Surface Tension

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Dave Hollinden

General Info

Year: 1993
Duration: c. 11:00
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: C. Alan
Cost: Score and Parts - $40.00   |   Score Only - $0.00



Player 1: snare drum, four tom toms, tambourine, cowbell, wood block, high-hat, crash cymbal, Chinese cymbal
Player 2: snare drum, three tom toms, bongos, cowbell, temple block, ride cymbal, crash cymbal

Program Notes

The themes in Surface Tension are based in rock music and jazz. They are very metrical and beat-oriented, and are treated in a rough sonata form . The two performers interact in a variety of ways, including extended passages in unison, sections with tight counterpoint, and the exchange of both improvised and notated solos. [1]


Surface Tension, a duet for two multiple-percussionists together playing a total of twenty instruments, is college level fare with rhythm patterns and meters that are as challenging as they are imaginative. These will come as no surprise to those familiar with Hollinden's work, who will agree that this duet is as effective and successful as his other percussion compositions.

John R. Rausch, Percussive Notes, April 1995[2]

Performance Notes

The following is from an email interview with a percussion student who was performing Surface Tension.

What was your inspiration behind the piece?

Some of my pieces have very a specific source of inspiration, possibly some issue I've been thinking about or something I've read, or maybe just a fleeting image or curious thought. 'The Whole Toy Laid Down" and my percussion concerto 'what clarity?' would be good examples of that type of inspiration.

Other pieces do not have an inspiration in this sense, and I'd put Surface Tension in that category. The reason for writing Surface tension was more about the working out of musical ideas than of responding to an inspiration. The opening rhythmic motive in m1-2 had been in my mind for quite some time, and I just wanted to address it by writing a piece around it.

What was your process of composition for the piece?

Some of my pieces are more "through composed" in that I just start composing based on the musical ideas I'm having, starting at the beginning and finishing at the end. In that case the form and structure, and also the musical ideas of the piece, evolve unconsciously as part of the composing process. 'Cold Pressed' would be a good example of that.

Other pieces, such as Surface Tension, take a more objective approach. With Surface Tension I had a rhythmic motive that I wanted to work with, and I thought it'd be interesting to use it as the primary theme in a sonata form. So in this case my process of composition was methodical, and I came up with secondary and closing themes for the introduction, approached the middle of the piece as a developmental section, and brought back a recapitulation of the introduction at the end of the piece.

What do you want a performer to portray? an audience member to experience?

I want the performer to be very clear about the details of the music, especially the phrasing. What I mean is that the performer should be aware of the individual gestures and motives in the music down to the smallest practical level, and be able to articulate them clearly while performing. There are often a number of details that are overlooked. I want these details to be clear in the performer's mind, and to be made clear to the audience during the performance. Thus what I want the performer to portray is an accurate rendering of the music, and what I want the audience to experience is the music. Any additional experiences will be those that the music inspires in the performer and/or the listener.

For example, take the figure from Player 1's part at m25 from the 'and' of beat 2 to the beginning of beat 4: du du DA du du DA (rest). It contains two groups of three 1/16th notes, syncopated by starting on the 'and' of the beat, followed by a rest. Where does that come from? Do the accents on the 1/16ths relate to the accented groups in m13? (Yes.) To b3-4 of m16? (Yes, but then b3-4 of m16 also relate to b1-2 of m20, right?)

Now look at a second figure at m26 from the 'and' of b2 to the beginning of beat 4: DA du du DA du du DAT! How do does this relate to the first figure? Both have two groups of three 1/16th notes syncopated by starting on the 'and' of the beat, but the accents fall differently. And this second figure ends with an accented note ON the beat rather than a rest. So when performing m25-28, the performer needs to be aware of these two figures and how they contrast, with the second figure answering the first. Further, in m27 when the second figure is stated starting on the 'and' of b2, it is elongated by inserting the figure on m27 b4 to m28 b1, which itself occurs earlier at m17 b1-2 and at m20 b3-4.

While this is tedious to explain with words, the connections are obvious when you hear them. It's the performer's job to give the audience the opportunity to hear them.



Commercial Discography

Quilt -[3]

Recent Performances

National Music Eisteddfod, Canberra, Australia, 2005
New England Conservatory, Boston, MA, 2005
Texas A&M University, Commerce, TX, 1999
Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, 1998
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 1997
Center on Contemporary Arts, Seattle, WA, 1994
Northwest Percussion Festival, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, 1994

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Works for Percussion by this Composer

A Different Drummer - Multiple Percussion
Alchemy - Percussion Duo
Boundary Conditions - Multiple Percussion; String Quartet
Cold Pressed - Multiple Percussion
Dusting the Connecting Link - Multiple Percussion
Flux - Marimba; Flute; Clarinet; Alto Saxophone
Immersion - Percussion Quartet; Saxophone Quartet
In Time to Come - Marimba; Alto Saxophone
Lead - Multiple Percussion; Piano
Of Wind and Water - Marimba
Percussion Quartet No. 2 (Hollinden) - Percussion Quartet
Platinum - Multiple Percussion; Piano
Reckless - Percussion Octet
Release (Hollinden) - Percussion Octet
Six Ideas for Snare, Bass, and Cymbal - Multiple Percussion
Slender Beams of Solid Rhythm - Multiple Percussion
Surface Tension - Percussion Duo
The Whole Toy Laid Down - Percussion Quartet
what clarity? (with perc. ens. version) - Multiple Percussion; Percussion Ensemble (12)
what clarity? (with strings version) - Multiple Percussion; Orchestra

Additional Resources