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Prepared Marimba, Part 1

Over ten years ago during a cold December, I found myself wandering the streets of Paris, heart-broken, but happy to be in Paris. I stumbled upon a small gallery that featured the works of Picasso. But what intrigued me the most were his sketches. Picasso had prepared a series of sketches of noses and other body parts, each one a subtle variation, a deepening of his experiment.

Two months later (February 2008) back in Montreal with a more whole heart, I embarked on a series of sketches for the prepared marimba. I wanted to create a new work for the prepared marimba, which would later be "Never-Never Island", and I wanted to support it with a series of my own sketches.

Me back in 2008 getting ready for a performance of "Never Never Island" at Studio 303

I bought a sketch book and started drawing out marimbas. Each day I would focus on a new sound, a new preparation. First it would bamboo rods, then plastic beads, aluminum foil, and the list went on and on. As I progressed, I became aware of the sound combinations and sympathetic vibrations.

The whole compositional process is described in my article, "Prepared Marimba: A systematic approach to sound exploration via prepared marimba" which you can read in the May 2019 edition of Percussive Notes.

I am passionate about sound exploration and prepared instruments - and I know I am not the only one! Please reach out if you want to share your stories, music and experiments. Go to the Prepared Marimba Project for more info.

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