LARGE CHAMBER ENSEMBLE - Hot Zone (1995) Program Note

Hot Zone
 was commissioned and premiered by the Albany Symphony Orchestra "Dogs of Desire" in 1999. The piece is a short work in three parts, reinterpreting one particular beat in various rhythmic contexts. Much of the material in the piece is based on the West African gyil tradition, from Northern Ghana and Southern Burkina-Faso. The gyil is a 14- to 18-key instrument resembling a Western marimba. Tuned slabs of carved mahogany wood are bound with animal hide to a sturdy wooden frame. Each key has its own gourd resonator; crushed and flattened spiders' webs are seared with rubber over holes carved in the gourd, creating a buzzing membrane as the keys are struck. Most of the gyil's notes fall between the pitches of the Western chromatic scale, and two gyils may differ widely in pitches. To produce the "in-between" notes, I utilized two clashing pentatonic modes, played in different octaves. The sung text in the slower sections is a praise to my xylophone teachers: Ngmen Baaru, Richard Na-Ile, and Bernard Woma. This arrangement was adapted specifically for Alarm Will Sound.

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