For an eight-player percussion ensemble, this colorful work features melodicas, drumming on guitar strings, a full complement of mallet instruments, and a forest of frog guiros. Its title, coined by a two-year-old, evoked a magical environment of bright, fizzy sounds and elaborately layered textures.
Genre: Percussion Ensemble | # of Players: 8
Level: Medium Difficult | Duration: 11:30
Percussion 1: Crotales (2 octaves), Cabasa
Percussion 2: Glockenspiel, 2 Ride Cymbals, Slit Drum
Percussion 3: Harmonica in C (or Melodica), Almglocken (Bb, B, C#, D, E, F#), Finger Cymbals, Metal Wind Chimes, Slit Drum, Triangle, Bass Drum, Frog Guiro (or 3 Temple Blocks)
Percussion 4: Harmonicas in C & D (or Melodica), 3 Low Toms [shared], Almglocken [shared], 5-octave Marimba 2 [shared], Triangle, 2 Steel-String Guitars [shared], Vibraphone [shared], Frog Guiro (or 3 Temple Blocks)
Percussion 5: 3 Triangles, 5-octave Marimba 2, 3 Splash Cymbals
Percussion 6: Vibraphone 1 [shared], 3 Low Toms [shared]
Percussion 7: Vibraphone 2 (with mallets & bows), Frog Guiro (or 3 Temple Blocks)
Percussion 8: 2 Steel-String Guitars [shared], Cabasa, 5-octave Marimba 2 [shared], Metal Wind Chimes, 2 Woodblocks, Frog Guiro (or 3 Temple Blocks)
The title Sparklefrog was given to me by my two-year-old daughter, who started repeating the portmanteau incessantly as I was preparing to compose the music. I had been hunting for new sounds and concepts for this, my fourth composition for percussion ensemble, and the word “sparklefrog,” in my mind, evoked a magical environment of bright, fizzy sounds, not entirely unlike those I had enjoyed making in two recent works: a concerto for saxophone and winds and a concerto for violin, cello, and orchestra. But this one has frogs. The music grew to include more sounds I had never used before, including sounds of drumming on guitar strings that I have loved playing for decades but have never written into a piece.
Texturally, the music turned out too often be moody, though the music never loses its constant groove and motoric rhythmic spirit.
As with my other compositions “Gasoline Rainbow,” “Naked and On Fire,” and “Carbon Paper and Nitrogen Ink,” this work would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of John W. Parks IV, to whom it is dedicated. Special gratitude is also due to the members of the commission consortium who made this special composition possible.
It turns out my two-year-old really wanted me to sing the song “Five Green and Speckled Frogs” for her.