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A Garden of Weeds

percussion ensemble
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Composer: Clif Walker
Publisher: Innovative Percussion
Instrumentation: Bells, xylophone, 2 vibraphones, 2 - five octave marimbas, chimes, timpani, bass drum, 3 large concert toms, gong, tang tangs, triangle, vibra slap, woodblocks, shakers, suspended cymbal, swish cymbal, ride cymbal, ice bell, lion's roar

Program Notes:
Inspired by a quote from Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale Thumbelina: "The witch smiled and returned to her garden of weeds", the piece is an attempt to reconcile and contrast the imagery of the pleasant and not so pleasant and explore the challenge of something "ugly" being framed as beautiful.

The piece is a programmatic attempt at a "reverse chronological soundtrack" as to what the Garden of Eden may look like if stumbled across today: a garden of weeds.

Starting with the listener in the present, we find the neglected and forgotten ruins, with brief moments that hint to its former state (ms.1 -33) and then slip backwards (ms. 34- 38). We visit a garden beginning to be overran with thorns, weeds, occasional serpents (ms. 39-63) and then travel all the way back to the pre-Fall paradise (ms. 64-97). The piece then moves forward with the temptation, (ms.98 - 111) his and her apple bites (ms.112-113), unsuccessful hiding and the inevitable consequence (ms. 119 - 127) followed by the famous eviction with the gates slamming shut on the resolve of the final impact.

Review:
"Those who enjoyed Clif Walker’s “Promise Music” are in for a treat with his latest percussion ensemble composition. My university percussion ensemble premiered this piece last year and thoroughly enjoyed rehearsing and performing this challenging work. The composer states, “The piece is a programmatic attempt at a ‘reverse chronological soundtrack’ as to what the Garden of Eden may look like if stumbled across today: a garden of weeds.”

The listener starts in the present with eerie sounds (including bowed vibes) that evoke the image of neglected and perhaps forgotten ruins. Brief moments hinting at its former state are interjected while always slipping back to the current state of being overrun with thorns, weeds, and serpents. The composer then takes us back to pre-fall paradise and conveys the story of temptation, eating the apple, and the inevitable consequences, concluding with a loud final impact depicting the slamming of the gates after the famous eviction.

From a technical standpoint, the xylophone and top two marimba parts are challenging to execute with sextuplets and thirty-second note singles within lines of sixteenth notes at a fast tempo. The orchestration presents contrast between woods, metals, and skins, but also explores combinations of both, giving each section unique timbres that are interesting to perform and listen to. The instrumentation requiring two 5.0-octave marimbas and assorted specialty percussion, as well as the technical requirements for several of the players, make this an excellent contribution to tonal symphonic percussion ensemble literature." — Jeff Moore Percussive Notes, July 2013

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