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For 5 players
2 Violins, Viola, Cello & Vibraphone

10 mins

​Commissioned by and dedicated to JACK Quartet and Colin Currie; made possible by a generous grant from the Fromm Music Foundation
Regular price $95.00 USD
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Recordings, videos, and program notes

Andy Akiho’s “Aluminous” has the percussionist making contact with the quartet chiefly by way of the vibraphone, which can be answered by pizzicatos from the strings or long bowed notes and chords. Hence the title, meaning ‘having the nature of aluminum’, from which vibraphone bars and tubes are customarily made – though not only the instrument but the music itself might be considered aluminous, comparable with this light, bright metal in its sleek flow. Sometimes the percussionist maintains that flow alone, but it comes first from the strings. Repetition and near repetition gear up the constant motion, on scales small and large; the process is ongoing and the destination hot.

The quartet initiates, with shifting patterns in syncopated rhythm moving towards a steady beat from the cello and viola, and on from there to a powerful invitation to the percussionist. A response comes fast and intense, on vibraphone intercut with occasional hits on a glockenspiel bar and a glass bottle. The strings join in with chords in harmonics, which the percussion slows down a while to hear, all the time going through its own changes on small patterns. These two stretches – the strings’ opening music and the vibraphone’s response – are then meshed together. After that comes a sequence of further cycles through which strings and percussion come closer to each other, the rhythm tightens, and recurring images crystallize out. Sudden quiet arrives with a canon initiated by the percussionist and taken up by the violins and cello pizzicato over a slow melody from the viola in harmonics. Soon the vibraphone is hanging on to its top note (high F) and then falling silent, to return with the canon theme when the strings have finished. It continues alone and works its way towards condensing the material into circling repetition, up- tempo. The strings come in with harmonics, followed by a canon on the viola melody from the quiet segment. Eventually the first violin goes super-high, and so moves the music towards the ending. Stinging chords from the strings, bowed very close to the bridge, bulge and diminish as the vibraphone closes in on its high F, in insistent reiteration. The strings turn to normal playing for a big crescendo on the final chord, and the percussionist picks up a bow too.

- Paul Griffiths