(a)symmetry

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I had an idea a few years ago that I wanted to write a work using the two octatonic scales, but where I assigned each octave a specific scale and then alternated between the two. For example, the piece starts with octatonic scale 1 (whole-step first) in the lowest octave, then the next octave uses octatonic scale 2 (half- step first) and continues to alternate up the instrument. I wanted to challenge myself compositionally by setting out some parameters prior to writing any music. While there are a large number of common elements between the two scales, the most significant is the Cdim7, that acts as a structural force regardless of which scale is in use. The listener will hear these notes (C-Eb-F#-A) continually throughout the work in prominent ways. The title of the work is meant to represent what is happening both rhythmically and harmonically. Octatonic scales are inherently symmetric, but when they are alternated, that symmetry is disrupted. With the rhythms, I often use asymmetric meters such as 5/8, but split them in ways that are symmetric (two groups of five notes). Examples such as these are all over the work from beginning to end. I also experimented with inverting the intervals, and found that by doing so, it changed from one scale to the other. As a result, the middle portion of the work takes the initial order of the alternating scales/octaves and reverses them. Essentially, at any given time, there exist elements that are both symmetric and asymmetric happening concurrently. The work is essentially through composed, and uses thematic material, along with the raw compositional elements of the scales and rhythms to serve as connective tissue. In a general sense, one could impose a loose ABA form over the work if so desired. It is also important to note the large influence of Alejandro Viñao and his compositions for percussion that have been so vitally important over the past 20 years. I did not draw specifically from a singular work of his, but his influence is noted throughout for those who are familiar with his pieces. What I hope players find is a work that is challenging, but accessible, and most importantly has a solid groove that pervades the entire piece with motives that stick in their minds for some time after the sound has stopped. Mallet selection is at the discretion of the performer, and some may find that a graduated set may be most desirable. The work requires two 5.0 octave instruments. ~R.S.

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Length
5:00
instrumentation
Two 5.0-octave marimbas
level
Advanced
performance setting
Duo
Collegiate
Recital
Technical Focus

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