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Journey for Marimba & Piano

Marimba & Piano Duet
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Composer: Matthew Coley
Publisher: Innovative Percussion, Inc.
Instrumentation: marimba (5 octave) & piano

Program Notes:
"Journey for Solo Marimba, Piano, and Percussion Ensemble (Journey for Marimba and Piano, 2005) was composed in 2004 with several ideas in mind. First, I wanted a work of which a competent marimba player could be featured with ensembles of varietal skill levels. The work was written so that an advanced high school group could perform it with sufficient preparation time, and all college and professional groups could easily prepare the ensemble parts. The instrumentation is such that most high school groups would be able to gather everything needed, and the technical concerns in the work keep in mind that a high school will have a wide range of skill level in their players, so through the ensemble parts there should be enough variety to meet this range. Due to the instrumentation being chosen for practicality and limitations to the technical level of the ensemble parts the piano was added not only because it always gives a great color to the percussion ensemble, but to support the ensemble with lower voicing and sustain. Secondly, I had come up with two chord progressions that I wanted to base this work on. The first being the progression heard in the first four measures, and the second being the one that is spread throughout the B section. Thirdly, I was looking to expound on these non-traditional chord progressions in a more traditional way. Thinking closely in terms of a standard tertiary form (ABA) with typical concerto features, the work begins with an ensemble tutti that is then joined by the soloist (This does not occur in the duo version.), there is a short cadenza that leads back to the A section, and then the work closes with a rousing CODA. Both the chordal and structural elements of the piece were also important pedagogically, and I tried to keep them clear throughout the work for that reason. Finally, I am continually searching to write marimba music that would be more akin to what would be written for the piano. I try to steer clear of the main impetus of the marimba writing, i.e. chordal and thematic material, being sprung from idiomatic combinations. That is not to say that some of those idiomatic vignettes didn’t make their way into the work, they are just combated with polyphonic and “pianistic” type material. Journey is challenging for the soloist, but can provide an exciting voyage for all involved. "

Review:
"“Journey for Marimba and Piano” is an advanced duo for marimba (5.0 octave required) and piano. Coley writes that he was “searching to write marimba music that would be more akin to what would be written for the piano,” when generating ideas for this piece.

Scored in an A B A’ form, the A sections are characterized by flourishing, sixteenth-note arpeggiated figures alternating with octave figures in a 4:3 polyrhythm. In the A sections, the pianist provides the majority of the melodic and rhythmic variety, a change of roles for the traditional piano part. The B section is more subdued in character than its surroundings.

Here, the pianist provides long, cantabile phrases in dotted quarter notes while the marimbist plays an active hocket that requires the flow of an advanced performer. After a brief marimba cadenza, a da capo progresses to an aggressive ending that culminates in a unison, ascending sixteenth-note run.

“Journey for Marimba and Piano” is a virtuosic composition for an advanced marimbist. While the marimba part is difficult, the writing is idiomatic and the combination of voices creates an inviting appeal to marimbists and pianists alike." - Eric Willie, Percussive Notes September 2010

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