Bob Becker: Blog

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 »

Dance of the Octopus and Red Norvo

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In January, 1989 NEXUS recorded a new CD for the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s Musica Viva label. CBC no longer distributes our Dance of the Octopus CD, which is unfortunate because it includes a lot of wonderful repertoire not available anywhere else. A truly great harpist, Judy Loman, joined us for two works by Bill Cahn:… 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 »

A John Cage recollection: Third Construction

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During the summers from 2000 to 2010 I was in Newark, DE directing my annual Xylophone Institute at the University of Delaware. The host for that event was the professor of percussion at UDel, Harvey Price. One day the topic of John Cage’s Third Construction came up in a conversation, and I told Harvey about… Read more »

Becker’s Best now available

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Xylomusic has recently published Becker’s Best, a collection of Bob’s most effective technique exercises for the xylophone and marimba. All of the studies in the book can be practiced to build speed and accuracy, and after they are learned at tempo they make a great daily warm-up routine. The book is available through Steve Weiss… Read more »

Andrew Feldman – An Appreciation

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I first met Andrew Feldman at PASIC in 1981. For several years beginning in the late 1970s he manned a small booth at the conventions, and advertised his sticks and mallets in the classifieds at the back of Percussive Notes. I bought a number of bass drum beaters and tam tam mallets from his display… Read more »

SEA TO SEA (La Mer and cymbals)

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When my touring schedule permits, I often play in the percussion section of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra. Hamilton, Ontario is a thriving city about 70 km southwest of Toronto. The HPO is a fine orchestra with a long history. The original Canadian Brass was formed by members of the orchestra’s great brass section in 1970…. Read more »

Bob Becker and Yurika Kimura – PASIC concert tour

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Japanese marimbist Yurika Kimura and I will present a Showcase Concert on Saturday, November 16 at PASIC 2013 in Indianapolis, IN. Prior to and following the PASIC concert, we will make a short tour including appearances at the following venues (for more details check my Events page, which gives information about all of my upcoming non-NEXUS… Read more »

What is a Xylorimba?

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(Are the overtones tuned differently in various ranges of its keyboard?) The term ‘xylorimba’ clearly refers to some kind of hybrid instrument, but it depends on who is using the term, and when. Even the word itself is a composite: xylo is the common Greek root meaning ‘wood’; and rimba is an arbitrary clipping of… Read more »

Xylophone vs. Marimba: more thoughts.

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In April, 2013 I received an email from Jesse Strauss, a student at Belmont University, asking for my thoughts about an article by Vida Chenoweth in which she reached some conclusions about the terms ‘xylophone’ and ‘marimba’. I have discussed the distinctions that differentiate these terms in clinics, as well as in the Xylorimba article… Read more »

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