The public that surrounds the ensemble assembled in a circle for a 60-minute performance: Timber by the New York composer Michaël Gordon. The work consists of five movements for six players of the simantra, the percussion instrument of Byzantine rites, which consists of a long plank of wood that is hit with two hammers. At the limit of their muscular resources, the musicians produce moving waves and textures of sound that explore the spells of rhythms, sometimes in time, sometimes out of time. They create a kind of grainy, crackling sound landscape that is ultimately very peaceful and a match for electronic music – and this with their bare hands!
I began working on Timber in 2009 at the invitation of the Dutch-based dance group, Club Guy & Roni, and the percussion ensembles Slagwerk Den Haag and Mantra Percussion. I had written many orchestral works over the decade, beginning with Decasia in 2001 up to Dystopia in 2007, and I wanted to clear my mind of pitches and orchestration.
For that reason, I decided early on that Timber would be for non-tuned percussion and that each percussionist would play one instrument only. I thought of composing this music as being like taking a trip out into the desert. I was counting on the stark palette and the challenge of survival to clear my brain and bring on visions.
I imagined that the six instruments would go from high to low, and that, through a shifting of dynamics from one instrument to the next, the group could make seamless and unified descending or ascending patterns. After working on rhythmic sketches with Mantra Percussion in early 2009, I went to Amsterdam in June to workshop my ideas with Slagwerk Den Haag. I had the plan but I was searching for the right instruments.
After some experimentation, Slagwerk's Fedor Teunisse brought out a set of wooden simantras. These slabs of wood, which looked like standard building materials from a lumberyard to me, had a gorgeous sound. It was distinct enough so that the clarity of the percussive hits could be heard, and was also extremely resonant, producing a complex field of overtones. With inspiration from this discovery, I returned to New York to finished the music for Club Guy & Roni's extravaganza 'Pinball and Grace,' which premiered in October of 2009.
Agenda for this project
- Date Show Location
Sat 21.03 Gordon : TIMBER (Berlin) Haus der Berliner Festspiele - Berlin - Germany
TIMBER in Berlin (Michael Gordon)start: 2230h
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