Janky Marimba

Super excited for a new piece from frequent collaborator Robert Honstein.  We’ve assembled a consortium of 34 percussionists from around the world, and Robert should finish a brand new prepared marimba solo by June 1.   

Robert and I have been collaborating since 2011, when New Morse Code's first-ever concert featured Patter:

Since then, NMC has commissioned two pieces from Robert, recorded three of his works (one of which we did in three different instrumentations), and spent many hours together at Avaloch Farm.  Robert played at our album release show, and in April, KU's Percussion Group presented what Robert claimed was the first concert dedicated solely to his music!

Our next collaboration is a long time coming.  In preparation for what would eventually become Down Down Baby, Robert and I met up in Boston, took over Maria Finkelmeier's marimba, and recorded a variety of crazy sounds on the instrument.  We hit every part of it, put stuff on top of it, and generally went to town. Robert ended up going in a different way with Down Down Baby—instead of two people on one marimba, we got a piece for two people on one cello—but he kept the samples.

NB: KU Band stand is  required  for successful performance 

NB: KU Band stand is required for successful performance 

The idea was to expand the sonic possibilities of the marimba without having to add a bunch of additional instruments.  We decided to “prepare” the instrument by laying various items on the accidental keyboard.  Originally, we thought about removing all the black notes from the keyboard, but found that a little bit too restrictive.  In its current configuration, the Janky Marimba (as we’re calling it) allows for access to all the accidentals and naturals on the keyboard.  Some are buzzy, some are clear, and some are muted and dull.  In addition, we’ve assembled. Quite the arsenal of other sounds, including:

  • Metal bowl inside tambourine
  • 2 roto-tom frames
  • small food service container
  • 2 jamblocks (higher one not pictured) 
  • 3 bottles
  • teeny tiny woodblock
  • guiro
  • small metal shaker

And my personal favorite, the kick pedal-actived IKEA Filur tub, first seen in Robert’s Down Down Baby:

I’m excited for the next chapter in collaboration between Robert and myself.  Stay tuned for information about the premiere and eventual recording!