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Apparitions of Malacandra

percussion sextet
Composer: Joshua Smith
Publisher: Innovative Percussion, Inc.
Instrumentation: high conga, low conga, concert bass drum, brake drum, bongos, 2-tone log drum, 4-suspended cymbals, 4-triangles, snare drum, medium tom, tam tam, vibraslap, low tom, high tom, claves

Program Notes:
Inspiration for this work came from the space trilogy written by the English writer C. S. Lewis. In these novels, one of the human characters, named Ransom, makes contact with both the presiding angels of Venus and of Mars, respectively named Perelandra and Malacandra. During this meeting, the angels attempt three times to make themselves visible to Ransom. During these apparitions, Ransom witnesses a broad spectrum of images, which I have attempted to represent musically in this work.

"In this programmatic work for percussion sextet, each player has a small multiple-percussion setup of commonly found instruments including congas, log drums, toms, bass drum, cymbals and various accessory instruments. According to the composer, the inspiration and subsequent program for the work came from the Space Trilogy of C.S. Lewis. In Lewis’s work, one of the human characters makes contact with the presiding angels of Venus and Mars, Perelandra and Malacandra. During the angels’ three attempts at visualizing themselves for the human, he witnesses a spectacle of images. Each of the three “apparitions” is treated musically by changing textures or rhythms associated with the evocative images. The composer explores various timbres of the instruments by asking players to mute drums with their hands or play on the rims, bow cymbals (creating higher and higher overtones by placing a finger at the edge of the cymbal), and use various implements on all instruments (brushes, fingers, ends of mallets, etc.). At times, instruments are used in consorts that create interesting textures. For instance, the third “apparition” consists of four triangles playing intricate sixteenth syncopated rhythms with various combinations of open/muted tones.

The rhythmic language of “Apparitions of Malacandra” is mostly simple, generally sixteenth- and eighth-note based rhythms that would be challenging, but accessible to a high school percussion ensemble. The strength of the work lies in the composer’s creative use of the instruments." — John Lane Percussive Notes, August/September 2009

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Joshua  Smith Joshua Smith
Bethel College
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