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Doom Seeker

percussion ensemble
Composer: Raymond Helble
Publisher: Innovative Percussion
Instrumentation: Xylophone, Marimba 4.3, Marimba 4.0, Marimba 4.5, Wind Chimes, Cricket, Claves, Cajon, 2 High Tom-toms, 2 Low Tom-toms, High Tubano, 2 Medium Tubanos, 2 Low Tubanos, Snare Drum, Wood Block, Timpani, Bass Drum

Program Notes:
Doom Seeker, Doom Chaser, and Doom Catcher is a series of works, any one of which can be performed individually, or all of them as a three movement suite.

The pieces were commissioned by my wife, Carol Helble, for her students while she was president of Missouri PAS. She wanted pieces that were difficult enough to use as technique building tools, but also entertaining and somewhat programmatic to use as musicality teaching tools of a kind she could not find.

Each piece has its own personality. “Seeker” is atmospheric and subtly creepy, emphasizing wood and membranophone sounds. “Chaser” is intense and more aggressive than seeker, and uses a heavier metallic sound presence. “Catcher” is all high drama, requiring the most virtuosity of the three pieces, and unites the different sonorities of the previous movements.

One might imagine the program as follows: in “Seeker” we are lost in a dark wood, or rain forest, sensing some danger, but not yet confronting it. In “Chaser” we either run from or toward a threat, sensing only the doom's terrible outlines. In “Catcher” we confront and battle the terror before us. Only the listener can know whether we win or lose.

Players and audiences enjoy these pieces immensely, and a good performance of any of them always seems to elicit a strong positive response from listeners.  The Doom Series is both reasonably challenging while remaining fun and engaging for all.

"This ensemble relies on a large contingent of non-pitched percussion instruments, with four keyboard parts and timpani serving as the only pitched instruments. Each of these keyboard parts is playable with two mallets, and despite a fair amount of accidentals, would be very readable by early intermediate-level players. Presumably, the xylophone and marimba parts could be doubled if extra players are available, but given the relative simplistic and sparse writing for keyboards, it seems clear that the focus of the ensemble is on the textural and rhythmic nature of the drums. Raymond Helble does make use of the multiple pitches of tubanos required in a few passages, but much of the hand drum writing consists of unison rhythmic figures in two or more parts. The composer specifies that bongos, congas, or other hand drums may be substituted for tubanos, and each is to be played with hands as well as a stick on the shell. The most challenging rhythms presented are sixteenth-note triplets and a few syncopated sixteenth-note figures.

The composer specifies that this work may be performed individually or as part of a suite partnered with the other two selections in this series (“Doom Chaser” and “Doom Catcher”). At less than two minutes in length, it would likely be much more satisfying to audiences presented along with the second and third “movements.” Without seeing the other selections, nothing can be said about the pacing and overall structure of the suite, but this particular movement does not contain anything particularly compelling unless you are specifically looking for a short work for early-intermediate large ensemble featuring lots of hand percussion instruments." - Josh Gottry  Percussive Notes, July 2014

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