Bob Becker: Articles and Interviews

Bowls, Bells, Brake Drums and Lou Harrison

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In the early days of NEXUS many of our “instruments” were various found objects – things not originally designed to be used in musical contexts. At that time I particularly enjoyed browsing for unusual-sounding implements in hardware stores and kitchenware departments. During the 1970s many common household items were still manufactured using quite high-quality materials…. Read more »

Never in Word – more questions from Lan KaiPo

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In July, 2021 I received an additional series of questions from percussionist Lan KaiPo regarding my composition Never in Word, as well as some general questions about my compositional method. LKP is currently continuing research for his doctoral dissertation “An Analysis and Performance Guide of Bob Becker’s Never in Word” at James Madison University. His… Read more »

Bob’s interview with Jonny Smith regarding Steve Reich and Musicians

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In October 2020 percussionist Jonny Smith asked me a series of questions regarding my experience with the music of Steve Reich, and my relationship with his ensemble. Jonny interviewed other members of Reich’s ensemble as well, and wrote a paper: “Relationship and Community in the Creative Process: The Steve Reich and Musicians Ensemble”, which is… Read more »

Bob’s interview with Antti Ohenoja and N.A.R.D. Finland

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In January 2021 percussionist Antti Ohenoja asked if I would answer a series of questions about drum rudiments from members of the N.A.R.D. in Finland. The original National Association of Rudimental Drummers was organized in the United States in 1933, and was responsible for choosing the “thirteen essential rudiments” still taught and practiced today. I… Read more »

Bob’s Interview with Mark Reilly

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In June, 2020 I received a series of questions from SGM Mark Reilly, rudimental champion, composer and Corps Sergeant Major of the U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. Mark’s questions and my answers follow. MR. Who was your first big inspiration and why? BB. I should say that my first teacher, James S…. Read more »

Bob’s Interview with Lan KaiPo

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In August, 2020 I received a series of questions from percussionist Lan KaiPo regarding my piece Never in Word (1998). Below are Lan’s questions and my answers. LK. When notating percussion instruments that are transposed (bells and crotales) do you ever question whether you should write the actual sounding pitch instead of the traditional lower… Read more »

Time in the Rock – Travails of a Composer

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Tragedy. “A drama typically involving a person destined to experience downfall or destruction, as through a character flaw, or conflict with some overpowering force such as fate or an unyielding society.” Hubris. “An extreme and unreasonable feeling of self-confidence.” Posthumous. “Published after the death of the author.” In May of 2001 I began work on… Read more »

The Solo Snare Drum: Bob’s interview with Jonathan Curtis

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  In September 2020 I was invited by British percussionist Jonathan Curtis to take part in his snare drum research project. Details about his work can be viewed HERE. Jonathan was particularly interested in some of the ideas in my book Rudimental Arithmetic, as well as more generally about composing music for solo snare drum…. Read more »

Bob’s interview with Greg Giannascoli

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GG: Hi Bob, I am writing a book with a series of interviews with the important marimba and xylophone artists of the 20th century and I would be honored if you would please answer the questions below. It is some biographical information but mainly about what you studied to get better and, as time went… Read more »

Surviving Steel Pans – A Saga (Part 2)

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In 1993 two major composers – Michael Colgrass and Bruce Mather  – began work on commissions for NEXUS. Mather, an intimate friend of Robin Engelman, had already composed two quartet pieces for us: Clos de Vougeot (recorded on the LP Changes in 1982) and Clos d’Audignac (recorded on the CD Rune in 1997). The new… Read more »

Surviving Steel Pans – A Saga (Part 1)

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In 1989 Carnegie Hall announced a series of commissions to celebrate the hall’s 100th anniversary season in 1990/91. A former member of our management team, Costa Pilavachi, recommended NEXUS be the featured soloists in a new piece by Toru Takemitsu, to be premiered with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Seiji Ozawa. A concerto by Takemitsu… Read more »

Suspended Cymbal Mallets

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In response to my recent posts about the cymbal parts for La Mer and Daphnis and Chloé I received some comments and questions regarding the mallets I use on suspended cymbals. As I pointed out in my blogs, early 20th century composers often employed specific terminology regarding striking implements in their cymbal parts – for… Read more »

Becker Bow Cymbal Demo

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Last spring (February, 2016) I spent several days in Meductic, NB working on some projects for the Sabian Cymbal Company. My main job was to select and mate 60 pairs of 18 inch Artisan Traditional Medium Light Crash orchestral cymbals. It was some of the most physically demanding work I’ve done in my life, and… Read more »

Daphnis and Chloé and Cymbals

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Last week (on June 2nd and 3rd, 2016) the Toronto Symphony performed the complete music from Maurice Ravel’s ballet Daphnis and Chloé (1912). I was invited to play cymbals, which have an extensive individual part that is twelve pages long – something unusual in the symphonic percussion repertoire. I was familiar with the second suite… Read more »

Some reflections on John Cage

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In response to the request on NEXUS’ Facebook, here are a few more John Cage recollections. In June, 1984 NEXUS embarked on a major European tour lasting over two months. Our first stop on the trip was Amsterdam and the Holland Festival. We played two concerts there, including a monumental all-night improvisation in the Nieuwe… Read more »

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