Marimba Perspective
by Robert Van Sice

When asked to contribute an educative article on marimba to the Vic Firth Newsletter, I began to reflect on my experience of returning home to the United States after spending a decade in Europe and the 75 masterclasses that I have enjoyed giving throughout the US during the last two years. It has been a marvelous experience getting to re-know my country (via thousands of miles in rental cars) and meeting so many of my fine colleagues. My return has also been marked by an increased number of masterclasses, which has allowed me to hear many fabulous young players whose playing is mature well beyond their years. I have learned as much, if not more, than they have from these masterclass encounters. While reflecting on the playing of these American students, as well as the students I have heard in Europe and Asia, I identified two common issues to which many students might want to give thought: basic keyboard skill and repertoire choice.

I feel we need to be careful in our "modern" percussion teaching that students not just learn a few marimba pieces in their college or conservatory years, but that they become keyboard players. Some students forget that the goal of their marimba education is not just to learn an impressive piece that will score well in juries and auditions, but to assemble a toolbox of skills that will allow them to efficiently tackle the keyboard challenges that they will be faced with in the future. The French word metier, roughly translated as "craft," refers to this toolbox of skills that will be indispensable in their careers as players. It is not possible to abbreviate the process of developing metier. One need only take notice of the years that it takes a pianist, for example, to lay the foundation of keyboard skills. In my years of teaching, I have found two books that have aided many students in acquiring these basic skills and laying this foundation. The first book is Bart Quartier's Images. This book teaches reading skills and specifically aids in the reading of the grand staff. A student acquires all of the basic strokes as the book presents sophisticated ideas of rhythmic structure, independence and phrase making in their most dilute forms. My students seem to benefit most by learning one or two of these etudes per week. Another book that I find very useful is John Bergamo's Style Studies. My students have found that this book helps them to better understand the musical language of the middle to late twentieth century by introducing the intricate musical constructions of the modern repertoire in small, easily comprehensible doses.

There has been so much great music written for the marimba in the last fifteen years that it is a privilege to be a player at this time when the repertoire for the instrument is beginning to take shape. Personally, I have learned more about music making from composers while working with their music than from any teacher. With so much music being composed every year, it can sometimes be difficult to keep track of what has been written and what is worth playing. Having been asked by some of my colleagues for repertoire suggestions, I have prepared a list of works about which I feel strongly. I have limited this list to thirty one pieces for solo marimba and eight concertos and chamber pieces. This list is wide in scope aesthetically and primarily includes pieces that have had a great impact upon my students.|

I would like to thank those colleagues of mine who have invited me to consult with their students and give masterclasses. The opportunity to visit the many music institutions and hear the fresh ideas of young players from across the country has been extraordinary.

Marimba Repertoire List

Solo Marimba

Composer Title Publisher Difficulty
Jacques De Vos Malan Mobile Structures III Musications 1
Martin Wesley-Smith For Marimba and Tape Australian Music Corp. 2
Ross Edwards Marimba Dances Universal Editions 2
Emmanuel Sejourne Nancy Froggy Publications 2
Frank Nuyts Pamplona Manuscript 2
Akira Miyoshi Conversations Ongaku No Tomo 3
Gordon Stout Sedimental Structures Keyboard Percussion 3
Emmanuel Sejourne Three African Songs Leduc 3
Jennifer Stasack Six Elegies Dancing Honey Rock Publications 3
Minoru Miki Time for Marimba Ongaku No Tomo 3
Franco Donatoni Marie Ricordi 3
Akira Miyoshi Torse III Ongaku No Tomo 4
Gordon Stout Two Mexican Dances Studio 4 4
Gunther Schuller Marimbology Manuscript 4
Jacob Druckman Reflections on the Nature of Water Boosey & Hawkes 4
Joseph Schwantner Velocities Helicon Music Corp. 4
Peter Klatzow Dances of Earth and Fire Percussion Music Europe 4
Peter Klatzow Inyanga Percussion Music Europe 4
Steven Mackey See Ya Thursday Boosey & Hawkes 4
H. Suzuki Mokurei Japanese Federation of Composers 4
Takuhide Niimi For Marimba I and II Ongaku No Tomo 4
Yasuo Sueyoshi Mirage pour Marimba Ongaku No Tomo 4
Daniel Asia Marimba Music Marion Music 5
Eugene O'Brien Rhyme and Reason Manuscript 5
Irwin Bazalon Suite for Marimba Novello 5
Leigh Howard Stevens Rhythmic Caprice Keyboard Percussion 5
Philippe Boesmans Day Dreams Manuscript 5
Roger Reynolds Autumn Island Peters Edition 5
Stuart Saunders Smith Good Night Smith Publications 5
Katsuhiro Tsubonoh Meniscus Ongaku No Tomo 5
Richard Rodney Bennett After Syrinx II Novello 5


Concertos and Chamber Music

Composer Title Publisher Difficulty
Roshanne Etezady Hot Water, Burn Baby (flute and marimba) Manuscript 3
Peter Klatzow Figures in a Landscape (flute and marimba) Percussion Music Europe 4
T. Noda Mattinata (3 flutes, marimba, bass) Ongaku No Tomo 4
Toru Takemitsu Gitimalya (marimba and orchestra) Salabert 4
Gunther Schuller Phantasmata (marimba and violin) Margun Music 5
Alejandro Viñao Tumblers (marimba, violin, tape) Manuscript 5
Phillipe Manoury Le Livre des Claviers (two marimbas) Amphion 5
Richard Rodney Bennett Concerto for Marimba and Chamber Orchestra Manuscript 5