‘Great and Small’ in Percussive Notes

GREATANDSMALLGreat and Small is a programmatic work comprised of two delightful movements for solo keyboard percussion with optional audio accompaniment. These vignettes depict the powerful beasts Leviathan and Behemoth when they were still young, whimsical, and childlike. Deemed ‘’medium-easy” by the publisher, it is appropriate for older middle school or younger high school students and works well as their first solo piece.

As an educator, I found several benefits to studying this work with students. The length is ideal for younger percussionists, as each movement in the set is approximately two minutes. Neither movement requires four-mallet technique or similar advanced concepts, and the programmatic nature encourages conversation about character interpretation and expression. The entire piece is written using sixteenth notes as the smallest subdivision, exploring syncopated rhythms and interplay between the hands. This is especially noticeable in the second movement, “Budding Behemoth,” with many of these figures beginning on the left hand with a large leap. The first movement, “Little Leviathan,” includes phrase markings in the right hand to highlight the melody, something difficult to find in compositions for this ability level. Perhaps my favorite musical concept is the detailed use of dynamic contrast. Developing this at a young age is vital, and I am pleased to see an appropriate amount throughout both movements.
From a logistical point of view, the flexibility of Great and Small is wonderful for many public school situations. Herndon has composed the work so that any movement can be performed on a vibraphone, xylophone, or 4-octave marimba. While he recommends vibraphone for the first movement and marimba for the second movement, the option encourages students to take their own liberties bands on the equipment they have available. Furthermore, even through the audio accompaniment greatly enhances the piece, it is not necessary for performance. This allows for students to still gain from the work even if they are unable to meet the technological requirements, Very well priced, this composition is worth adding to your repertoire for younger students.

–Danielle Moreau
Percussive Notes
Vol. 57, No. 2, May 2019

‘Guac Is Extra’ in Percussive Notes

Guac Is Extra“Guac is Extra” serves as a fun way to introduce students to the instruments and style of salsa music. John Herndon does a fantastic job of making the style accessible to younger players, as each uses two drums and an accessory instrument. The performance notes indicate the drums to be played with swizzle sticks; however, more advanced players are encouraged to use their hands for the congas and bongos.

The piece begins with a brief introduction and then layers the different instrument entrances as the groove is built. Once all the players have entered, the bongo, conga, and timbale players take solos. Although solos are written out for each player, there is room for players to embellish the solos or even create their own. Although not indicated in the score, it would not be difficult to extend the solos for the players, if needed. The middle section is made up of straight eighth notes with the players accenting certain notes to create a fun melody around the ensemble. The piece ends with a return to the original grooveand a brief coda. 

This piece will help students to not only learn the style, but also work on ensemble sensitivity, listening, and groove. The piece will make an excellent addition to the repertoire for younger groups. With all the guac and salsa they will be playing, the only thing missing would be a side of chips!

—Josh Armstrong
Percussive Notes
Vol. 53, No. 1, March 2019