John Parker wins 3rd place in the 2012 PAS Composing Competition

November 17, 2012 9:00 pm Published by

Here’s what the Percussive Arts Society had to say about “Pushing Nancarrow’s Wheelbarrow” – from Percussion Notes November 2012

This piece is a wonderful adventure showcasing polymeter and polyrhythms. Most of the time, the listening impression is that of perpetual motion with constant variation. The syncopations create a delightful lilting and bubbling texture throughout. There is always more than meets the eye. What appears to be syncopation in a given meter is actually the establishment of opposing meters, creating many intriguing instances of polymeter. What you “see” is not what you get, concerning perception of meter. In other words, a listener, away from the score will not probably not “hear” the notation. For example, the opening meter is 5/4 with the following rhythm:
Without any predetermined aural reference, the listener essentially hears two statements of four equal articulations (beats) followed by a much longer one of uncertain metrical identity, and then two statements of four equal articulations followed by two slightly longer ones. Consequently, the meter is not at all readily apparent. This kind of metrical intrigue beautifully permeates the piece with wonderful results.
Overall, the form is in three parts with the middle offering a quasi jazz feel and improvisation opportunities. The upper range is rarely used; rather, the piece focuses primarily on the mid to lower range of the instrument. Dynamics are moderate, creating a somewhat uniform environment.
Regarding the polymeter and polyrhythm approaches, the composer provides explanations of his intentions. For example, while written in 3/4, the performer is told RH – 5 [3,2], LH – 3 [3 – grouped in 4]. The first numbers refer to sixteenths. Thus, the right hand is in 5/16 as 3+2 and the left hand is effectively in 12/16 as 3 + 3 + 3 + 3. Similarly, another area is explained as RH – 5 [1, 2, 2], LF 3. These notations certainly provide an aid to the performer concerning the composer’s intentions.
This is a very challenging piece and one that is well worth the effort. Performers should enjoy both the challenge and the result. The piece lasts approximately 8 minutes.

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