Graphic Percussion Scores of Robert Moran
Moore and Iowa Percussion
Interiors II: uncharted lands (1966) 9:40
Moore, solo percussion
Elegant Journey (1965) 5:08
Salagrama (1979) 25:22
Moore, solo percussion
of Curiosities (2010)
Aube, Christine Augspurger, Lucas Bernier, Dan Moore, percussion
4. I. Circles in Wood 1:42
5. II. Ode to a Vertical Transport Vehicle
6. III. Stems and Roots 2:47
IV. Crocodiles on the Ceiling 2:12
8. V. Procession of the New Ancient Gods
of Water 3:27
9. VI. The Hapsburg Kunstkammer 2:33
10. Meister Ekhard and the Point of No
Return (2008) 4:39
11. Eclectic Boogies (1962) :53
Bombardments (1966) 10:58
Moore, solo percussion
Playing Time 71:52
Moran has traveled many musical paths since 1957 when he began his study of
12-tone music in Vienna with Hans Erich
Apostel. He has composed for solo
instruments and intimate chamber groups; he has created musical compositions
incorporating 100,000 performers, radio and television stations, skyscrapers,
and airplanes; and he has collaborated with Phillip Glass to compose minimalist
opera scores. Moran compositions
range from the absurd theatre piece Popcorn
Music, in which performers react to the sight and sound of popcorn popping,
to the sinister yet funny Alice in
Wonderland for the Scottish Ballet.
Throughout his career Moran has been careful
not to ally himself with any specific school of composition. Musicologist and critic Walter Simmons
noted that Moran "has passed through most of the 'isms'
that have comprised the contemporary music landscape of the past 50
years." This freed him to explore whatever musical form interested him at
the moment, and his numerous musical excursions led to the development of his
The music Robert Moran writes today transcends
stylistic pigeonholes. It is
beautiful and rhythmic with an undertone of dry humor. It is pure Moran.
Composers turned to graphic or alternative
notation in the early 1950s and 60s as a way to effectively express their ideas. Graphic composers were particularly
interested in unlocking the creative energies of classical musicians, who were
not typically predisposed to improvisation. As Moran said, "There had to be a way to get these
uptight classical musicians to loosen up and let go, and graphic notation
seemed to be the way to get them to do it."
If classical musicians preferred having their music
written out, give them a little piece of art to interpret, along with some
basic rules of engagement, and they would be more at ease playing improvised
music. Thus, graphic notation
became the liberator that helped classical musicians shed their dependency on traditionally-notated music, allowing them to create music
within certain loose guidelines that could be replicated (or not) in subsequent
performances. Since it wasn't
technically improvising — just reading a different kind of music —
classical musicians could embrace this musical style.
It is no coincidence that composers turned to
percussionists as perhaps the best equipped for this type of musical venture. Cage himself chose percussion as his
kindred spirit. From the
beginning, percussionists have proven that the concept of "ensemble"
is an endlessly variable artform — one in which an African talking drum, glockenspiel,
bongos, and Chinese cymbals could just as easily be considered a viable
ensemble as a string quartet.
Moran's penchant for visual art led him, in the
1960s, to graphic notation. He
contributed his 1965 graphic score Sketch
for a Tragic One-Act Opera to John Cage's survey of contemporary music, Notations (1968).
Approaches to graphic composition differ. Some composers use strict guidelines
for the interpretation of their scores; others provide only the most basic
clues as to how the work should be realized.
Moran's scores fall into both camps. Some are designed to evoke a particular
attitude, feeling, idea, or location, and offer no specific instructions,
instrumentation, or form. Others
have quite specific directions as to how to proceed through the work, including
instrument choices or groupings, a key giving precise instructions as to what
each graphic notation represents, and a plan for developing the form. Some works allow the performers to rely
on each other to create the music; others call for a conductor to serve as a
quasi air traffic controller, preventing collisions while guiding the musicians
to safe departures and arrivals.
Visually, Moran's graphic scores vary from
purely artistic drawings containing no overt musical material, to
transmogrifications of traditional manuscript such as proportional or otherwise
This project, recorded in spring 2009 and early
2010, is the result of a two-year collaboration with Maestro Moran —
collecting scores and instruments, determining methods of approach to each
piece, rehearsing, recording, editing, and, in at least one case, digging into
Moran's own cabinet of curiosities to find lost treasures.
The goal was to provide a compendium of Moran's
graphic work showing the range of this form of composition, from purely
atmospheric sound explorations to in-depth studies of rhythm, melody, and
This music is essentially about sound and
interaction. More than 100
instruments and implements were used to create this recording. Much care was taken to ensure that each
track features a unique instrumentation (except tracks 10 and 11, which have
identical instrumentation), and only a few standard percussion instruments
appear in more than one piece. Listeners
should be able to close their eyes and set themselves adrift in a varied sea of
interesting sounds — a real sonic journey.
I hope you will enjoy experiencing this
stylistic stop-off on Robert Moran's own elegant sonic journey.
II: uncharted lands makes use of
ethnic percussion instruments from around the world. Throughout this solo realization, these instruments, from
disparate musical cultures, conjoin to create a new musical voice inspired by
graphic notation and contemporary music sensibilities. A key is provided describing each of
the notations and how to perform them.
The performer follows a series of interconnected links, each with
circled numbers representing the number of seconds between each event.
Interiors II, twenty-two tracks were
individually recorded, including congas, timbales, shekere (Cuba), tar (Middle
East), talking drum, m'bira, kalimba (Africa), log drums, musical saw,
flexatone, mixing bowls, three flower pots (USA), agogo (Brazil), six Anklung
(Indonesia), opera gong, bell, small cymbals, horse cymbals (China).
oldest of the graphic scores in this set, Elegant
Journey is a purely artistic drawing with no musical elements
depicted. Iowa Percussion players
took the title quite literally, incorporating sounds of travel — shoes on
cobblestone streets, bicycle bells, foghorns, and train whistles — into
the percussion soundscape. All of
the sounds are acoustic, with the exception of the electronically-enhanced
footsteps and samples of the ambient sound of a rough Mediterranean Sea, the
soothing shush of the Pacific Ocean, a host of noisy Arkansas cicadas, and
vendors hawking wares atop the Great Wall of China.
the most ambitious work on this project is the twenty-five minute realization
of Moran's Salagrama, originally
commissioned in 1979 for the new organ in the cathedral in Graz. The reassignment of this composition to
percussion instruments was a unique challenge to keep the original intent of
this powerful music using a percussion sensibility. The work is written using proportional notation and very
writes, "That endless bass line happens to be the exact pitches that
Kepler felt were 'given off by the movement of the spheres' (what he called The
Harmony of the World, which much later, by a few hundred years, became an opera
by Hindemith). Salagrama is the 'cosmic egg' in Hindu mythology that gives off
the cosmic 'sound.'"
this realization, the "endless bass line" was performed with a
malletKAT programmed with a specially designed sound created using a Muse
Receptor (synthesizer). Other
instruments, tracked individually, are vibraphone with soft mallets, vibraphone
with hard mallets, Deagan bells (right and left channels), wind chimes,
triangles, Chinese toy bells, and Chinese and Burmese gongs.
is a new work created from old scores.
While in the process of searching out performance materials for this
project, Moran discovered a cache of graphic scores he had created for his
"own amusement some time ago."
They had never been used for a composition, so he suggested them as a
catalyst for a new work he envisioned based on the 16th century European
phenomenon known as kunstkammers.
"cabinets of curiosity" were collections of art and oddities that
laid the groundwork for the eventual creation of museums. According to Gabriel Kaltemarckt, an advisor to Christian I of Saxony, three
types of items were necessary for a proper kunstkammer: "sculptures and paintings,"
"curious items from home or abroad," and "antlers, horns, claws,
feathers and other things belonging to strange and curious animals." The composition is Moran's wedding gift to light-sculptor and friend
Scott Johnson and wife Electra.
Meghan Aube (MA), Christine Augspurger (CA), Lucas Bernier (LB), and Dan Moore
(DM), reacting to the visual elements of each drawing and to each other.
in Wood: four marimba players
using traditional mallets
to a Vertical Transport Vehicle:
four players using found objects:
MA - telephone bell on a string, box of matches, box of nails; CA - bag
of rocks, squeaky slapstick; LB - metal coat rack, stainless steel bottle,
metal drum stick holder; DM - Chilean brass wind chimes, lion head planter,
Chinese prayer bowl, sample from an old Chicago hotel elevator
and Roots: four marimba
players using anything but traditional mallets: MA - knitting needles, Mardi Gras beads, small beaded
necklace; CA - ping-pong balls, bass bow; LB - cardboard tubes, rubber
spatulas, rubber ball on a stick; DM - candy rainstick tubes
Crocodiles on the Ceiling: keyboard ensemble:
MA - marimba; CA - bells; LB - vibraphone; DM - keyed glockenspiel
of the New Ancient Gods of Water:
four players using found objects:
MA - waterphone; CA - metal water bottle; LB - frying pan, bicycle foot
pegs, cheap rice bowls; DM - computer heat sinks, Chilean brass wind chimes,
Hapsburg Kunstkammer: keyboard
ensemble using anything but mallets:
MA - marimba with hairbrush, aluminum foil; CA - bells with fingers,
telephone bell, finger cymbals; LB - vibraphone with finger cymbals, rubber ball;
DM - celesta, harpsichord
Ekhard and the Point of No Return is a new graphic score composed for Iowa
Percussion. The instrumentation is
specific, and each of the 13 performers plays a single instrument. The score progresses at an extremely
slow pace, with each measure lasting approximately ten seconds as marked by the
conductor. Stemless noteheads
indicate the approximate timing of each note by means of proportional
Ekhard, at 4 minutes, 39 seconds, is a decelerated realization of Moran's 1962
composition Eclectic Boogies, which
lasts only 53 seconds. These
companion pieces, written 46 years apart, are conceptually the same: one unhurried and expansive, using
proportional notation, the other quick and compressed, using traditional
notation. Both are subtly soft and
Bombardments (1966) is one of Moran's most successful graphic scores, found in many
percussion libraries. Originally
composed for a percussion ensemble of five players, this recording is a solo
realization. Each part was
recorded individually with the performer reacting to the previous tracks and
following the activity contour of the graphic score. Moran's original instrumentation was used, with other
instruments added to taste.
1: snare drum (snares off),
hi-hat, ride and crash cymbals, bongos, almglocken, small gong, water buffalo
2: two guiros, Puerto Rican
scraper, three bullfrog scrapers, five high pitched blocks, seashell wind
chimes, bamboo wind chimes, rawhide maracas
3: wind-up toy drumming bear, five
nipple gongs, triangle, two cowbells, brass maracas, small splash cymbal, key
wind chimes, metal wind chimes
4: three tom toms, wind gong,
sound tube, two small suspended cymbals
5: toy piano, crotales, Chinese gong, maracas, old toy music egg
Dan Moore and Iowa Percussion play exclusively
Yamaha Percussion Instruments and Sabian cymbals with sticks and mallets
created by Innovative Percussion.
Dan Moore uses the Alternate Mode malletKAT and Muse Receptor.
This recording is supported by a grant from the
Arts and Humanities Initiative at The University of Iowa.
Produced by Dan Moore
Recorded by Daré Moon and Lucas Bernier
Recorded at Music Studio A, Iowa City
Edited and mixed by Dan Moore
Samples and sound design by Dan Moore
For more information about Robert Moran visit:
For more information about Dan Moore and Iowa
Also by Robert Moran on innova:
Mantra (innova 714)
Open Veins (innova 627)
Robert Moran's scores are published by:
Charlotte Benson Music Publishers (BMI)
Philadelphia, PA 19105
Special thanks to: Robert Moran, Liesa Moore, Philip
Blackburn, Joel Boyer, Rod Hanze, Kayt Conrad, Cheri Arneson, Kim Stange, Rita
Schmidt, and John Winget
Dan Moore, director
ISRC begins: US29K1079201