Meditations on a Chord
for solo marimba


This marimba solo was composed for the percussionist Kevin Romanski. Its inspiration came from the contemplation of a C13 chord and the various ways its notes can be regrouped and re-spaced to form different harmonic colors. Although a complete 13th chord contains all seven notes of a diatonic scale, I did not approach these notes as a scale, but rather as note collections that produce various intervals (harmonic colors) within the chord. These intervals are then allowed to interact with one another in the piece to create a kaleidoscopic layering and shifting of harmonic colors. Eventually, chromatic inflections (B-flat and F-sharp) are added to imitate notes found in the C harmonic series (which also contains a C13 chord). Finally, during the faster middle section, notes outside of the chord (and/or harmonic series) are used for contrast.

In terms of character, this piece begins with a slow meditative repetition of two melodic ideas. One is presented as single-handed rolls by the right-hand, and the other as a slowly developing melody by the left-hand. The phrases of these two ideas, however, do not align and so produce the kaleidoscopic shifting as described above. After an accelerando, the middle section continues developing a similar harmonic and rhythmic interaction between the hands, but in a faster more syncopated manner. After a series of dramatic outbursts, the original meditative quality returns and the piece ends quietly with a return of material from the first section.

Duration Ca. 7 minutes.

A live performance of Meditations on a Chord can be heard on Youtube.