Expanding the Repertoire: Glockenspiel Solos

Recently, I received a recording of my solo glockenspiel piece, the situation is…, performed by the commissioner of the work, Brett Dietz. Inspired to expand the repertoire, he has commissioned new glockenspiel works from many composers, including one of my former teachers David Stock.

Brett’s mission is bold.

As he stated in an article he recently wrote for Percussive Notes, many composers and performers prefer marimba and vibraphone for extended solo works. Some listeners may not initially feel up to an all glockenspiel recital (and that’s ok).  The glockenspiel is bright and high pitched, which in itself is neither good nor bad. Like anything, it is what you make of it. Brett’s composers feature the special qualities of the instrument.

Brett’s presentation of these performances resolves many of the issues faced when presenting this repertoire. In addition to recording his commissioned pieces, he has been videotaping them and posting his performances to Youtube.  He has also released a CD. Like a gallery exhibit, the Youtube channel and CD allow viewers can engage with these new additions to the repertoire at their own pace. He thus presents listeners a chance to explore without feeling tricked or trapped.

For me, being asked to compose a solo glockenspiel piece was an opportunity to write the kind of music that would work best on an instrument I grew up playingAny instrumentation can present itself as a unique opportunity to arrive at musical results you might not have discovered otherwise. I am still working on a piece for Concordance Ensemble, which has the instrumentation of oboe, trumpet, violin, and piano. The struggle of figuring out how I want these instruments to interact with each other has been my chief pleasure in composing their piece. For the situation is…, I focused on the ringing quality of the bells. I imagined presenting blurs of rapid notes that resonate into chords. I then wanted to contrast this with clear, single notes that either repeat in a consistent pulse or trail off.

 

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