Mad about Marimbas

About a year ago, we went to see a performance of ‘Minimalist’ music as part of the Musica Viva series. The venue was an old 1930s office building that had been modified (not renovated so much as slightly gutted) and converted into an entertainment hall. The walls seemed to stretch up forever, affording the most wonderful acoustics; the ceilings were studded with elaborate roses, from which dangled retro chandeliers; cornices were thickly covered with carvings that dripped down the walls in orderly patterns. Vintage sofas and chairs upholstered in thick velvets and wine-tinted stripes were scattered higgeldy-piggeldy across the hardwood floors; rows of uprooted theatre seats–also red velvet–were set up in disorderly columns on both sides of the room, leaving a wide aisle free in the middle. Half of the room was left in shadow–darkened lights taking the place of curtains on the ‘stage’; flaking white paint in the other half of the room reflected the chandeliers’ soft light, giving the whole place an otherworldly glow.

People sat in the comfy chairs, or laid blankets on the floor and reclined like bohemians on pillows. Glass of red in hand, I sat in a burgundy and navy theatre seat–amazingly soft and comfortably despite its age–and was soon overwhelmed by one of the most amazing instruments I had ever heard. The musicians, a guy and a girl, both in their twenties and recently returned from a stint at one of Japan’s most prestigious percussion schools, played non-stop for about a half hour or so. One of the songs they played was this one:

I was completely unaware that marimbas even existed before that performance.

Now I am obsessed with their haunting, repetitive, ethereal songs — especially those composed by Steve Reichs. When the next performer came out on stage (who proceeded to play an ‘interesting’ percussive piece by whacking chopsticks on a set of upturned terracotta flowerpots) and the marimbas were wheeled out of view, I felt like shouting, "COME BACK!" — if only to drown out the racket the girl with the chopsticks was making.
So. If you, like me, were beguiled by the marimba’s magic then here’s another piece, for your listening pleasure:

And you can’t have Part One without Part Two, so here it is:


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