Unsettled Surface

Unsettled Surface for percussion ensemble
Publisher: Drop 6 Media, Inc. (2011)
Composed: 2011
Duration: 4’30”
Difficulty: Medium
Instrumentation (7 players): bells, chimes, vibraphone, xylophone, two 4.3-octave marimbas, egg shaker, hi-hat, ride cymbal, wood block, cajon, triangle, bongos

Unsettled Surface is based on two ostinato figures, each set within a four-measure phrase. The first figure is set primarily in 5/4 time with a measure in three every fourth bar. The second figure is set primarily in 11/8 time (one eighth note longer than 5/4), with a measure in 2/4 every fourth bar. The idea of the composition was to be driven by repetition, but with metric variation that prevents that repetition from becoming settled in the listener’s ear. The ensemble opens with a solo egg shaker before the initial ostinato is introduced in the first marimba part. Additional voices gradually layer over this ostinato and combine in constantly changing ways before the new meter and ostinato overtakes the ensemble, introduced in the second marimba part. These two primary ideas alternate before the ensemble gradually thins out, leaving only the egg shaker opening figure over a sustained pitch in the vibraphone.