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“Heartbeats” is a programmatic, large scale percussion ensemble written for 15 percussionists and amplified choir (optional). The piece was written for and will be premiered by the Concord High School Percussion students at Groove! on February 20, 2014 in Elkhart, Indiana. The concept of heartbeats in relation to music, life, and more specifically rhythm, has always been a captivating thought for me. I think it is best described by Paul Pearsall in his book, “The Heart's Code: Tapping the Wisdom and Power of Our Heart Energy” when he states:
"There is no more obvious evidence of connection between our heart and energy outside the body than our heart's response to musical rhythms.....Our heart is the metronome of our body's biorhythm, and health happens when we are in rhythm within ourselves, synchronized with other living systems and moving to our preset beat rather than trying to respond to the driving beat of the stressful outside world...."
This seemed like a perfect theme to utilize the rhythmic qualities of percussion instruments, and the team effort and “oneness” that is involved in percussion ensemble playing. The Concord students have always played with so much heart that it was only appropriate that I write this piece for them and that they premier it. The piece is written in 5 sections:
II. New Life
IV. In Love
Mojo, the Swahili word for "heart," serves as an introduction to the overall piece and was written to accompany a video that will open up our production. I chose the various sounds and drumming techniques of Japanese Taiko drumming mixed with the haunting sounds of African voices chanting “Mojo,” as the heart and heartbeat is very important to these two cultures. The sound of the great Taiko is said to resemble a mother's heartbeat as felt in the womb, and it is no myth that babies are often lulled asleep by its thunderous vibrations. The pounding sound of the heart is introduced in a strong, dominating manner, and comes back throughout the piece in different forms.
New Life is a celebration of new birth and a new heartbeat, symbolized by an energetic progression reminiscent of rock music. The heartbeat fades away, still in steady tempo, as the solo vibraphone hints at the theme of “Love” which comes later on in the work.
Murmurs/Adrenaline is meant to depict the troubles that come with heart murmurs in infants, as well as a heart rate speeding up and ultimately leading to a heart attack. The murmurs are represented with pointed attacks from the battery percussion as well as a constant hocket of accents and various syncopations which create an uneasy feeling. A gradual accelerando and rising melodic line carries the listener to the point where the heart attack happens and the heartbeat slowly dies away.
In Love is a representation of the emotional and loving experiences we relate to the heart. I was inspired by the beautiful music of Benoit Jutras and Cirque Du Soleil to create a section that is heartfelt and emotional. A male and female vocalist sing together to signify the love found in our most meaningful relationships in life. The many changes in key represent that with love we can overcome many changes in life and persevere to something beautiful.
Synchronization brings back the opening theme from the second section but presents it in a matter that is scattered and disjunct. The repeated theme is passed around the ensemble and eventually lines up at a faster tempo accompanied by unison hits from the battery percussion. The piece drives to the end with the mallets repeating the theme over and over and finally synchronizing with the battery percussion to end as “one!”