Clocks in Motion has built many instruments over the years. Our most notable instruments include:
- Quarimba - a four-octave marimba tuned 1/4 step flat. This instrument when paired with a traditional marimba creates a 24-tone chromatic scale.
- Sixxen - These instruments are constructed from aluminum channel. There are six sets of these instruments all tuned within 3/4 tones from one another. This results in wild mixing over-tones when all six sets are played together. These instruments are necessary for performing Xenakis' symphony-length percussion sextet, Pleiades.
- Galvitone - This instrument consists of 88 tuned galvanized pipes. We will be using a small selection of these pipes in our Studio Z performance. They create a ringing, chime-like sound.
- Found percussion objects - Tin cans, rattles, conch shells, toys, cricket-callers, and other gadgets will be used in John Cage's Third Construction during this concert.
Most percussionists double as "inventors" of some type. We are always figuring out new ways to combine our instruments to create new sounds and textures. Finding the "right" sound is always an adventure as we swap mallets and move instruments into different setups. The instruments that we have built as an ensemble always serve to perform specific works of music and also inspire new composers to write for these unique sounds. Although our repertoire at Studio Z does not feature many of our hand-made instruments, it will still feature our inventiveness and general approach to performing.
Atomic, Atomic by Andrew Rindfleisch was written for Clocks in Motion and will be performed at Studio Z. How did this collaboration come about and how has it evolved?
Andrew Rindfleisch has been a long-time supporter and friend of Clocks in Motion. Rindfleisch invited Clocks in Motion to perform at Cleveland State University back in 2013 and we have had an ongoing relationship since then. A few years ago, Rindfleisch came to a Clocks in Motion performance in Madison and he approached me about wanting to write us a marimba quartet. After some negotiation, I convinced him to write a "mallet quartet" instead of a marimba quartet. The mallet quartet instrumentation is two vibraphones and two marimbas and is becoming more or less a "standard" instrumentation for the percussion quartet. Much of our music is centered in that setup. The great thing about the mallet quartet is that you get to take advantage of the huge range of the marimba and have the fantastic resonance of the vibraphone. It just frees the composer up to do a lot more with the texture. Also, as a touring ensemble, it's important for Clocks in Motion to consider common instrumentation across our repertoire. That way, we can transport our instruments in a truck and have everything fit. We tend to always tour with two marimbas and two vibraphones, so having Rindfleisch write for that instrumentation allows us to perform his piece frequently.
Atomic Atomic, Rindfleisch's resulting mallet quartet, is an in-depth study of the sonic and dynamic capabilities of the ensemble. The title refers to the attraction and repulsion of subatomic particles. We find the piece to be extremely effective and evocative. Each performer is required to have no less than 5 different combinations of mallets of various hardness that we switch between throughout the composition. It really shows off the wide variety of sounds that can be produced on the instruments.
What else can you tell us about the music on the program?
Third Construction, John Cage's 1941 percussion quartet masterpiece, features entirely non-pitched percussion instruments.
Glitz! by Bejorn Berkhout is a wacky percussion quartet featuring Matthew Coley on hammered dulcimer. This piece is a sort of tone poem depicting a casino with a person having a heart-attack after winning big.
Fantezie by Sergiu Cretu is a tour de force featuring Matthew Coley on hammered dulcimer playing traditional Eastern European music.
Mechanical Ballet by Anders Koppel is loosely based on George Anthiel's Ballet Mechanique. This fun composition has a chromatic jazzy language and rhythmic complexity.
Gravity by Marc Mellits was written for Clocks in Motion in 2013 as part of a consortium of various percussion groups. This post-minimalist mallet quartet has become a staple of our repertoire.
We are also playing three movements from Threads by Paul Lansky. This moody piece combines pitched and non-pitched percussion instruments in an ever-changing sonic landscape. This piece features loud, complex drumming alongside, quiet serene Arias.