Great Ocean Road 5
Composer: Steve Falk
Instrument: Solo Marimba with Ensemble
Duration: 8 min.
The Great Ocean Road is a long winding road along mountainous coastline in Victoria, a southern state of Australia. You will encounter incredible ocean views, rock formations, dense rain forests and native Australian animals. The weather can change from hot and dry to stormy with heavy rain and huge ocean waves.
A friend suggested the title Great Ocean Road when we were creating a studio recording based on a simple theme of mine. Over the years I have performed solo versions of this piece and various versions with different instrumental combinations. I usually improvise during my performances but in this version, Great Ocean Road 5, commissioned by the Australian Percussion Academy for the 2019 Australian Marimba Competition, I have precisely notated all of the parts based on the style of improvisation employed in my own performances.
Great Ocean Road 5 is a challenging work for a marimba soloist with an ensemble comprising another marimbist, a vibraphone/percussionist, a five-string electric bass guitarist and a percussionist. The three keyboard percussion players should perform their parts as written. However, the bassist and percussionist are free to vary or add to their parts based on the notated ideas. The tempo should remain consistent throughout the performance and should not be too fast to the point that the music begins to sound tense and uneasy.
The opening marimba solo perhaps represents the sounds of small insects and the chatter of a variety of birds. At bar 127, the marimba soloist is asked to vocalize the raucous cry of a large solitary bird, disturbed by the arrival of the forceful bass marimba notes. From the entry of the full ensemble we embark on a journey along the road. A feeling of momentum but always a relaxed groove.
Solo Marimba with Ensemble:
Vibraphone and Percussion
(Bass Drum, Large Wind Gong)
(Guiro, Metals, Hand Bells, Cymbals, Indian Bells, Dumbek/Frame Drums, Drums)
5‐String Electric Bass
Performed by Shu-Hsuan Wang (marimba) during the 6th Australian Marimba Competition
Performed by I-Hua Chen (marimba) during the 6th Australian Marimba Competition
Performed by Cheng-Lin Ping (marimba) during the 6th Australian Marimba Competition
Performed by Elise Liu (marimba) during the 6th Australian Marimba Competition
About the composer +
Possessing an interest in music of all genres and origins, Australian percussionist and composer Steve Falk embraces the process of creating new works with artists of varied disciplines and traditions. Such works predominantly feature the marimba.
Steve is currently a member of Nunique Quartet and Ensemble Density and has appeared with the Melbourne Guitar Quartet, Speak Percussion, Chamber Made Opera, Bolt Ensemble and with numerous leading contemporary improvisers both in Australia and Japan, where he lived between 2005 and 2011. Steve has been commissioned by Museums Victoria to write for the Federation Handbells and his piece ‘Welcome’ has been performed in Melbourne at Federation Square as part of the Light in Winter Festival and for the arrival of the Inflatable Refugee - an enormous travelling artwork highlighting the global refugee crisis. At the Dance Triennale Tokyo 2009, he performed Drumming by Steve Reich in the production La Vie Qui Bat by Canadian dance company, O Vertigo. Along with fellow Australian Andy Bevan, Steve formed the world music duo ‘Duality’ and performed at Kamigamo Shrine, a world heritage site in Kyoto in 2010. They subsequently collaborated with Shonosuke Okura (master Otsuzumi player of the Noh Theatre tradition) and Slava Grigoryan (guitar) to create Four Winds for the OZAsia Festival at the Adelaide Festival Centre.
Steve has played percussion with the Melbourne, Queensland and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras, Orchestra Victoria and Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa (Japan). He has worked for many musical theatre productions, including Mamma Mia! and We Will Rock You. As musical director of the popular Australian dance show Tap Dogs, he travelled to New Zealand, Japan, China, Korea and India.
He attended the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School, Victorian College of The Arts, Queensland Conservatorium of Music and Toho Gakuen College of Music (Tokyo) where he studied with Keiko Abe. Steve currently teaches percussion at The University of Melbourne and Monash University. He chooses to play Yamaha percussion instruments and proudly performs on a YM6100 Marimba.
Review (Percussive Notes, June 2020)
This piece for a marimba soloist and percussion ensemble was commissioned by the Australian Percussion Academy for the 2019 Australian Marimba Competition. “Great Ocean Road 5” represents an exciting addition to the repertoire for marimba solo with percussion duo and bass. Based on a long winding road along a mountainous coastline in Victoria, a southern state of Australia, the piece takes the listener through sonic evocations of ocean views, rock formations, dense rain forests, and native Australian animals.
As it was written for a competition, the solo marimba part is very difficult, and mastery of four-mallet technique is required. Not only does the part demand a lot of dexterity and speed, but to capture the style and essence of the piece the playing style needs to seem effortless and smooth, what the composer describes as, “A feeling of momentum but always a relaxed groove.” The solo part and the two other mallet parts (vibraphone and marimba) are to be played as written. However, the bassist and percussionist are free to vary or add to their parts based on the notated ideas. The addition of electric bass adds a more contemporary feel. A good sense of time and ensemble is crucial to a successful performance. The instrumentation is largely standard and offers some room for substitution in the percussion orchestration.
The piece has a nice improvisatory quality that is accessible to audiences and performers. It is full of energy and somehow maintains a soft and introspective quality. I highly recommend “Great Ocean Road 5” for any collegiate or professional ensemble.
Front Cover graphics and layout: Gaia Rodrigues
Photo: Nobuyuki Kobayashi
Translation: Wei-Chen Lin (Chinese)
Translation: Takako Morita (Japanese)
Engraving: Steve Falk & Johan Svitzer
Printed in Copenhagen, Denmark
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