Ritual (2010)

For violin, 4 bowed cymbals, and two tam-tams

score (pdf, 4.4Mb)

Violin: Christina Stanley
Percussion: Luigi Marino, Daniel Steffey, Anna Wray

Duration: about 15 minutes

Awards: Paul Merritt Henry Prize

Recorded by Evan Adams at Mills College Littlefield Concert Hall, Oakland, CA, 24-Oct-2010


  • 12-Mar-2010 - Signal Flow Festival, Oakland, CA.

The most diverse ideas and objects, grouped through a common rhythm, end up forming in us a semi-conscious set that is linguistically inexpressible but characteristic of the symbolic experience. If this set has no conceptual meaning, it nevertheless has a sense; sense that is not expressed in a logic formula, but in a rhythm that curdles and compresses the given elements and confuses them to melt them.

Marius Schneider

Ritual is performed by six musicians. The three percussionists bowing the cymbals and the violin player form the core of the ensemble, and they require special training to elicit the proper sounds and group dynamics. 

The cymbals used are four handmade cymbals from Wuhan. Three measure 27 inches in diameter and one 22 inches. A specific way of mapping sounds on the cymbals form the basis of the pitch system used throughout the work (See the article Writing for Bowed Cymbals.) Due to the considerable variation in the properties of metal percussion instruments, only these particular cymbals can be used in performance. The two tam-tams are only required to be low in pitch, though of sufficiently differing timbres in order to maintain their individual identities.

There is no rational relationship among the sounds at the basis of the pitch system: they are the result of the irregularities on the cymbals surface. Their relationship is given by their coexistence on the objects producing them, and it is consolidated only through experience. The score is strict, and it makes sense only associated to this specific instrumentation. All the objective problems related to this approach are side effects of the idea that a higher form of knowledge can be attained better through local and unique systems. In Ritual I was interested in how these systems shape intuitive compositional decisions, including the ones concerning an established prictice like violin writing.

Excerpt from Signal Flow Festival, Mills College LittleField Concert Hall, Oakland, 12-Mar-2010.
Violin: Christina Stanley
Cymbals: Luigi Marino, Daniel Steffey, Anna Wray
Tam-tams: Jennifer Wilsey, Dave Douglas