A Riq, a djembe, and 4 tars walk into a bar…

Riq says, “Play it again, Sam.” Get it? Riq says? Casablanca? Ok, moving on…

I’ll wrap up the series of blog posts on my new works published by Bachovich with three works for hand drums; Merck’s Tattoo for solo riq, Kirina Dreams for solo djembe with ksink-ksink, and Maqsumed for frame drum quartet.

Bachovich Merck’s Tattoo COVER

Merck’s Tattoo for solo riq, written for Kyle Merck, is one of several works I’ve composed for students to perform on recitals. The piece is loosely based on funk-style drumset rhythms, with brief references to the bell pattern used in the West African Ewe dance “Gahu.” The title is inspired by a very distinctive tattoo that Kyle Merck sports on the underside of his left wrist. It occurred to me that every time Kyle plays the riq, he has a clear view of his special tattoo.

Merck's Tattoo

Merck’s Tattoo

Bachovich Kirina Dreams COVER

Kirina Dreams, written for Jonathan Harrisis based on the Malian rhythm called Madan, traditionally played to celebrate the millet harvest. According to master djembefola Sidi Mohamed “Joh” Camara, Madan originated in the village of Kirina in the Koulikoro region of Mali, near the Guinean border. Kirina holds a special place in the history of the Mande people, as it is the location of the famous battle of Kirina, where Sundiata Keita defeated the Sosso king Sumanguru Kante in 1235 to mark the beginning of the Great Mali Empire. Legend has it that Sundiata overcame tremendous adversity in his rise to become king of one of the greatest civilizations in history. Sundiata’s story is a classic tale of the hero’s journey, recounted for generations and capturing the dreams and imaginations of young and old alike.

This solo requires the use of added jingle plates called ksink-ksink (also called “kashink-kashink” or “seke-seke”). These fan-shaped shakers are inserted between the tensioning ropes of the djembe and typically vibrate sympathetically in a manner similar to the snares on a snare drum. In Kirina Dreams, they are also played directly with the hands. It is said that ksink-ksink represent the shields once used to protect drummers during battle as they oversaw the battlefield and drummed messages to the troops.

 Bachovich Maqsumed COVER

In the spirit of Steve Reich’s Music for Pieces of Wood, Maqsumed (as in “consumed”) employs a system of building up fragments of permuted rhythms derived from the traditional Arabic rhythm Maqsum. The number of repeats in each bar is not fixed. It may vary within the approximate limits marked in each bar (e.g. bar 1 may be repeated 4-6 times, then player two enters at bar 2 for about 5-9 repeats and so on). The indications for approximate numbers of repeats are written above the part responsible for making the particular change in each bar (e.g. player 2 is responsible for bars 2 through  8 since player one repeats without changing in those bars), and consequently the approximate number of repeats (5-9) is written above player two’s part, and similarly throughout the piece. Once a player’s rhythm has completed its build-up process, a decrescendo is indicated with an approximate number of repeats (e.g. 3-4) in which to accomplish the dynamic change in order for the player’s part to meld into the prevailing timbre and allow the next player’s entrances to stand out. This piece may be performed using any frame drum (tar, bendir, bodhran, riq, etc.) or combinations of drums as desired. The piece may also be played on doumbek or any sounding source capable of producing the three sounds (dum, tak, slap).

 

Merck’s Tattoo, Kirina Dreams, and Maqsumed are avialable now at www.bachovich.com.

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Bachovich Music Publications

BMP_Logo

I am pleased to announce several new compositions recently published by Bachovich Music Publications. Bachovich was founded by NYC percussionist Andrew Beall. You can view their extensive collection of cutting-edge compositions for percussion at their website, www.bachovich.com. Future blogs will discuss details of individual pieces with video/audio samples.

Andrew Beall

Andrew Beall

Hand Drums – Rhythmic Journey Series

Bachovich Rhythmic Journey 1 COVERBachovich Rhythmic Journey 2 COVERBachovich Rhythmic Journey 3 COVER

Hand Drums – Other Works

Bachovich Kirina Dreams COVERBachovich Merck’s Tattoo COVERBachovich Maqsumed COVER

 

Mallet Ensembles

 Bachovich Danse Macabre COVERBachovich Funeral March COVERBachovich Shona Spirit COVER

MbiraTab Series

Bachovich Mbiratab 1 COVERBachovich Mbiratab 2 COVERBachovich Mbiratab 3 COVERBachovich Mbiratab 4 COVER

 

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Road to PASIC

We made the decision to enter the 2012 PAS World Percussion Ensemble competition in late December, 2011. My graduate assistant, Sarah Hann, had been hosting other percussion students for “Mbira Monday” since she had arrived in the fall. Students would gather with food and play mbira together every week. The contest would give us an opportunity to develop a more formal mbira ensemble. We decided to perform traditional music for mbiras and to include some djembe drumming as well, so we brought in my teacher from Guinea, West Africa, Mohamed Da Costa. Mohamed came to Winthrop in February to work with the students on three traditional rhythms from Guinea: Yankadi-Makru, Sorsornet (with the song “Gombo”), and Djole. Mohamed taught dundun parts, djembe patterns, shakers and rattles, and movement.

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In the video below, Mohamed works with the dunduns on Sorsornet…

…and singing on Yankadi.

In early March, we brought in Michael Spiro to work on production issues. At that time, we had three mbira pieces (Nhemamusasa, Nyuchi, Shumba) to go with the three djembe rhythms we had worked on with Mohamed. I viewed the program as being structured in two halves: an opening mbira set followed by a closing djembe set. I should have known from experience that Mr. Spiro would have other ideas.

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Michael Spiro is a master of production in the recording studio and on stage. Spiro worked with the students on seamlessly integrating the mbira music with the djembe pieces (through what he refers to as “connective tissue”) and infusing the mbira tunes with movement and clapping. In the video below, he develops clapping patterns for Nyuchi.

Here, he works on Shumba…

and cajoles the students in his inimitable way!

We presented our concert in early April, and had our entry mailed to PAS by the mid-month deadline. Here is our contest performance.

In June, I received a phone call from Kenyon Williams, chair of the PAS World Percussion committee, informing me that Winthrop University had won the PASIC contest! The ensemble would perform in Austin in November. We set to work refining the pieces we had performed that spring, and added two opening numbers: Butsu Mutandari on marimbas, and a lovely mbira duet with Sarah Hann and Allison Riffe playing Kariga Mombe. Here is the entire PASIC performance.

The group photo – thanks to the help of good friends!
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Welcome Back to the New BMW.COM!

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Welcome to my new website! It’s clean, neat, and….NEW! I’ve been test-driving the features and I like the way this site handles. Kudos and thanks to my webmaster and colleague at Winthrop University, Joe Miller (http://soundslikejoe.com/). Joe is a film composer/guitarist/tech guru and overall terrific guy! In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting updates on some exciting new ventures and experiences that have come along for me and my students at Winthrop University. It’s been a fun ride this past year and a half since I’ve been away from the blogosphere, and I am looking forward to sharing all the fun with you!

I’ll be on the road in March performing and giving clinics at the University of Central Arkansas Percussion Festival with Blake Tyson and the West Tennessee Day of Percussion with Josh Smith and Bethel University. On the way, I’ll visit Julie Hill for some djembe drumming with her students at UT-Martin. Look for more posts coming soon!

UCA Percussioon Festival

West Tenn DOP

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Welcome to the B. Michael Williams blog

bmichaelwilliamsmyspace3

Welcome to my news page and blog.  Over the years I’ve had experiences or insights that I thought were worth sharing with a wider audience, but may not have been so significant or thoroughly researched as to warrant a published article. Perhaps this blog will be the perfect venue for little tidbits I’ve discovered about this and that.

I guess I’m a bit of an anomaly in the percussion world, but maybe not. After all, percussionists are by nature “jacks of all trades.” I began my career as an orchestral percussionist and high school band director, then did some research and writing on John Cage, wrote some pieces for frame drums, studied West African drumming, and later learned to play a lamellaphone from Zimbabwe. Some years ago I remember asking a colleague what he’d thought of an article I’d recently published about Stockhausen’s percussion solo No. 9 Zyklus. His response was, “You wrote that? I thought it was another Michael Williams.”

The fact is, diversity is what we percussionists do best. My teacher at Northwestern University, Terry Applebaum, always said, “Our virtuosity is our versatility.” I took that wisdom to heart and it is a major platform in my teaching philosophy. Anyway, I hope to engage you on these pages with some observations, experiences, and my own questions about a variety of topics; frame drums, djembe, contemporary percussion, percussion education, mbira, and my own musings about everything from Almglocken to Zen.

Thanks for visiting… and come back any time!

BMW

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