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Sea Monkey (by Sarah Gibson)

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The 1st-place winner in the 2010 PAS composition contest for marimba/cello duo.

Written for composer/percussionist Ben Phelps and cellist Peter Myers, "Sea Monkey" was the 2010 PAS Composition Contest Winner in the marimba/cello duo category. Its programmatic title references a 1957 aquarium product that was originally called "Instant Life" because it was a species of brine shrimp that, when released int water, emerged from their cryptobiotic state and became "alive." The first movement of this work is titled "Cryptobiosis" and the second, "Instant Life."
The first movement is meant to represent a dry, sparse atmosphere like the state of the shrimp in their powdered form. Primarily focusing on a two-note motive, the seconds are prominent in the tonalisty. The performing duo has a little freedom with the tempo because it is on the slow side at 60 bpm. The cello part includes arco and pizzicato notation and is easy to read. The marimba part has no stickings indicated and will require two-mallet single-stroke rolls, lateral strokes at the octave and some independence between the hands.
The second movement represents the life that occurs when the shrimp enter the water and are finally "awakened" from their powdered form. The tempo is marked 100 bpm, but don't let that fool you. Whereas the cello part doesn't look that difficult, the marimba part is. It consists primarily of double vertical strokes that jump around the instrument. The good news is it looks less difficult to put together with the cello, as there are lots of unison or responsive rhythmic motives.
It looks like a fun piece to play and the title and subsequent programmatic ideas add to its appeal. I'm thankful PAS offered the category of a marimba/cello duo in its competition contest so pieces like this are added to our repertoire. I look forward to working on this piece with my faculty colleague!
-- Julia Gaines, Percussive Notes -- November 2012

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