In the spring of 2010, I attended an exhibit of composer and architect Iannis Xenakis's original architecture sketches at The Drawing Center in NYC. When I left, I was inspired to sketch out a pitch world with color-penciled "LI - NE- -S" by connecting vertical rows of chromatic pitches, expanding the full range of the 5-octave marimba, with geometric diagonal lines and collapsing triangles. These visually linear note combinations became the foundational scales for the piece. Then, I intuitively worked at the marimba, improvising on these scales, and these improvisations became the fundamental building blocks, or rhythmic and melodic cells, of this work.
"LIgNEouS" means, "made, consisting of, or resembling wood." This title was chosen because the marimba, violin, viola, and cello are all primarily made of wood. Also, the marimbist is often required to play with dowel rod bundles (rutes) and mallet shafts, without typical yarn mallet heads, in order to enhance the extremely wooden sounds and to articulate the highest overtones of the marimba. I also wanted to use industrial timbres in addition to the melodic marimba bars, accomplished through glissandos and strikes to the metallic resonators. To mimic snap (Bartók) pizzicatos, a string technique produced by vertically snapping/plucking a string to rebound off the fingerboard, the marimbist is instructed to snap an extremely large rubber band that is placed on the low D of the 5-octave marimba. Finally, the string parts feature non-pitched scratch tones, a technique adopted from Xenakis's string quartets. The “LIgNEouS Suite” was originally inspired by my amazingly talented friends of the Yale Percussion Group.
- Andy Akiho
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