for two percussionists


Written: 1989/rev. 2008
Duration: 10'
 Instrumentation: two percussionists
Premiere: Composer's Forum, Robert Mcewan and David Carlisle, percussion, Eastman School of Music, Kilbourn Hall, Rochester, NY, USA, February 10, 1990.
 PublisherBill Holab Music

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Prison Cell is a ten-minute percussion duet that musically, theatrically and symbolically represents a prison cell. The work centers around variations of a traditional, tonal theme and an original, more dissonant theme. The original theme and its variations are taken from a tone row built on the scale degree one half step above the tonal theme. This tonal theme is continuously alluded to through modulations, variations, chromaticism and dense, slowly evolving rhythmic and chordal structures. When the central, tonal theme is finally introduced, it is never completed, creating tension that is prolonged through the second half of the piece. The tonal theme eventually becomes immersed in the tone row and gradually fused into the original theme. The mutated, skeletal rhythmic motive of the tonal theme is all that remains.

The percussionist inside the set-up represents a prisoner. The percussionist outside the set-up plays two roles: when walking behind, this player represents the oppression of the cell; when walking in front, the player represents influences on the cell by outside forces such as prison guards. The tubular chimes represent the bars of a cell.