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Jim's Marimbas - Page 2

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Bruce01.gif Hardly before the thrill of building my first proper instrument had worn off, the itch to go just a little bit further became really strong. I knew that if I was to make marimba notes go any lower and still sound loud enough to be useful, I would just have to do the whole thing on a really BIG scale. The part of designing an instrument to be practical in terms of mobility and space usage would just have to go out the window. The sound must come first, and it is a plenty big enough challenge.

I got some really large planks of timber over a metre long and over 20cm wide, and used 160mm PVC pipe for the resonators. "BRUCE Bass Marimba" can be seen left. He is 7 notes - Eb down to the A that is 6 and 1/2 ledger lines below the bass stave. The design is quite different from a normal marimba as there is no frame as such. The resonators are really quite heavy and they bolt together with strips of flat steel. They sit very firmly upright on a short wooden base forming a giant 3D "L" shape. The frame that suspends the bars is simply bolted to the top of the resonators themselves with no other support.

Both Boris and Bruce need special mallets to play them, although the upper range of Boris can be played with normal soft mallets. I personally stand 6ft2", and using 60cm long mallet handles I can only just reach to the center of the sharps.

Of course because these instruments are completely oneofakind unique, there was no music written for them. I fixed this little problem by writing a 3 movement work for solo percussion and chamber group featuring the marimbas and a fair amount of electronic delay effects. The work is 20 minutes long and called "Synergetic Oxymoron". To find out more about the work, Visit our Products (Sheet Music) section or email me. I performed Synergetic Oxymoron in 1994 as part of my Honours program.

For my final Masters Recital in 1996, I teamed up with Kevin Tuck to perform another big composition that used these marimbas along with just about everything else from eight fire extinguishers and a thunder sheet to snare drum, glockenspiel - giant tubular bells and all. This 50 minute suite in 7 movements I called the WATER SUITE and took a large part of my compositional energy earlier in the year. More information about the WATER SUITE can be obtained as above, and I am hoping to release a studio recording of it soon.

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