Our album opens with Steve Reich’s already classic Nagoya Marimbas, written in 1994 and premiered in December of that year in Shirakawa Hall in Nagoya, Japan. Steve writes that the work is “similar to my pieces from the 1960s and ‘70s in that there are repeating patterns played on both marimbas, one or more beats out of phase, creating a series of two part unison canons. However, these patterns are more melodically developed, change frequently and each is usually repeated no more than three times, similar to my more recent work. The piece is also considerably more difficult to play than my earlier ones and requires two virtuosic performers.” Our two virtuosi are Joe Beribak on the left and Katy La Favre on the right.
Next follows Lou Harrison’s Canticle No. 3, written in 1940/1941, and premiered in 1942. Essentially a concerto for ocarina and percussion ensemble, Canticle No. 3 uses the haunting primitive sound of the ocarina (a Mexican terra-cotta flute which looks a little like a knobby sweet potato or cuddly sea creature) and a steel string guitar, both a strong contrast with Harrison’s creative assortment of percussion instruments. Joe Beribak plays ocarina and Derek Tywoniuk plays guitar.
We experimented with our musicians in many different locations for this recording, since we used one stereo AKG C-24 microphone and no mixer for all of our takes on this album. As Joe reminisced, “some instruments (like tom toms and snare drums) were designed for use with a modern orchestra, while other instruments (like the ocarina and teponaztli) are ethnic instruments designed to be played in intimate settings. So we adjusted our setup to create the balance and tone quality we wanted. We brought the ocarina closer to center, and we actually rotated the toms 90 degrees counter-clockwise in order to balance these two voices properly on the recording. As a result we needed to modify the way we cued each other, since our relative positions were radically different from the way we stand when we perform this piece live. As with everything we did in this Yarlung recording, each challenge gave us a new perspective that enriched the musical experience and made it even more fun.”