Percussion Quartet


December 24, 2015

Gavin’s Notes:

The Other Side of the River is for four percussionists playing two marimbas (two players at each instrument) in addition to a mixture of Almglocken, Woodblocks, Cencerros and Temple Blocks.

It is a quiet, reflective piece and was written for Third Coast Percussion to perform as part of a theatre work called “See You Later” devised and directed by Cathie Boyd of Theatre Cryptic (with whom Bryars also wrote Paper Nautilus) and performed at the Alexander Kasser Theatre, Montclair, New Jersey in November 2016. This title is taken from a line by the late Eduardo Galeano – History never really says goodbye. History says, “See you later.” The theatre work includes percussion pieces by composers Peter Garland and David E Little and The Other Side of the River forms a meditative and philosophical epilogue to the whole piece.

Cathie Boyd wrote:

Garland’s tender Apple Blossom reflects on the loss of innocence, laying the foundations for Little’s harrowing Haunt of Last Nightfall, which depicts the Salvadoran tragedy at El Mozote. The performance concludes with Bryars’ The Other Side of the River, which emulates the confusion arising from grief and the emergence of hope through reconciliation.

Notes on percussion

There are two marimbas with two players at each: Marimba I has players 1 and 2; Marimba II has players 3 and 4.

The top players of each marimba (players 1 and 3) also have 4 Almglocken and 4 Woodblocks; the bottom players (2 and 4) have 4 Cencerros (cowbells) and 4 Temple Blocks.

The Almglocken are tuned (as near as possible) diatonically from F to F in the treble stave, divided between the players; the Cencerros are tuned diatonically from D to D. I welcome slightly odd tunings…

The Temple Blocks are also written from F to F diatonically, and the Woodblocks from D to D, but here the pitches are only relative to each other and precise pitches are not necessary.

For each player these are on one stave above the marimba part. The Almglocken and Cencerros are written with the note tails up; the Temple Blocks and Woodblocks with the note tails down.

I have not specified mallets at this stage preferring for this to be worked out with the players. There are, though, some obvious things. The lower marimba parts will generally be played by soft to medium soft mallets, and the upper by medium beaters – though sometimes medium-hard.

This may be tempered, though, by the fact that the same mallets may have to be used with both the ancillary instruments and the marimbas at the same time, which may mean using slightly harder beaters than what would be the norm for the marimba at that point. Rather than write prescriptively I would prefer, from these general principles, for the players to come to their own decisions.

Similarly, I have given tempi, but these are not absolutes and can be played with, in the spirit of what the music seems to be doing at those times!

Gavin Bryars