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