I have received from feedback from Meggie Aube regarding the first movement of Guatemaya and I thought it would be informative to my readers to see how a collaboration between composer and performer often works. As I have said earlier, I am not a marimba player although I am generally aware of what the instrument can do. But it takes an expert to reflect on what is technically easy and hard. Meggie has done that for me in her latest email that appears below:
I have some comments on the first movement to give you after my initial reading of it. If you don't mind I will give you my comments for each movement seperately. I have been so busy with the semester ending that I don't have a lot of time. Also, I officially set the concert date for April 30th and it will be at 6:00 p.m.
An over all comment for the first movement is that it could be harder if you would like to make it so. There are many sections where I am only using two of the four mallets, so you could fill those sections in with more notes if you would like. Measure 13-33 would be a good example of this. And there are some moments where it goes from needing two mallets to needing 4 mallets and then back, I think it could just use 4 mallets all the way, unless there is a measure run of single notes which does happen. Measures 33, 34, and 35 seem to go between needing two and then four mallets.
Some of the double stops when you wrote for two notes played by one hand are awkward and will be very difficult to play accurately at a faster tempo. When there is a G and B flat going to an A flat and C in the right hand, and a C and E flat going to a B flat and D, the movement is very uncomfortable. This happens in measures 3 and 9 and the one in measure 67 is also awkward. The double stops in measure 10 and measure 66 are ok and so is the one in measure 34 since it is a D flat. And any time they are played with both hands, not just the right hand, those are also ok.
Those are all the comments that I wrote down. When I play it again I may find more. If you have any questions about my comments or any questions about anything in particular that your wondering if I can do, please let me know. Its fun looking at your piece!
I began by tackling the passages that are too difficult and considered the comment about using 4 mallets more often. In measure 3, I eliminated the awkward movement on beat 4 by putting notes in the left hand and removing one from the right hand. I carried over two notes in the left hand into measure 4 as well and it adds a richness to the harmony. In measure 4 on beat 1, I moved the first C of the right hand down to an Ab. What I am gathering from Meggie’s comments is that it difficult in rapid passages to change the angle of mallets when the top mallet goes from natural to flat and the bottom mallet goes from flat to natural and vice versa. I know from my reading about the marimba that keeping one note the same facilitates the technique and this solution worked well here. In measure 8, I filled out the harmony like I did in measure 4. In measure 9, I used the repeated note technique to eliminate the awkward technique of the left hand on beats 3 & 4. In measures 66 & 67, I copied the solution from Measures 8 & 9.
I now began to look for other places to use 4 mallets more often. The first place I chose was measures 14 and 15. There is still some of the technical challenge of changing hand position between over the bar line in the right hand, but I hope the fact that these are quarter notes and not eighths makes it easier. I definitely wanted a change of texture in the section beginning at 16 so left some of the measures alone. I did fill in the harmony at 17, 19 & 20 and again at 33 and 34. Measures 38 & 39 are a repeat of 8 & 9 so I copied the changes into those measures. At measures 42 & 43, I used a variant of what I did at 14 & 15 since these measures are in a lower register. The section at 44 is a repeat of the section at 16, so it changed accordingly.
I hope these adjustments got rid of the awkward technique, filled in the harmony in some sections by using 3 and 4 mallets, and preserved my original intent of the movement. I feel that the texture change between 2, 3 & 4 mallets are important to add variety to the movement. I did attempt to incorporate Meggie’s suggestions where I felt appropriate. Hopefully it satisfies her concerns. I’ll report back to you as to her comments regarding the revised movement.
To see and hear the revision, go to http://www.cooppress.net/guatemayablog.html