Posts By: Bob Becker

More from Bob’s Archive (Part 5)

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In 1982 I was able to organize a commission for a new work from the distinguished Canadian composer John Hawkins (1944 – 2007). I wanted something that would feature a substantial solo marimba part for me, within the context of a serious percussion ensemble piece that could be performed by NEXUS. At the time I… Read more »

More from Bob’s Archive (Part 4)

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Prisoners of the Image Factory In 1991 I composed the soundtrack for a short film by Toronto director James Stewart. It was the first opportunity I had to collaborate in this medium, and my first experience composing music to time code. The film, which was without dialogue, featured two teenaged actors portraying young lovers cavorting… Read more »

More from Bob’s Archive (Part 3)

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The venerable Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu (1930 – 1996) is best known as a serious classical composer, and, to a somewhat lesser degree, an innovative creator of music for film. Although largely unknown in the west, his work in the popular song medium spans most of his creative life, and includes music for theatre and… Read more »

More from Bob’s Archive (Part 2)

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In today’s digital electronic world it’s rare to find recordings that are not highly processed, edited and even over-dubbed. All eleven pieces on the NEXUS Ragtime Concert LP (1976) were recorded using the direct-to-disc process – a method that required each full side to be performed in a single take. That’s six pieces in a… Read more »

More from Bob’s Archive (Part 1)

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In a recent blog post (Dance of the Octopus and Red Norvo) I lamented the fact that some recordings with interesting repertoire are no longer available. In 1996 the CBC invited several musicians to create short improvised pieces for use on their Weekender radio show. At the time, Weekender was broadcast for several hours on… Read more »

Bob’s interview with Greg Giannascoli

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In 2016 I received a request from marimbist Greg Giannascoli to answer a series of questions for an upcoming publication. Greg’s questions and my answers are below. GG: Hi Bob, I am writing a book with a series of interviews with the important marimba and xylophone artists of the 20th century and I would be… Read more »

Surviving Steel Pans – A Saga (Part 2)

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In 1993 two major composers – Michael Colgrass and Bruce Mather  – began work on commissions for NEXUS. Mather, an intimate friend of Robin Engelman, had already composed two quartet pieces for us: Clos de Vougeot (recorded on the LP Changes in 1982) and Clos d’Audignac (recorded on the CD Rune in 1997). The new… Read more »

Surviving Steel Pans – A Saga (Part 1)

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In 1989 Carnegie Hall announced a series of commissions to celebrate the hall’s 100th anniversary season in 1990/91. A former member of our management team, Costa Pilavachi, recommended NEXUS be the featured soloists in a new piece by Toru Takemitsu, to be premiered with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Seiji Ozawa. A concerto by Takemitsu… Read more »

Dance of the Octopus and Red Norvo

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In January, 1989 NEXUS recorded a new CD for the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s Musica Viva label. CBC no longer distributes our Dance of the Octopus CD, which is unfortunate because it includes a lot of wonderful repertoire not available anywhere else. A truly great harpist, Judy Loman, joined us for two works by Bill Cahn:… Read more »

Suspended Cymbal Mallets

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In response to my recent posts about the cymbal parts for La Mer and Daphnis and Chloé I received some comments and questions regarding the mallets I use on suspended cymbals. As I pointed out in my blogs, early 20th century composers often employed specific terminology regarding striking implements in their cymbal parts – for… Read more »

Becker Bow Cymbal Demo

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Last spring (February, 2016) I spent several days in Meductic, NB working on some projects for the Sabian Cymbal Company. My main job was to select and mate 60 pairs of 18 inch Artisan Traditional Medium Light Crash orchestral cymbals. It was some of the most physically demanding work I’ve done in my life, and… Read more »

Daphnis and Chloé and Cymbals

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Last week (on June 2nd and 3rd, 2016) the Toronto Symphony performed the complete music from Maurice Ravel’s ballet Daphnis and Chloé (1912). I was invited to play cymbals, which have an extensive individual part that is twelve pages long – something unusual in the symphonic percussion repertoire. I was familiar with the second suite… Read more »

Some reflections on John Cage

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In response to the request on NEXUS’ Facebook, here are a few more John Cage recollections.   In June, 1984 NEXUS embarked on a major European tour lasting over two months. Our first stop on the trip was Amsterdam and the Holland Festival. We played two concerts there, including a monumental all-night improvisation in the… Read more »

A John Cage recollection: Third Construction

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During the summers from 2000 to 2010 I was in Newark, DE directing my annual Xylophone Institute at the University of Delaware. The host for that event was the professor of percussion at UDel, Harvey Price. One day the topic of John Cage’s Third Construction came up in a conversation, and I told Harvey about… Read more »

Becker’s Best now available

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Xylomusic has recently published Becker’s Best, a collection of Bob’s most effective technique exercises for the xylophone and marimba. All of the studies in the book can be practiced to build speed and accuracy, and after they are learned at tempo they make a great daily warm-up routine. The book is available through Steve Weiss… Read more »

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