Music for Hammers and Sticks

Music for Hammers and Sticks

Swords, ploughshares; Hammers, sticks; Piano, percussion...
Alex Shapiro
Alvin Singleton
Belinda Reynolds
Joseph Harchanko
Steve Mackey
Zhou Long
Peggy Benkeser
Teresa McCollough
Tom Burritt
Catalog Number: 
new classical

Palo Alto, CA

Release Date: 
Feb 22, 2005
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
Music for Hammers and SticksiTunes Artist's PageiTunes Album Page
Song TitleTimePrice
1.At the Abyss: I. Observe06:39$0.99
2.At the Abyss: II. Reflect04:24$0.99
3.At the Abyss: III. Act02:46$0.99
4.Greed Machine06:38$0.99
7.Heavy Circles06:30$0.99
8.Wu Ji (version for Piano and Percussion)10:29
One Sheet: 

New music for piano and percussion written for the Bay Area star pianist Teresa McCollough and her trusty percussionists Peggy Benkeser and Tom Burritt. They get up to some bouncy hijinks and infectious melodic stuff as befits hitting numerous strings and tuned wooden marimba bars. If you don’t live in sunny California this will make you wish you did. Some of today’s top concert composers here take a stab at this unusual combination of instruments; sweet and deep.



"Act," the final movement of Alex Shapiro's three-part suite At the Abyss has a freneticism and spontaneity to it that is usually associated with jazz improv. Further proof of how simpatico pianist Teresa McCollough is with her percussionist cohorts Peggy Benkeser and Tom Burritt on this innova CD. I heard them pull this off live at Carnegie's Weill Recital Hall last season and that gig left me wishing I could hear it again and again. Now I can!



I'll admit to loving this sonic combination (piano/marimba/ percussion) since Terence Malick's "Badlands" first exposed me to Orff and Keetman's Schulwerk ("Streetsong" is effectively the film's theme). This new CD is a lush, evocative assortment of brilliantly played new compositions from well-known contemporary composers Alvin Singleton and Steve Mackey as well as a "Play"-ful breakthrough from Belinda Reynolds, a young composer I first noticed on the award-winning Common Sense CD "Shock of the Old" a few years back (well worth acquiring, too!) which uses musical "words" (C-A-B-B-A-G-E) as a base for some wonderful variations. The liner notes say it's the first part of a suite in progress for McCollough and pianist Kathleen Supove; I'm looking forward to the rest! Joseph Harchanko's "Heavy Circles" makes persuasive use of the lower range of Burritt's marimba, reminding me of Harry Partch's marimba eroica. Alex Shapiro's "At the Abyss" (Observe/Reflect/Act) moves from a discordant clash of war-like "observations" to a more zen-like set of meditations, then into more organized positive "actions." Singleton's "Greed Machine" is a study in contrasts and dynamics, and Mackey's "Busted" is a quirky 7/4 "dropped drumstick" motif that gets "busted" into a more circumspect 4/4 to the accompaniment of a police whistle! The broad diversity of styles represented here are united by the sonic signature of three fine performers in a too-rarely-heard combination of instruments. Very cleanly recorded, good liner notes, even a very clever cover design! This music is not something you're ever likely to hear on the radio (so you really need to buy it), but it's music you'll wish was heard a lot more often!

By Douglas Currens


If i could reccomend just one new cd from this year, this would be it. Teresa McCollough plays music by several different new composers who all deserve your immediate attention. The music here is very enjoyable yet still provides enough challenges for the listener's ear to remain high-art. Yes, that's right...modern music has finally breached past the super-intellectual unfeeling detachedness and has now reached a point of true emotional impact. Try for starters the track by Belinda Reynolds. You will notice immediately a deep resonance and feeling that will stay with you long after the piece is finished. This is modern piano music that will surely reach classical status.

By Theron N. Kagnoff


In all, this is an enjoyable near-hour of music, and given that we rarely get to hear works scored only for percussion ensemble, is a treat. One can hope that some more adventuresome radio programmers will get this music on the air from time to time. Aside from the annoyances in the booklet production, Innova have produced a fine sounding disc, never overbearingly loud, and in the more ambient works there is a fine bloom to the sound. Performances are above reproach. This is fine, skilled and tasteful playing. Highly recommended to both the adventuresome and the timid alike. Take the plunge and check this one out.

By Kevin Sutton


“Music For Hammers and Sticks” is a varied and fascinating collection of seven pieces composed for piano and percussion by six composers. Several of the pieces were commissioned by the performers, making this a truly collaborative effort. This is very definitely “art” music or contemporary classical, and is much more challenging than some listeners will want to tackle. Those with an interest in experimental and more “serious” music should find much to enjoy with this recording. The three performers are Teresa McCollough on piano, Thomas Burritt on marimba, and Peggy Benkeser on various other percussion instruments (including police whistle!) - all artists with international reputations and performance resumes.

By Kathy Parsons

*Sequenza21 Best of 2005*