The Alabados Song (Percussion Ens. Ver.)

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Paul Bissell

General Info

Year: 2003
Duration: c. 10:00
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Go Fish Music
Cost: Score and Parts - $40.00   |   Score Only - $0.00




Player I: Vibraphone
Player II: Marimba I, Water Glass tuned to "E"
Player III: Marimba II - uses player 4's Chimes on occasion
Player IV: Glockenspiel, Chimes, [[Mark Tree, Triangles
Player V: Xylophone, Water Glass tuned to "F and G", 4 Tom Toms, Mark Tree
Player VI: Timpani, Suspended Cymbal (on Timpani)
Player VII: Percussion I - Wooden Wind Chimes, 3 Suspended Cymbals, 2 Tam Tams, Whip, Tambourine, Snare Drum, Maracas
Player VIII: Percussion II - Glass tuned to "C#", Bass Drum, Bongos, Suspended Cymbal, Whip, Tam tam

Program Notes

The title of this composition, The Alabados Song, stems from a fading tradition of Hispanic/Catholic communities in the southwest United States. As families and entire villages moved in the early 1900s from Mexico and other South American Countries into the United States, they created communities in America not serviced by a formal church or clergy due to their geographical isolation. For religious events these groups had to improvise their own ceremonies, including the ceremony of last rites for the dying. The group's elder males would gather at bedside and recite from the Book of the Alabados, and ancient text with Spanish origins once used to deliver new to remote villages. The book's prose was an odd mix of Catholic imagery, violent war stories and political gossip. The town elders would improvise melodies in a chanting manner over the bedside of the dying, using the book's text in place of a formal last rites ceremony.

The composition utilizes this idea as a backdrop for a fictitious musical story. The piece does not follow the literary action verbatim, but uses this story as a catalyst for the composition itself. In the original marimba and tape version, there are two narrators, the old woman, and the voice of the spirit of death. The narrative that the composition follows is:

Spirits enter a rural village to take the matriarch of a family away. They call her to get her to go willingly, but her thoughts of the present state are strong and she has too much fight in her. She won't go as they ask. The spirits entice her with dance and reminders that her loved ones have already gone into the beyond. She follows the spirits en route to heaven only to hear the voice of the chanting elders over her body. The wily old woman accommodates the spirits, playing and dancing with them, but as the spirits try to lead her away forever, she suddenly pulls herslef back to reality. The spirits remind the woman that it is her time to die and slowly pull her towards them. In the end, tired and resigned from their calling, she leaves with the spirits for the other world.

The Alabados Song was originally not designed as a concerto per se, but a vehicle for solo marimba and tape that employs each genre's instrumentation to allow the melodic and harmonic ideas emanating from the marimba to be enhanced and presented in a artistically diverse way. The melodic material is typically kept to a single thought at any time thus not allowing for multiple themes to be performed at once. It was only after the original version's success that the marimba and orchestra as well as this marimba and percussion ensemble version we requested. The orchestra / percussion ensemble parts (and the original tape sounds) are tied very closely to that of the solo instrument.



Commercial Discography

This Version of the piece has been recorded by the University of South Florida Percussion Ensemble, Robert McCormick, Conductor

Recent Performances

Premier: August 2004 Julliard Percussion Workshop, Joseph Gramley - Conductor; Janis Potter - Solo Marimba

To submit a performance please join the TEK Percussion Database

Works for Percussion by this Composer

The Alabados Song - Marimba; with Tape
The Alabados Song (Percussion Ens. Ver.) - Marimba; Percussion Octet
The Alabados Song (Wind Ens. Ver.) - Marimba; Wind Ensemble
Archipelago - Multiple Percussion; Flute
The Butterfly - Marimba
Equal Fire - Percussion Sextet
Hangar 84 - Marimba; with Tape
Monster Mudder Truck Pull - Percussion Trio
The Three Hoaxes - Marimba; Clarinet, Cello
Waltz On Themes by Carcassi - Marimba

Additional Resources