Recorded as the title piece on Albany Records cd TROY855 by Nathaniel Bartlett, this work explores the remarkable range of textures, timbres and
playing techniques of the five octave marimba, interwoven with vibrant and haunting computer-generated sounds.
Composed in 2004, this 17-minute-plus composition is scored for 5.0-octave marimba and computer generated sounds. In the vernacular, this is a piece for marimba and tape; however the tape in this instance consists of six separate audio tracks/cues that must each be triggered/played back during performance by means of a foot switch operated by the marimbist.
Included with the sizable 11×17-in bound score is a CD-R that contains a PDF file with four pages of instructions regarding the electronic accompaniment, stereo audio files in AIFF and WAV formats, and a Pure Data (PD) patch. A second CD-R is available to purchase separately that includes higher quality audio files in stereo and quadrophonic (four-speaker surround) formats, as well as the PD patch, which is merely an option for playback of the six audio files.
In addition to the technological requirements of the work, numerous extended performance techniques are required for the marimba, such as bar dampening, dead strokes, stick clicks, playing on nodes and use of the voice. Unfortunately, the voice and extended techniques are entirely underutilized; they rarely appear after the first three minutes of the composition, resulting in a bland solo marimba timbre palette with a typically rich and varied electronic accompaniment. A primary component of the composition is the exploration of various types and speeds of rolls.
This is a worthwhile work that requires a marimbist with mature technical skills and aestheic conception. The extremely dense score will require a patient interpreter to wade through the compacted notation of the marimba/voice and computer accompniment, and while the work is quite beautiful to listen to, its length and aesthetic quality will require a patient audience.
A recording of “Precipice” is available from the Albany label (TROY855) on a hybrid multi-channel super audio CD of the same name. A one-page score example and audio recording excerpt are available on the publisher’s website.
— Ron Coulter, Percussive Notes — November 2011