Blue Skin of the Sea

Tonia Ko’s Blue Skin of the Sea is now out on Vic Firth’s YouTube channel. Evan and Kevin at Four/Ten Media filmed the piece with me in February 2017, and we’re thrilled to share it with the world.  

Blue Skin of the Sea, commissioned in 2014 by a consortium of percussionists organized by myself, takes  a closer look at the “skin” of the marimba by exploring what Tonia calls the “intimate, horizontal world of marimba bars” and the way the instrument’s sound seems to float several feet above the instrument. At the same time, Tonia uses the distinctive way the marimba’s sound is created to steer the work’s large-scale structure, creating a gradual timbral transformation from soft/resonant to dry/brittle and back again. The 1st and last movements emerge from the 5th partial above the marimba’s lowest C with a wiggling grace, while the 4th is a combination of the Hawaiian lullaby “Pupu Hinuhinu” (“Shiny Shells”), ragtime xylophone, and a tuning ditty used by “a classroom full of fourth graders strumming tiny toy ukuleles in not quite unison.” The 3rd movement (“Curiouser”) is a rustle-y interlude.  The 2nd movement—the piece's musical center—is a flabbergastingly unique world of melodic scrapes.

Blue Skin fuses inspiration, form, musical content, and performance practice in a unique and poetic manner. In my opinion, it’s one of the most creative marimba pieces in recent memory, and certainly  one of the most expressive works I’ve commissioned.  Hope you enjoy!


Had a blast experiencing this year's PASIC (that's Percussive Arts Society International Convention for you non-percussionists) last week in San Antonio.  In addition to catching up with all my percussion friends, heroes and frenemies from around the world, I had the honor of sharing the stage with Gwen Dease, Ji Hye Jung, and Paul Fadoul as part of a keyboard showcase concert featuring music for percussion and…not-percussion! Hannah and I played Andy Akho's 21, and we were treated some some great Klatzow from Ji Hye and Eli Lara, some great marimba/trombone/bass music from Gwen and cohorts, and Lawler/Fadoul's sweet new Roshanne Etezady preludes.  

Big Screen, small audience! 

Look ma!

Other highlights: Percussion at Princeton's amazing booth—I bought a ton of music—seeing Vic Caccese shill for Sandbox Percussion's new NYU summer program (apply!), and indulging my inner high-school drumline fanboy. Thanks to the great people at Vic Firth and Zildjian for their support.  Yay percussion!

Pre-Show Banner Selfie!

Pre-Show Banner Selfie!

An American Tune

I've been lax updating this site, a case of avoidance therapy about practicing, and the beginning-of-the-semester bustle.  A complete calendar update is coming soon, but I'm emerging from my cocoon to announce that I am excited about this Sunday's Ensemble X concert.  Ensemble X is a contemporary music ensemble consisting of faculty at Cornell and Ithaca College, and because the estimable Xak Bjerken is out of town, I'm humbled to have the opportunity to grab the curatorial rudder for this show.The program is called An American Tune,  and features new and recent works that, as a whole, explore particularly "American" approaches to melody and song.  In addition to the world premiere of bubble-wrap virtuoso Tonia Ko'Blue Skin of the Sea, we'll hear a new arrangement of Peabody Friend Daniel Thomas DavisReal Country, a tour of the rural south through song, Timo Andres' serene Fast Flows the River, and Andy Akiho's crisp and Mondrian-ian LIgNEouS.

We'll also be joined by fabulous soprano Lucy Fitz Gibbon for a set of songs from Anna Lindemann, George Perle, Undine Smith Moore, Florence Price, and John Cage. As an alternative to the Super Bowl, it can't be beaten (or deflated).

More info is here.
Hope to post a recording/video/photo of this soon!