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Beacons

for percussion ensemble
Level: Med-Advanced
Duration: 5:50
Personnel: 22 players
State Lists: Florida
Release Date: 2022
Product ID : TSPCE22-031
Price: $65.00
Item #: TSPCE22-031

Formats Available:


Description

Beacons by Clif Walker is a mystifying, medium-advanced percussion ensemble work for 22 performers that is meant to be performed without a conductor. The term beacons thematically represents both a signal and a melodic searchlight calling out into the unknown. As such, performers begin the piece in choreographed positions either offstage or hidden behind their instruments on stage. Musical cues, or beacons, signal performers to reveal themselves and join the piece. As the musical signal travels, the performers intently anticipate an answer to their call and ponder what form the response may take. The piece moves through thematic sections invoking out-of-this-world imagery, moments of uncertainty, and curious happenings. The piece winds down with a return to terrestrial thoughts before concluding with one final beacon to the ether.

Walker employs a number of noteworthy instrumentation and setup techniques to aid in creating an engaging and authentic sonic environment. Of the 22 performers, 8 members are placed in a 360º panorama around the audience to create an ultra-immersive listening environment. The remaining performers on stage provide the basis of the musical landscape in a more traditional setup. Beacons also contains unique instrumentation choices such as thunder drums, garden weasels (or small chimes), and a synthesizer. The synthesizer performers embellishes the celestial nature of the piece through synthetic sounds and a provided ambient,nighttime accompaniment track.

Beacons is an enthralling percussion ensemble piece that will captivate performers and audiences alike. This is an excellent choice for large ensembles looking to display and advance their playing capabilities, while simultaneously elevating their performance and creative prowess, as well.

Beacons ships as a printed, professionally bound score and includes individual parts in PDF format for printing or tablet viewing.

Instrumentation

  • Crotales (high octave)
  • Glockenspiel
  • Chimes
  • 3 vibraphones
  • 4 marimbas — (1) 4-octave, (2) low A, (1) 5-octave
  • 5 timpani
  • Synthesizer
  • Drums — bongos, concert bass drum, (2) congas, 4 concert toms, 2 large toms
  • Cymbals & gongs — China cymbal, cymbal stack, ride cymbal, sizzle cymbal, 5 suspended cymbals
  • Accessories — bell tree, brake drum, claves, 4 cowbells, finger cymbals, 4 garden weasels (or small metal wind chimes), sleigh bells, temple blocks, 4-6 thunder drums, 4 triangles, mark tree, 4 woodblocks

Reviews

“Beacons” was commissioned by Peter Repp and the Rockwood Summit High School Percussion Ensemble for the 2022 Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic. As can be seen from the instrument list, “Beacons” is for a very large percussion ensemble. For those lucky enough to have the resources to perform the piece, it is an engaging work that will challenge high school and undergraduate performers. Each part is difficult in terms of rhythmic and ensemble cohesion. Technically, the mallet parts are particularly challenging, with numerous runs and four-mallet playing, and the drum parts (including timpani) are quite “choppy” at points. The timpani part includes some tricky pedaling. However, the overall difficulty varies among parts, making this work useful for a school group.

Uniquely for a piece with 22 players, Clif Walker requests that it be performed without a conductor. “Beacons” partially refers to this idea, with Walker describing the piece as having a “melodic searchlight calling out into the unknown.” The work also has some theatrical elements, including performers appearing on stage upon responding to “musical beacons,” and stand lights turning on and off. Other unique elements include a sample of nighttime/cricket sounds, staging of eight players surrounding the audience (with the remainder of the ensemble on stage), and the use of garden weasels. I’m not sure how a garden weasel (which seems to be a brand, not a specific item) is used as an instrument, and I couldn’t find a clear answer on the internet. I wish there was more information about this in the score.

“Beacons” has a vaguely gamelan sound throughout. I enjoyed the brief moments of repose where the ambient sounds of crickets and thunder provide a break from the more densely packed material that makes up the majority of the piece. There are numerous tempo changes, including tempo modulations. I would anticipate a lot of rehearsal time in order to perform this work un-conducted, as all of the ensemble members will need to be very aware of what is happening in the piece at all times. Because of the number of performers and instruments, as well as the setup of instruments, balance will also need to be carefully considered and rehearsed. If one has the resources and time, “Beacons” is well worth the effort.

—Joseph Van Hassel
Percussive Notes
Vol. 61, No. 3, June 2023

Description

Beacons by Clif Walker is a mystifying, medium-advanced percussion ensemble work for 22 performers that is meant to be performed without a conductor. The term beacons thematically represents both a signal and a melodic searchlight calling out into the unknown. As such, performers begin the piece in choreographed positions either offstage or hidden behind their instruments on stage. Musical cues, or beacons, signal performers to reveal themselves and join the piece. As the musical signal travels, the performers intently anticipate an answer to their call and ponder what form the response may take. The piece moves through thematic sections invoking out-of-this-world imagery, moments of uncertainty, and curious happenings. The piece winds down with a return to terrestrial thoughts before concluding with one final beacon to the ether.

Walker employs a number of noteworthy instrumentation and setup techniques to aid in creating an engaging and authentic sonic environment. Of the 22 performers, 8 members are placed in a 360º panorama around the audience to create an ultra-immersive listening environment. The remaining performers on stage provide the basis of the musical landscape in a more traditional setup. Beacons also contains unique instrumentation choices such as thunder drums, garden weasels (or small chimes), and a synthesizer. The synthesizer performers embellishes the celestial nature of the piece through synthetic sounds and a provided ambient,nighttime accompaniment track.

Beacons is an enthralling percussion ensemble piece that will captivate performers and audiences alike. This is an excellent choice for large ensembles looking to display and advance their playing capabilities, while simultaneously elevating their performance and creative prowess, as well.

Beacons ships as a printed, professionally bound score and includes individual parts in PDF format for printing or tablet viewing.

Instrumentation

  • Crotales (high octave)
  • Glockenspiel
  • Chimes
  • 3 vibraphones
  • 4 marimbas — (1) 4-octave, (2) low A, (1) 5-octave
  • 5 timpani
  • Synthesizer
  • Drums — bongos, concert bass drum, (2) congas, 4 concert toms, 2 large toms
  • Cymbals & gongs — China cymbal, cymbal stack, ride cymbal, sizzle cymbal, 5 suspended cymbals
  • Accessories — bell tree, brake drum, claves, 4 cowbells, finger cymbals, 4 garden weasels (or small metal wind chimes), sleigh bells, temple blocks, 4-6 thunder drums, 4 triangles, mark tree, 4 woodblocks

Reviews

“Beacons” was commissioned by Peter Repp and the Rockwood Summit High School Percussion Ensemble for the 2022 Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic. As can be seen from the instrument list, “Beacons” is for a very large percussion ensemble. For those lucky enough to have the resources to perform the piece, it is an engaging work that will challenge high school and undergraduate performers. Each part is difficult in terms of rhythmic and ensemble cohesion. Technically, the mallet parts are particularly challenging, with numerous runs and four-mallet playing, and the drum parts (including timpani) are quite “choppy” at points. The timpani part includes some tricky pedaling. However, the overall difficulty varies among parts, making this work useful for a school group.

Uniquely for a piece with 22 players, Clif Walker requests that it be performed without a conductor. “Beacons” partially refers to this idea, with Walker describing the piece as having a “melodic searchlight calling out into the unknown.” The work also has some theatrical elements, including performers appearing on stage upon responding to “musical beacons,” and stand lights turning on and off. Other unique elements include a sample of nighttime/cricket sounds, staging of eight players surrounding the audience (with the remainder of the ensemble on stage), and the use of garden weasels. I’m not sure how a garden weasel (which seems to be a brand, not a specific item) is used as an instrument, and I couldn’t find a clear answer on the internet. I wish there was more information about this in the score.

“Beacons” has a vaguely gamelan sound throughout. I enjoyed the brief moments of repose where the ambient sounds of crickets and thunder provide a break from the more densely packed material that makes up the majority of the piece. There are numerous tempo changes, including tempo modulations. I would anticipate a lot of rehearsal time in order to perform this work un-conducted, as all of the ensemble members will need to be very aware of what is happening in the piece at all times. Because of the number of performers and instruments, as well as the setup of instruments, balance will also need to be carefully considered and rehearsed. If one has the resources and time, “Beacons” is well worth the effort.

—Joseph Van Hassel
Percussive Notes
Vol. 61, No. 3, June 2023


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