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Blue Smoke

Composer: Michael Burritt

Instrument: Marimba

Level: Advanced

Published: 2024

Price: €25.00

Item details

  • Description +
    • by Karle Wilson Baker

      The flame of my life burns low
      Under the clutter days,
      Like a fire of leaves.
      But always a little blue, sweet smelling smoke Goes up to God.

      Blue Smoke is the first piece I have written for solo marimba in more than 10 years.  It was a fun challenge to return to the idiom  that got me started composing for marimba back in 1986 when I wrote October Night, my first piece for solo marimba. Blue Smoke reflects both the rhythmic and melodic language that defines my music in recent years. A modally driven motivic structure laced over an animated and groove based rhythmic foundation. Blue Smoke is a virtuosic rollercoaster ride for both listener and performer.

  • Instrumentation +
    • Marimba (5-octave)

  • About the composer +
    • Having performed in four continents and more than forty states, Michael Burritt is one of his generation's most accomplished percussionists. He is in frequent demand performing concert tours and master classes throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, Australia and Canada. Mr. Burritt has been soloist with the United States Air Force Band, Dallas Wind Symphony, Omaha Symphony, Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, Richmond Symphony Orchestra, Nexus, Third Coast Percussion, Ju Percussion Group (Taiwan), Percussion Art Quartet (Germany) and the Amores Percussion Group (Spain). Mr. Burritt has three solo as well as numerous chamber recordings. In 2018 he recorded his Home Trilogy with the world renown percussion group Nexus and is soon to release a new recording of solo and chamber works by Alejandro Viñao with the Grammy Award winning Third Coast Percussion. Burritt recently premiered Fast Forward, Chamber Concerto commissioned for him in celebration of the centennial of the Eastman School of Music by Pulitzer Prize winning Composer Joseph Schwantner.

      He has been a featured artist at nine Percussive Arts Society International Conventions. In 1992 he presented his New York solo debut in Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall and in 1998 performed his London debut in the Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall. Mr. Burritt has extensive chamber and orchestral experience and has performed with the Chicago Chamber Musicians, The Chicago Symphony, Nexus, Third Coast Percussion and The Peninsula Music Festival Orchestra.

      Mr. Burritt is also active as a composer, with three concertos to his credit as well as numerous solo and chamber works for marimba and percussion. His works for solo marimba have become standard repertoire for the instrument and are frequently required repertoire on international competitions. Commissions include The World Marimba Competition in Stuttgart Germany, The Paris International Marimba Competition, Nexus and Paris Percussion Group.  Zildjian recently commissioned Mr Burritt to compose a 30 minute work in celebration of the company’s 400 years anniversary in 2023.  Mr. Burritt is published with Keyboard Percussion Publications, C. Alan, Masters Music and Innovative Percussion. Burritt is also an artist/clinician and product design/consultant for Malletech, where he has developed his own line of marimba mallets and the MJB Signature Marimba. He is an artist/educational clinician with the Zildjian Company and Evans Drum Heads and Yamaha Drums. Mr. Burritt is currently the President of Percussive Arts Society,  was a member of the Board of Directors from 1996 - 2008, was a contributing editor for Percussive Notes Magazine from 1991 – 2006 and was chairman of the PAS Keyboard Committee from 2004 – 2010.

      Mr. Burritt is currently holds the Paul J. Burgett Distinguished Professorship and is  Professor of Percussion at The Eastman School of Music where he is only the third person in the history of the school to hold this position. Prior to his appointment at  Eastman, Mr. Burritt was Professor of Percussion at Northwestern University from 1995-2008 where he developed a program of international distinction. Mr. Burritt received his Bachelor and Master of Music Degrees, as well as the prestigious Performers Certificate from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.

  • Reviews +
    • Review (Percussive Notes, June 2024)

      Michael Burritt’s first composition for solo marimba in ten years is based on the poem of the same name by Karle Wilson Baker. As Burritt describes in the preface, “‘Blue Smoke’ reflects both the rhythmic and melodic language that defines my music in recent years. A modally driven motivic structure laced over an animated and groove-based rhythmic foundation.”

      This piece has beautiful moments that are briefly reminiscent of such past Burritt compositions as “Shadow Chasers,” “Azure,” “The Offering,” and more recently, “Blue Soul” (reviewed under Percussion Ensemble).

      The piece begins with an incessant, sixteenth-note groove across various time signatures and accent patterns. The middle section possesses an eerie, organ-like beauty in the four-note chords presented. This is followed by a variation on the opening section, leading to an extended cadenza. The piece concludes with a “pedal to the metal” intensity. As with most Burritt compositions, he utilizes the low end of the marimba particularly well throughout. There is a certain warmth and energy to his orchestration in this part of the instrument.

      I highly recommend this piece for advanced marimbists looking for a virtuosic showpiece for their recital. It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since Burritt last wrote a piece for solo marimba. “Blue Smoke” was certainly worth the wait!

      —Justin Bunting

  • Credits +
    • Front Cover Artwork: Nicola Lee
      Printed in Copenhagen, Denmark
      Copyright © Edition SVITZER
      With support from Koda’s Cultural Funds

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