A roll is a roll is a roll. (er...was that roll or rose?). Except when it isn't, and only sounds like it. This piece is a 6 minute wall of sound coming from the marimba - all apparently sounding like rolls, but many patterns are really "quasi-rolls" or repeated figurations that sustain the sound of the marimba with a rhythmic drive. A vaguely Asian tune is treated to variations, and like the Great Wall itself, eventually fades into nothingness.
With “Great Wall,” Leigh Stevens has created a five-minute solo that explores the lushness of the low end of the five-octave marimba. The work opens with a slow chorale, utilizing the double-lateral (Musser) roll throughout. The pentatonically inspired melody and open fifths in the left hand give the work an exotic, Eastern quality. The chorale intensifies and gives way to a transitory section of arpeggiated fifths and fourths leading into the second major section. Here, the right hand plays the predominately pentatonic melody in eighth-note triplets, as the left hand rocks between several open fifths. This section is more energetic, and later begins to incorporate some of the arpeggiated fourths and fifths from the previous transition. Stevens closes this section by gradually morphing back into the double-lateral roll from the opening chorale. The work ends with a repeated, introspective melodic fragment that fades to nothing. The challenges of the piece lie in making the rolls even and sonorous, and having the chops to get through the fast section. The marimbist and audience will find this a beautiful work, as it highlights the organ-like qualities of the instrument. - Scott Herring
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Works for Percussion by this Composer