2001+21: vale

vale (for three alto kalimbas, 2001) is a very simple piece. It consists of a melodic pattern which is built up in three-part harmony, followed by a mirror image of this process to create an arch form. It reaches its peak in a square 64 measures, inhabiting an intuitive, casual music space. It was composed during a period of personal chaos; a lunchtime sticky note puzzle that provided some focus. It’s more a lullaby or meditation than a composition intended for a concert, especially as I didn’t expect any performances in those years.

The entire piece uses the same two-bar rhythm throughout, except that it changes phase for the second section. The second bar of the rhythm becomes the new downbeat.

There is an obvious influence from Steve Reich, in the sense that both a West African bell pattern and a canon are present; however, the relationship between the two is radically compressed. In Reich’s music, the pattern is usually the input to a canonic process in a rhythmically dense, usually uptempo context. This piece presents a recursive variation, where the pattern is itself a canon and the entire texture a slow, oscillating homorhythm, a triadic chorale. It’s very much like a slowed down audio sample, transcribed for toy instrument choir.

The demo was recorded on an early portable digital recorder in the empty bathtub of my apartment at the time. The score is in G major, while my kalimba was tuned to G-flat then.

There is also a version of the piece for four kalimbas (one treble and three alto).

Recorded September 2004

Photo: composer’s instrument, 2012

Music and notes copyright Bruce A. Russell 2022

By elmahboob

Bruce A. Russell aka Ibrahim El Mahboob (b. Kingston, ON, 1968) is a composer and self-taught pianist living and working in Toronto (Tkarón:to, the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat). He studied at York University with James Tenney and Phillip Werren. He has composed music for the Madawaska String Quartet, Modern Times Stage Company, McMaster Dancers and choreographers Pam Johnson and Tracy Renee Stafford. Interest in his work increased in 2020, with performances by Arraymusic, Prism Percussion, Second Note Duo, San Juan Symphony and Idaho Falls Symphony. He was host of Radio Music Gallery, and has written for Musicworks and I Care if You Listen. His interests are in 20th and 21st century concert music especially postminimalism, and music of the African diaspora including notated and non-notated forms. He is a parent of three and is employed in the financial sector.

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