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Music for Percussion

Dancing Past Eleven is obviously a play-on-words. The number points toward the time when the party starts to “get in gear”, and also signifies “getting past” the challenge that most Western musicians have with odd time meters. To a Bulgarian folk dancer, moving in 11/8 with incredible precision is as comfortable as 4/4 is to most of us. Two rhythmic structures, each four bars long, act as the underpinning as the work develops. It is punctuated by a plaintive and lyrical middle section (Also heard under the title “Kalunga” on Ted Piltzecker’s Steppe Forward CD) before returning to a driving climax. Originally written to feature the Bulgarian instrument gadulka, the piece works beautifully with a violin, clarinet, or soprano sax soloist as well (parts included). The inspiration comes directly from sharing in the joyous dancing of Elissaveta Iordanova and her daughter Iva one evening in New York. 

Junctures (click to buy)  for percussion ensemble

Junctures received its premiere at the University of Michigan under the direction of Michael Udow, and has been performed at the Aspen Music Festival, the Eastman and Berkeley Schools of Music, and at New York University at the NY State chapter convention of PAS. It’s a sophisticated and melodic work that features the vibraphone as it journeys through many moods—ranging from subtle implications to ardent declarations. The piece reflects how lives can be separated into episodes that are linked to each other, and to the past, by character and outlook. It’s dedicated to the memory of Elliot Morganstern and was commissioned by his son Daniel.

Buffalo Dance (click to buy)  for percussion ensemble

I bet you thought this had something to do with Native Americans. Nope. It’s a fond memory of gigs with a salsa band many years ago in Buffalo, NY where three generations danced to every song we played! This percussion ensemble arrangement is in a solid Latin groove, has some lively counterpoint, and is a good vehicle for some extended improvisation. (A combo version can be heard on Ted Piltzecker’s CD Unicycle Man featuring tenor saxophonist, Bob Mintzer)

Great Idea! Who Pays? (click to buy)   for mixed ensemble

Have you ever been at a meeting when you wanted to say that? For some reason, this melody popped into my head when the question was considered. It’s a funk-like tune in D minor that has a Caribbean flair, some cool counterpoint, and a catchy line shared between vibes and pan. It’s just plain fun to play and to improvise on.

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