During my one-semester sabbatical replacement stint at the University of Oklahoma, I met percussionist Josh Knight, who was working on his DMA. Toward the end of the semester, he and I started discussing the possibility of a commission. Once we settled on the instrumentation, we decided that it would be fun to involve several others in the commissioning process, so it quickly evolved into a consortium of 23 percussionists and professors from 16 different states.
I had been wanting to write a piece for solo marimba and percussion quartet since playing pieces like Minoru Miki's "Marimba Spiritual," Michael Burritt's "Shadow Chasers" and Lynn Glassock's "Off Axis" in my formative years as a performer. The pressure of composing for a fairly well-established genre combined with writing to please 23 other percussionists started to get to me before I put pen to paper.
Every composer/writer/artist type has his/her own creative process. After a seemingly never-ending spell of writer's block 2 years ago, I wrote an entry about climbing out of the dark compositional abyss as I finally sorted out the first movement of my vibraphone concerto. Fortunately, I've been able to sidestep those problems since then by writing more regularly and modifying/streamlining my process. In this case, I stumbled across the phrase "halcyon days," which refers to a period of peace and tranquility, in a book I was reading and was delighted to discover its Greek mythological origins. The story of Alycone & Ceyx is rooted in love, death, sacrifice and, as in all stories from Ovid's Metamorphoses, transformation (as illustrated in the painting above with Alcyone changing into a kingfisher).
Here's a recording electronically generated by sounds available in the Virtual Drumline 2.5 library. Feel free to click on the blue line below the sound wave to make comments about specific moments in the music on SoundCloud.com.
"Halcyon Days" received its world premiere on November 17, 2011 at California State University-Long Beach (Dr. Dave Gerhart) with Andrew McAfee as the marimba soloist. It will be available for sale to the rest of the world in the summer of 2012 from C. Alan Publications.