I recently received an email from a student at Florida Gulf Coast University asking,
1) What marimba music should be in every musician’s library? and
2) What do you consider to be a work that has helped the Marimba become more accepted in the music community and why?
Here is my reply.
In response to your request, I will attempt to offer a brief perspective on the place and influence of marimba repertoire in the world community of music.
The marimba as a solo instrument – and to a similar degree as an ensemble instrument – is a vehicle for the creation of music equal to that of any other instrument. It is relatively new, having emerged from its African tribal roots into western art consciousness in the middle of the Twentieth Century, and it is undoubtedly in a golden age at present, with growing worldwide pockets of interest.
That having been said, I think it is important to recognize that these pockets of interest in the marimba – mainly in North America, Japan, Europe, and Scandinavia – represent only a subset of the percussion music genre, which itself is only a tiny subset of art and commercial music and furthermore of world music. The point in recognizing this fact is that while a work may be highly prized in the context of the marimba subset, it will likely be entirely unknown in other musical subsets. Therefore, when it is said that a work is accepted in the music community, it is important to be clear about which music community is meant.
In the art music of western cultures – e.g. North America, Japan, Europe, Australia and Scandinavia – only a very small number of works featuring the marimba stand out, even though it is still likely that many (if not most) cognoscenti would have no knowledge whatsoever of these works. In my opinion, the following two works are the most widely recognized among musicians and listeners in the subset of western art music (which would, of course include the subsets of percussion music and marimba music):
1) CONCERTINO FOR MARIMBA by Paul Creston
2) CONCERTO FOR MARIMBA AND VIBRAPHONE by Darius Mihaud
In the subset of percussion music (including marimba music) the following works are widely recognized as important:
3) All works of Clair Omar Musser (ETUDES , SCHERZO CAPRICE, etc.)
4) CONCERTO FOR MARIMBA AND PERCUSSION/ORCHESTRA)
by Ney Rosauro
5) CONCERTO FOR MARIMBA by James Basta
6) CONCERTO FOR MARIMBA by Robert Kurka
In the subset of marimba music the following works are widely recognized as important:
7) VELOCITIES by Joseph Schwantner
8) CONCERTO FOR MARIMBA by Emmanuel Sejourne
9) Original works and arrangements for marimba by the following
composers: Leigh Howard Stevens, Gordon Stout, Nebosja Zivkovic
Of course, there is a large and ever growing body of wonderful music for the marimba – perhaps numbering in the thousands – but the above few works represent, in my view, those which should be in the library of anyone interested in music for the marimba.