Carlsen – Evening’s Sabres

Phil Carlsen – Evening’s Sabres (1990)


  • ●  Xylorimba (or xylophone and 4.3-octave marimba)
  • ●  One 4.3-octave marimba
  • ●  Two 5-octave marimbas
  • Duration: 11 minutes Composer’s Note:
    I composed Evening’s Sabres in 1990 for the Manhattan Marimba Quartet as the result of winning a commissioning award sponsored jointly by the American Composers Alliance and Town Hall. It is scored for xylorimba, bass marimba, and two regular concert marimbas. The title is taken from an Emily Dickinson poem which reads, in its entirety, “Soft as the massacre of Suns / By Evening’s Sabres slain.” I had in mind, besides the underlying lyrical impulse, the evening sound of the marimba, and the visual impact of its rich dark wood gleaming under the slashing mallets of black-clad musicians.
    The piece is in one movement, roughly divided into three parts. Each part begins tranquilly, and then gradually becomes more intense and aggressive. A major unifying feature is a series of low, descending chords, usually played tremolo by the bass marimba. This series appears at the beginning of the piece, and at the ends of each of the three parts. The instruments are also unified through frequent heterophonic treatment—joining in pairs, trios, or even as the full quartet to simultaneously express variations on a single line or chord. Some of the characteristic techniques include bowed and bent notes, dead strokes, and low notes struck hard to produce prominent overtones.
    -Phil Carlsen
  • Annotated by Joanna Chen