Adventure on Mt. Hehuan

Instrumentation: Solo bass drum
Duration: 9:00
Premiere: 11/18/2021
TechnoSonics XXI
University of Virginia

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Program Note:
Adventure on Mt. Hehuan (Mountain of Joy in Chinese) is named for a mountain in Taiwan, where percussionist I-Jen Fang grew up. It is scored for solo bass drum and optional interactive electronics and is dedicated to Ms. Fang, with whom I long studied percussion. She premiered it in the version with interactive electronics with myself performing the electronics. The interactive electronics use a Max patch created by composer/technologist Maxwell Tfirn in consultation with me, with a MIDI controller to effect the sound of the drum in myriad ways. At the same time, without electronics the piece remains dramatic and effective. and has been performed numerous times  in both versions.

Adventure on Mt. Hehuan speaks to the joy in the journey of timbral exploration and to its role in musical design. The title and compositional design were inspired by the mountain paintings of I-Jen’s father, and by this well-known and massive mountain in Taiwan. There is beauty and struggle in both. I composed the piece after exploring the extended timbral potential of the bass drum, including such details as mallet types and their placement on the drum. While the scoring for solo bass drum gives ample rein to the timbral world of the instrument, the decision to create a version with interactive electronics grew from the additional timbral opportunities that these afford, creating a new world of timbral shading, as well as the additional adventure of the duet between the bass drum and electronics performers.

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