhythm, an element that is anchored to its process is combined with a rhapsodic, highly virtuosic percussion and later vibraphone part that plays in-between and sometimes on top of the isorhythm. The two major sections of the piece are a pairing of disparate elements: fast and energetic combined with slow and reflective. Each pairing has some type of musical adhesive that keeps the elements from coming apart.
Criminal Intentions is the story of a late-night jewelry thief who gets caught. The first section represents the criminal conceiving of the plan to enter the store, grab the jewelry, and drive away without getting caught. Next, the second section is the act of breaking in and stealing from the store. And, just like the criminal had thought, it goes off almost as smoothly as he had imagined. As the thief is about to escape, he is surrounded by police, which forces the criminal to contemplate how he can escape while he sneaks around the store looking for any escape routes. This is depicted in the third section with the right hand playing several ostinati (repeated patterns) while the left hand performs several winding melodies on the bells and multi- percussion instruments. Finally, the last section depicts police rushing into the store, capturing the thief, and slapping the cuffs on him.
High Voltage was inspired by the raw, untamed energy of downed power lines. The ominous sight of downed power lines can invoke a sense of shear terror due to their ability to kill a person upon contact. This piece is an abstract representation of a person watching downed power lines an unsafe distance.
The process of learning how to play multi-percussion inspired me to compose Relentless. Many percussionists first starting to play multi-percussion solos find them to be completely the other core areas of percussion (snare drum, timpani, mallets, etc.). This can lead to frustration, which is also exacerbated by the instrumentation and set-up demands many multi-percussion compositions require. In addition, some multi-percussion solos have vague instructions provided by the composer, which can be a source of annoyance. However, advanced percussionists learn to enjoy vague, and sometimes impossible, multi-percussion pieces as these types of compositions provide performers with questions that require creative answers. Relentless was composed as an “inspirational anthem” to give intermediate-level multi-percussionists the experience and motivation to move forward and continue their multi-percussion education. Relentless is ideal for auditions into college as it only requires a small instrumentation that can be found at every percussion program.
I am always fascinated by Bach’s use of illusion and tension-his ability to create harmonies with just a single line. Written for a recital of music based on Bach’s influence, I wrote my solo piece for three different types of guiros. Since I wasn’t dealing with real pitches, I created an “implied imaginary melody”, heard in the opening bars as if it was the statement of a fugue. My use of the title, literally meaning “as above”, is this melody and all the continuous references back to it throughout the piece. The material develops first by the use of a rhythmic counterpoint of the original subject, which is not only based on the imaginary “melody”, but is also taken from the influence of each individual guiro sound. In particular, the playing techniques lend itself naturally to the timbre of each instrument, eventually unfolding as part of my “pitch structure”. Rather than a set of variations, the “melody” and “countermelodies” are developed through the alternation between sections. This constant alternation creates tension and new sonorities to a basically monophonic texture. The specific lengths of each section are left up to the performer, similar to the dynamics in Bach’s music. Carefully balanced with the improvisatory manner of the piece, this creates an illusion of interpretive freedom with a real sense of virtuosity.
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Word of Mouth (Joseph Pereira, percussion solo)"As the title suggests, the material of this highly virtuosic piece goes through constant variations. The actual sounds of the drums and the natural techniques that occur from the mallets used (stick-bounces, mallet sliding on head-bends pitch, hands dropped down, dead stroke, etc.) really dictates the direction of the piece. This is ultimately all dependent on the player's unique hands but conformed to the limitations of each beater used. While every note is written out, there is a certain freedom allowed for each player, which makes this in some ways, an autonomous composition."
Word of Mouth sample (Click Arrow to Play)
Word of Mouth II (2014) was written for Colin Currie and his Wigmore Hall recital in April 2014. It is a condensed version of the original piece Word of Mouth with elements of my "Concerto for Percussion and Chamber Orchestra", also written for Colin and premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2012. For me the challenge of writing a piece for solo drums, is that it must be based on material that is constantly being explored and developed. The challenge for the performer is that he/she must be able show their virtuosity and really make it a personal experience. This middle ground between the two was my starting point. The instruments specified are 4 dry drums, 4 resonant drums and I suggest 4 bongos with real skins and 4 toms with plastic heads. I wanted the actual sounds of the drums and the natural techniques that occur from the mallets used (stick-bounces, mallet sliding on head-bends pitch, hands dropped down-dead stroke, etc.) to really dictate the movement of the piece. Rather than the highly rhythmical"tour 'de force", often associated with drum solos, I wanted to explore the technical nuances of these specific instruments and all it's various possibilities. This is ultimately dependent on the player’s unique hands and conformed to the limitations of each beater used. While every note is written out, there is a certain freedom allowed for each player, which makes this in some ways, an autonomous composition. The title suggests the opening material of which the piece is based on. Starting with the simple rhythm, it goes through many variations similar to the act of speaking or story telling.
As soon as words leave your mouth they are immediately separated from the past. And by the time your story gets around the room, it does not correspond to anything you might have originally said. This filtering or “forgetting” erases certain thoughts and the “memory” of what we can recall often transforms.
This piece employs French rudimental concepts in a multi-drum setup. The recurring theme is based on the snare drum motif in Edgard Varèse’s “Ionisation.”
28” concert Bass Drum (played with a soft pedal)
Meinl foot cabasa (available from Steve Weiss Music)
Mounted foot tambourine (played with a pedal)
High pitched tamborin (small Brazillian drum, not a tambourine) Snare drum
16” floor tom (tuned moderately low to emulate a lion’s roar)
Murakami's Empty Chair is a multiple percussion solo written to pay homage to the great Japanese author, Haruki Murakami. At the time I was composing this, I was simply mystified by how Haruki Murakami could write such challenging literature that is so accessible to the common reader but still wonderfully strong in form and content - like an absurd mix of Kafka, Vonnegut and the $2.99 romance novels found in grocery store lines. I have never found such an intriguing balance of the logos/pathos dynamic as that which is found in Murakami's work.
Murakami's world of characters is so bizarre and includes telepathic prostitutes, raining fish, talking animals that like listening to Dexter Gordon, the actual characters of Johnny Walker as a crazed killer and Colonel Sanders as a hard-selling pimp, callous violence reminiscent of Eli Roth, and quirky dialogue evocative of Quentin Terantino for starters. His stories are far from a PG rating, but always build to a poignant statement on man's lust for power, the objectification of women, Japan's hypercapitalism, or the like, and reveals only in hindsight that the graphic sex, violence, and subtle power plays between characters is actually a caricature of the state of media and the world as a whole - a means to an end. The novels I've read by Haruki Murakami always deliver a strong message to me, but not without burning images into my psyche like a cold fingertip on the forehead.
A commission for Mr. Brandon Estes during the fall of 2005, Rip reflects my concern regarding a passing statement by a colleague;”Music is a temporal art. That is, music is an art form subject to experience only during a given amount of time”. It is my contention that music is only subject to time as much as an ice sculpture is subject to time before melting – both passing experiences, subject to an environment that is changing at any given moment. In fact, sculpture as a whole, then, is subject to time – as is painting, pottery, architecture and the sort. Just ask anyone whose charge it is to preserve our culture’s decaying greats. So, even though people generally consider music to be intangible, I have come to accept that my experience with music is just as “tangible” as an experience with any other art form. Rip is my best representation of how music sometimes speaks to me this way – a compounding flurry of activity found in the catalyst of a most simple window of time. For me, it is almost like someone rips the time/space continuum and lets me have a peek.
As of last week, 1,800 Americans have died in Iraq since the U.S. declared war in the area. I have wondered from time to time what it would be like to die. The closest I have come has been a car crash or a couple of construction accidents. At the time, it seemed like an eternity before I could move on, out of danger, but in retrospect it was merely a matter of seconds – maybe even split seconds. I suspect that this is what it is like to die. It must seem like an eternity while you look your life in the eyes. Rip: 1800 and Counting is a tribute to the fallen soldiers in Iraq, with a musical goal of presenting this fore mentioned dichotomy - a compounding flurry of activity found in the catalyst of a most simple window of time. –An almost holy time and place, ripped into existence, much like the fate of the 1800. There are one thousand and eight hundred notes in this solo.
Heat Lightning is an exciting, virtuosic showpiece for multiple percussion. It was originally written as a feature for Edward Brunicardi, the percussionist for EM/R Dance Company, to play between dances at their concerts. Eight graduated toms, two cymbals and a ship's bell are all that's needed to leave audiences gasping.