Prelude for marimba
Composer: Christopher Swist
Duration: 5 min.
Prelude for Marimba was written in late 2006 and premiered in February of 2007 in New Hampshire. Having written a great deal of material for solo marimba from 1996-2001 I had taken a 5-year break from marimba solos. The most obvious development after this hiatus was that this was my first piece to encompass a 5-octave marimba. Given this extended range, it is not a surprise that much of the piece focuses on the low-end of the instrument. The prelude uses a pair of 6-note modes that form the 12-tone aggregate. The form is A-B-A with the driving rhythmic "A" sections framing an open abstract "B" section that incorporates an alternative tone row. Tempo alterations and dynamic contours are scored to encourage the performer to play expressively and with great finesse. As well, the abstract "B" section allows for a certain degree of rhythmic and dynamic embellishment on behalf of the performer.
About the composer +
In 1999, The Instrumentalist stated that Christopher Swist’s published marimba work “should become a part of contemporary four-mallet marimba repertoire.” Since then his compositions have been published and performed across the United States and Canada as well as in Europe, South America, China, and Australia. His first solo CD Whitewater, funded by the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust for New Music, was released to critical acclaim in 2001. Percussive Notes found the recording to have “musicality, interest, and excellent sound.” His Percussion Quartets No 1 and No 2 were featured on the 2008 Festival Internacional de Inverno de Campos do Jordão in Brazil. In 2012, The Bard Conservatory Orchestra premiered Swist’s orchestra piece Abaprima. TMI Arts Page reviewed the premier as having “joyous sound” and “a natural for the orchestra.” Abaprima was also performed in 2013 by The Louisville Orchestra.
In October 2013, his second solo CD, Duality, was released and contains 77-minutes of acoustic and electronic music. Like Whitewater, Duality has also gathered positive reviews on both Swist’s compositional technique and performance style. American Record Guide commented, “The stick work is good, with tight rolls, evenly gradual dynamic increases and decreases, and sharp accents on the ascending and descending motives.” Percussive Notes wrote of Swist’s “compositional range” and noted “Swist shows extreme aptitude and ease in performing all the keyboard instruments.” Percussive Notes also found the “recording quality is excellent” on Duality. Christopher learned recording engineering and sound design from his late father Larry Swist, an internationally acclaimed studio designer, recording engineer, and producer.
Professor Swist is Artist in Residence at Keene State College where he has taught music technology, percussion, composition, and music theory since 2003. He is also on faculty at Franklin Pierce University and has taught at Bennington College, The Hartt School, and Holyoke Community College. He was recently a clinician, soloist, and conductor in Peru for the Ministry of Culture and National Symphony in Lima. Swist was educated at SUNY-Buffalo and The Hartt School, holding two M.M. degrees in both performance and composition. His percussion teachers were Jan Williams, Tony Miranda, John Rowland, Ben Toth, Al Lepak, Glen Velez, Johnny Almendra, and Luiz D’Anunciação. His composition teachers were Jeffrey Stadelman, Stephen Gryc, Robert Carl, Ken Steen, and Ingram Marshall. Christopher is an active symphonic percussionist as well as a contemporary music advocate and often performs with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.
Christopher Swist is the president for the New Hampshire / Maine Chapter of the Percussive Arts Society. He is also the treasurer and a charter member of the Kappa Pi Chapter of Pi Kappa Lambda (national music honor society).
Christopher Swist is an artist for Sabian Cymbal Makers and Vater Percussion.
Review (Percussive Notes, March (58) 2012)
A 5.0-octave marimba offers a menacing low range, which this piece capitalizes on throughout its five minute duration. Composed in an idiomatic fashion for four mallets, “Prelude for Marimba” offers the listener and performer passages of intensity and aggression that are juxtaposed with moments of freedom and flexibility.
Constructed in an ABA form, the piece begins with a variety of driving rhythmic patterns, with melodic fragments derived from a tone row. The combination of single independent and double vertical strokes create lines that alternate between being nimble and heavy. The middle section is marked by a slower tempo, more spacious rhythms, tremolo passages, and indications of greater interpretive freedom. Here, a new tone row is introduced, creating fresh material while maintaining the “angular” tonalities of the first section. The final section employs replication of passages from the opening of the piece, while also introducing new rhythmic variations that serve to drive the work to its energetic conclusion.
Although the performer must possess an advanced level of physical technique to execute this piece, all stickings (while not notated in the score) would be fairly obvious, due to the idiomatic, “marimba friendly” nature of the scoring. This piece would serve as a fine opening selection on a recital, or for those looking to christen the low end of their new five-octave instrument.
Benjamin Toth, Professor of Percussion The Hartt School, University of Hartford
Christopher Swist's marimba writing in his "Prelude" is idiomatic yet unpredictable. He beautifully exploits the full range of the instrument, exploring a broad spectrum of colors and articluation.
Front cover artist: Ronni Kot Wenzell
Performing artist: Christopher Swist
Copyright © Edition Svitzer
Printed in Copenhagen, Denmark