Desert Songs I
I. Spade-Foot Toad
Remarks Delivered by the Composer at the World Premiere - June 10, 2001 - Durango, Colorado.
I would like to thank Jeffry Jahn, John Pennington, Gary Cook, the Animas Music Festival and the Arizona Repertory Singers for commissioning "Desert Songs." Last June, Jeffry Jahn sent me three beautiful poems, "Spade-foot Toad," "Rattlesnake," and "Buzzard," from Byrd Baylor's Desert Voices collection. It was my job to translate Byrd Baylor's imagery into music. The first poem, "Spade-foot Toad," begins with the line, "Far down in the earth, quiet as a stone, I wait for rain." In setting this text, I wanted the audience to feel a sense of waiting. I used incessant repetition to achieve this sense of waiting at the beginning of the work. After the waiting period is over, the music modulates to a new key at the lines, "... and take me from my hiding place." This change of key represents the toad emerging from his/her hole in the ground.
Portions of the second poem, "Rattlesnake," portray the sun beating down on the rocks. I used bowed crotales to convey this imagery. Crotales are small cymbals that sound like tuned bells. In this piece, I have asked one of the percussionists to use a cello bow to play the crotales, giving the cymbals a raspy flute type of sound. The bowed crotales also help create a mysterious atmosphere that is alluded to at the beginning of the poem ("I move so flat against the earth that I know all its mysteries").
The third poem, "Buzzard," ends with the text "High over the world, I watch." The buzzard is watching for death. Death means life for the bird. I used the bright bell sounds of the glockenspiel to portray life while the choir sings the words, "I watch." Each time the choir stops singing, the chime sounds a single death toll. Life and death are juxtaposed to one another. At the end of "Desert Songs," the death toll is barely audible while the choir quietly sings "I watch." Death is life for the buzzard!
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Works for Percussion by this Composer
A Cross On Wood - Marimba
Concerto for Marimba and Chamber Orchestra (Bodine) - Marimba; Orchestra
Concerto for Marimba and Concert Band - Marimba; Band
Desert Songs I - Percussion Duo; Choir
Desert Songs II - Percussion Duo; Choir
Desert Songs III - Percussion Duo; Choir
Kaleidoscope: Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra - Marimba; Orchestra
Namaste: Concerto for Marimba and Percussion Ensemble - Marimba; Percussion Sextet
Rhapsodia - Marimba; Flute
Rhapsody - Multiple Percussion; Horn
Romance - Marimba