Rhythmic Caprice (1989) by Leigh Howard Stevens

Players: 1

Duration: 9 minutes

Program Note:

Rhythmic Caprice incorporates simple modal motives, complex rhythmic passages, and numerous colorful effects. In composing Rhythmic Caprice, Stevens utilized three uncommon techniques for the marimba. The first, a string term, “col legno” indicates the use of a mallet’s birch handle to strike the edge of the marimba bar, creating a distinctive wood-on-wood timbre. The second calls for the use of both the birch handle and the mallet head to strike the marimba bar, mimicking a snare drum rim shot. Stevens’ students later dubbed this a “marimshot.” The final technique requires the performer to use the entire length of the birch mallet shaft over the span of five accidentals to create what is referred to as a “splash cluster.” Stevens wrote: “The very limited melodic and harmonic materials of the piece rhythmically evolve from simple, to complex, to polyrhythmic, to driving, to spasmodic, ultimately returning to simple rhythm in the six measure codetta.” – Christine Augspurger