MAG7: Rhapsody No. 1 was written in the summer of 2017 and dedicated to my seven graduate students (The Magnificent Seven) who so brilliantly brought my new opus to life. The piece opens with a solo “riff” on marimba that serves as the seed for entire work. The rhythmic and metric development play with the quintuplet, first introduced in the opening section, as a tool for polyrhythmic hemiola and metric modulation. This is fully realized in the center of the work as the entire ensemble is playing varying layers in multiples of 5 tethered to a 5/4 meter. Like most of my music, MAG7 is a melting pot of genres and artistic influences coalescing in a pseudo-rhapsodic form.
“MAG7” was written in dedication to the seven graduate students of Michael Burritt who premiered the work at PASIC17. Like several other percussion ensemble works by Burritt, this piece is high energy and very technically demanding. For ensembles looking for a showcase piece for their concert program, “MAG7” will certainly fit the bill.
While keyboards are the predominant focus of the instrumentation for most of the piece, various drums and percussion instruments are scattered throughout the work, including a later section where the drums take the dominant role for a brief period. Beginning with a single marimba, the opening motive acts as the main material for the entire piece. Soon after, each marimba has its own entrance until the full quartet is in, soon to be complemented by a variety of drums before other keyboard instruments arrive in the mix.
The composer states that the piece is “a melting pot of geners and artistic influences.” This can be heard in eveything from the blues-like opening riff to the industrial drumset grooves injected at various points, as well as the variety of textures used throughout the work. Burritt explores and assortment of textures, with the keyboard instruments especially projecting a wealth of timbres as the players use traditional mallets, timbale sticks, and even their fingers on the bars through different sections.
This piece is definitely geared towards larger programs with more expreienced players. The equipment necessary to perform the work is significant, including multiple sets of crotales, a pedal glockenspiel, and two 5-octave marimbas. Beyond the gear though, the technical demands placed on the performers are quite substantial — from two-mallet chops to the ability to split rhythms between players in the style of Steve Reich or Aurel Hollo. However, for those programs that have these resources, “MAG7” will sure to please performers and audience members alike with its wealth of colors and high-energy output.
-Brian Nozny, Percussive Notes, May 2019