I have had the great fortune of receiving an amazing education, both musical and otherwise, and ever since I was able, I have sought to pass this on. I have taught drums and percussion for over 20 years, presented lectures, clinics and masterclasses in Australia, the UK and the USA, and written numerous published articles on both percussion and music theory.
Research and Writing
Being and Becoming: Experiencing Steve Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians," New England Conservatory of Music, 2015.
- See below for more information
“Gunther Schuller’s Marimbology (1993)”
Sonus 34 no. 1, 2013.
“Understanding the use of Digital Delay in Westlake’s Fabian Theory”
Percussive Notes, January, 2013.
“Drumming Up a Future”
Music Forum (Music Council of Australia), Feb- Apr, 2009.
I am working on material for a session focusing on non-jazz improvisation for the marimba player. Check back hear soon for mroe details. There might be videos...
Electronic Mallet Percussion Basics
First presented at PASIC 2012, this session covers the basics of electronic percussion for the tuned percussionist, covering topics including:
- instrument choice and application
- MIDI technology
- common uses and setups
- sampling and audio effects
Composing for the Marimba
Designed for composers, this session covers all aspects of writing music for the marimba. Topics include:
- mallet choice
- "dos" and "donts"
Further information about my dissertation
I have loved the music of Steve Reich (b. 1936) since my year 11 music teacher played us a tape of his "Music for Large Ensemble". The rhythm, the modal harmony, the long tones, and of course the marimbas, all made so much sense to me even though I had never heard it before. A frantic and obsessive collecting of every recording I could find quickly exposed me to all of his major - what we would now call "early" -works (this was the mid-90s after all)., deepening my connection to this music, and as a percusisonist, furthering my desire to play it. Of all of these works - the early "phase" works, "Drumming", "Music for Mallets...", "Sextet", "Variations for Strings..." and others, to me none quite hold the mystery of "Music for 18 Musicians". The way it shimmers and dances, mixes robotic mechanism with aching emotion, floats on the surface while resonating on an almost subconscious level. It is, in my opinion, one of the greatest works of the 20th Century.
As a researcher, I have become increasinlgy interested in the lack of work being done that connects the music itself with the experience of listening to it. I beleive that Reich's music (as with most Minimalism) screams to be treated in this way, but the work that has mostly been done is either bland structural analysis (an explanation of how the composer has built the piece), or amazingly complex mathematical formulations that seek to place the processes at work within the music in line with existing numeric equations. Both of these types of analysis are valid and I by no means seek to diminsh their worth, but as more recent scholarly work has proven, the time has come to move on and seek to place the music within a larger context.
Find below the conclusion from my dissertation. Please email if you would like a copy of the entire paper.
Richard Taruskin describes Music of 18 Musicians as “perhaps the most influential fully notated composition of the decade, it is often described as the first postmodernist masterwork,” a title that he contends “does call attention to the important role it played in renovating the terms on which music was composed and evaluated” (2010, 394). This last point, a renovation of the means of evaluation, is the reason behind my preceding study of the work. If Reich’s work is indeed a “masterwork” it is not because of a gradual acceptance into the musical ‘canon’ thanks to the work of theorists and historians who have studied the work and found it deserving. It is because listening to it is an extraordinary experience not found in any other music.
It is my contention that this extraordinary experience is facilitated by the manipulation of musical time, and we have seen that every element of the music - from the smallest musematic pulse through to increasingly large meters, grooves, phrases, sections and the overall structure - all enable ambiguous and changing interpretations of temporality. There are of course many other aspects to the piece that I have not investigated that are part of the listening experience - instrumentation, tonality, and, of course, harmony - but I have sought to focus on what I believe is the single dominating factor of time, as that is the universal point of connection between the listener and the music. Another “renovation” in this music is that this ambiguous experience of time is not a by-product of the musical material, generated as it seeks to represent something ‘other’ and leaving the listener unsure as to what to be listening to. Rather it is the full intent and purpose of the music, releasing the listener to roam through the shifting layers, fully aware that they can pick and choose their own experience. And that individual experience is the music.
Written on the night he attended the world premiere of Music for 18 Musicians in April 1976, Tim Page (2007) was in awe of Reich’s achievement; “Imagine . . . trying to impose a frame on a running river—making it a finite, enclosed work of art yet leaving its kinetic quality unsullied, leaving it flowing freely on all sides. It has been done. Steve Reich has framed the river.” The metaphor of a river is an apt one. When we look at the river through Reich’s frame we can choose to be mesmerized by the light dancing across the surface, or we can follow the path of a floating leaf. We can focus on a submerged branch or ruminate on what we can’t see further below the surface. The possibilities are endless and we are free to move from one to the other (or not) as we please. Reich gives us this choice, and it is what makes the entire scene so special.
*** Footnotes and citations available with the complete paper