After releasing our debut album, Glass Houses for Marimba, we were sure that we wanted to continue arranging and performing music by Canadian composer Ann Southam. Her series of minimalist, solo piano pieces, Glass Houses, are what first brought Taktus together. But we were also looking for music that would contrast and complement Southam’s works while also translating well on the marimba. When we began listening to Philip Glass’s piano Etudes together during long van rides while on tour, we knew we had found a good fit. The rich harmonies and clever rhythmic interplay that we adore about Southam’s music are also present in the piano works of Glass. Yet the two composers bring distinctly different qualities to their music. While Southam’s works are often joyous, bright, and peaceful, Glass’s music is generally edgier, darker, and more brooding.
This led us to the concept of doing a “two-sided” album. In order to highlight both the similarities and differences between the music of these two composers, we recorded selections of their piano music that we have arranged for two marimbas. On Side A, you will hear four of our new arrangements of Southam’s Glass Houses (1981, revised 2009), along with our unique take on her Rivers 1 (1979, revised 2004). In this piece, we have incorporated electronic processing through a delay pedal as an alternative to the piano’s sustain pedal. On Side B, you will hear our arrangements of four of Glass’s Etudes (1991-2012). We also recorded Glass’s early minimalist work, Music in Contrary Motion (1969), originally for solo organ. We used Moog synthesizer drones in place of the organ pedal tones which mark the sections of the piece. The two sides of the album were recorded in different studios with different recording engineers resulting in different sonic outcomes. The intention was to create two distinctive auditory environments on the album that further enhance the contrasting moods of the music.
Our quest to find minimalist music that can be translated onto the marimba has caused us to think deeply about these composers’ works. Not every piece of minimalist piano music will work on the marimba due to its relatively short sustain and smaller range. However, we think there are some things that the marimba can do better than the piano or, at least, do differently. The sonic and rhythmic qualities of these pieces can be enhanced by carefully choosing different mallets for each register of the marimba. The overlapping patterns of the music can be articulated more clearly when being performed by two independent players on two separate instruments. Ultimately, we hope that the listener will thoughtfully consider our perspectives on these pieces, enjoy the work of these composers in a fresh way, and be as engaged as we are with this music!
This project is funded in part by FACTOR, the Government of Canada and Canada’s private radio broadcasters.
Ce projet est financé en partie par FACTOR, le gouvernement du Canada et les radiodiffuseurs privés du Canada.
Special thanks to Kip Southam, Julia and Peter Smith, Gary and Janet Good, the Conlin Family, and everyone else who donated funds toward the production of this album. We could not have done it without you!