180 is the second of two quartets I have written for marimba, the first having been completed in 2002. 180 employs a great deal of canonic passagework, through rhythmic and melodic hocketing. The idea is to establish a homogenous sound through 4 marimbas creating the illusion of a single instrument. The work is 360 measures in length and has a seminal tutti moment in measure 180, where all the displaced rhythmic activity comes together for 1 measure and then immediately disperses.
180 was commissioned by a consortium of schools led by Eric Willie at the University of North Carolina Greensboro along with Tennessee Tech University, University of Tennessee, University of South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Lee University, University of North Alabama, Radford University, University of North Carolina Pembroke, University of North Carolina School of the Arts and Frisco Liberty High School. 180 was premiered by the University of North Carolina Greensboro, Eric Willie director, at the 2015 Percussive Arts Society International Convention in San Antonio, Texas.
“180,” the second of Michael Burritt’s two marimba quartets, has a subdued yet palpable energy that will have listeners on the edge of their seats. The work exudes an atmosphere similar to Peter Garland’s “Apple Blossom” — quasi-meditative, yet with something new always appearing. Burritt’s textures certainly create the “illusion of a single instrument” that he has imagined — constant sixteenth notes from all four players rise and fall in beautiful, short melodies; certain lines reach above the lovely tapestry of sound, seemingly out of nowhere and with no hint at where the next will emerge.
This advanced keyboard quartet exhibits the hocketed rhythms and syncopated accent patterns typical of Burritt’s other compositions. It is exciting and driving, though in a more understated manner than some of his other works. All four players will need substantial marimba experience (including four-mallet skills), and the quick tempo and rapid-fire canons will require both individual integrity and ensemble communication.
-Rebecca McDaniel, Percussive Notes, May 2019