chablon: percussion quartet (2016)

Marc Yeats - Composer

chablon: percussion quartet (2016)

chablon: for four percussionists. Duration circa 18 minutes in duration. Dedicated to Jane Yeats for her 50th Birthday.

Commissioned by Chamber Cartel for their Ancana Series. Premieres and performances at The Goat Farm Arts Center in Goodson Yard, Atlanta, Georgia, US on November 15th 2014 at 8 pm.

chablon: French term for a watch movement (not including the dial and hands), that is not completely assembled. Four percussionists. Multiple percussive mechanisms, each incomplete in of themselves, together create a fanciful watch mechanism that fails to tell the time.


Percussion 1:
Crotales [upper octave]
Deep, resonant bass drum
large, deep Tam-tam
Congas low / high
Bongos low / high
5 differently pitched Temple Blocks
Metal Wind Chimes

Percussion 2:
Crotales [low octave]
9 Gongs: F3, G3, B3, C#4, Eb4, F4, G#4, A4, A#4
Sixxen – 6 microtonally tuned metal bars or 6 non-specific pitch resonant metal bars ranging from low to high.
Marimba [4.3]

Percussion 3:
xylophone, vibraphone

Percussion 4:
5 differently pitched temple blocks ranging from high to low +
2 mounted cow bells, high and low pitched
4 differently pitched suspended cymbals ranging from high to low +
1 suspended wooden wind-chime bundle of lower pitch
4 non-sepecific tom-toms [or other comparable drums] high to low
1 timpani drum 29″-28″
1 large, deep, resonant bass drum
1 very deep suspended tam-tam

The instrumentalists play independently of each other. Whilst the relationship of each instrument is flexibly placed against its neighbour, care has been taken to calculate potential outcomes of coincidence and variability. To this end it is vital that metronome markings are adhered to as accurately as possible although the composer appreciates that it is the various interpretations and practicalities inherent in the realisation of tempi that contribute to the richly unique nature and interplay of each performance. Compositional material is derived from a series of distant variations that unify all sections with thematic landmarks bringing cohesion and structure to the work. All the instrumental roles are written to a high degree of virtuosity and most contain extended techniques and quarter-tones. The music itself forms dense, highly complex and constantly changing relationships that are frequently wild and sometimes beautiful.

The score and parts:
I have not produced a score for chablon; difficulties and variables associated with displaying the musical material in vertical alignment as represented in real time are considerable. Each performance will yield somewhat different results, interplays, gestural and harmonic references and outcomes. As a result, the material contained within the piece can only be read via the instrumental parts. Consequently there is no definitive performance of the piece. chablon can only be realised through performance [as opposed to comprehended by reading through a score]; this is the nature of the music – it has to be experienced to be ‘known’.

A word about performance, structure and time code:
The piece begins with a 4 second silent countdown before the ensemble begins at rehearsal mark 1. From this point on all instrumental lines proceed at their own tempi. The only rehearsal mark that is referenced vertically through all the parts is rehearsal mark 1.

Time code:
Time code is not used to imply the use of any kind of click-track in performance or as a straightjacket to flexible performance within the ensemble. However, players are advised to use a stopwatch individually during the performance to help guide timings, prevent long-term tempo-drift and delivery of their material to achieve an outcome that most closely matches the composer’s intention. This is particularly useful after longer pauses or where tempo has slipped due to playing under or over the metronome markings and enables the performer to compensate by playing a little faster or slower to ‘catch up’ or extend / cut short pauses and rests as necessary to remain broadly on track with the time code. 0.5” time code corresponds to rehearsal mark 1 in all the parts. This allows all players to set their stop-watches/timing devises together before playing commences. In effect, the 4 seconds ‘synchronise watches’ before rehearsal mark 1 represents a countdown into rehearsal mark 1 and the 5 second timecode marking the start of the piece. Time code has been added to each instrumental part for two further purposes.
1] To help gauge the overall duration of each part during personal practice thereby enabling the performer to get a good ‘feel’ for the various tempi and overall duration of the material.
2] To serve as a collective reference point in any area of the piece during rehearsals where the ensemble can start rehearsing by each player locating the nearest time code point to the agreed starting point and beginning from there. This is in lieu of rehearsal marks being used for vertical reference and rehearsal purposes in the usual way.

All other performance notes are given in the score.