In the summer of 2014, I visited Maine and stayed on a beautiful small island in a cabin. I have a distinct memory of walking up to the cabin in the late evening dusk, surrounded by countless swirling yellow-green lights. It was a surreal experience to be amidst thousands of gently flashing and floating luminous points. The fireflies or lightning bugs that surrounded me produce light because of bioluminescence - a rare ability of some organisms to produce light.
When I was talking to David Collier about writing a piece for the Illinois State University Percussion Ensemble, I found out that every spring, the performance is in ISU's Center for the Performing Arts in a massive auditorium with a balcony that wraps completely around the stage. I was compelled to write a piece that took advantage of the grand dimensions of this hall. I scored Bioluminescence for a solo vibraphone accompanied by antiphonal triangles and crotales that are circling the hall around the audience. The vibraphone plays a slowly unfolding harmonic progression that is occasionally punctuated with pensive melodic gestures. Representing fireflies, the surrounding triangles sometimes interact with the vibraphone, and other times interact with each other, making waves of sound that propagate around the hall.
Bioluminescence was premiered by the Illinois State University Percussion Ensemble, directed by David Collier and featuring Matthew James on the vibraphone on April 14, 2019.
Scored for solo vibraphone and either 5 or 11 additional antiphonal percussionists playing triangles and select crotales
Performers are distanced around the performance space, which may be a large auditorium or outdoors. Ideal performances will be in a darkened hall or outside in the evening or night.
Virtual performances over Zoom or another video conferencing app would also be effective, though the surround sound aspect of the piece may not be possible.
Duration: ca. 10'
Download a sample of the score or scroll down to see the pdf embedded. Download a sample part.
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