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Bob Becker: Articles and Interviews

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 »

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 »

Andrew Feldman – An Appreciation

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I first met Andrew Feldman at PASIC in 1981. For several years beginning in the late 1970s he manned a small booth at the conventions, and advertised his sticks and mallets in the classifieds at the back of Percussive Notes. I bought a number of bass drum beaters and tam tam mallets from his display… Read more »

SEA TO SEA (La Mer and cymbals)

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When my touring schedule permits, I often play in the percussion section of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra. Hamilton, Ontario is a thriving city about 70 km southwest of Toronto. The HPO is a fine orchestra with a long history. The first time NEXUS performed a ragtime piece was on one of their concerts in 1971, and… Read more »

Xylophone vs. Marimba: more thoughts.

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In April, 2013 I received an email from Jesse Strauss, a student at Belmont University, asking for my thoughts about an article by Vida Chenoweth in which she reached some conclusions about the terms xylophone and marimba. I often speak about the distinctions that differentiate these terms, and there is a posting on my Articles… Read more »

Recent composing

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I had a very intense spring season, with NEXUS performances in California, Arkansas, Georgia, Ohio and New York, as well as extended solo tours of my own in Ohio, Indiana and Arizona. Usually I am unable to compose while traveling, and also I find it difficult to work creatively on writing projects without having at… Read more »

Answers to questions about the beginning of NEXUS

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In December, 2011 I received a request from Yale graduate student Victor Caccese to answer a few questions about how NEXUS began and developed. VC: Mr. Becker, I mainly wanted to ask you about the start of NEXUS with your first performances in 1971. Even though all of its members have accomplished a great deal… Read more »

Answers to questions about New-thaan

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In March, 2010, I received a request from graduate student Bruce Salyers to answer some questions about my drum solo New-thaan, which is included in NEXUS Portfolio for Snare Drum, published by HoneyRock. I noticed that Bill Cahn recently posted his answers to similar questions about some of the pieces in Portfolio, and so I… Read more »

NEXUS, Cage and Ewazen: answers to questions by Daniel Smithiger

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Last year (2009) percussionist Daniel Smithiger asked the members of NEXUS to answer a number of interesting questions for an interview now posted on the Black Swamp website. His article was later included as the cover feature for the July, 2010 issue of the Percussive Arts Society’s Percussive Notes magazine. Below are my answers to… Read more »

George Lawrence Stone’s STICK CONTROL

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George Lawrence Stone’s Stick Control for the Snare Drummer first appeared in 1935. With a terse two-page introduction followed by a mere 21 pages of what he called “practice rhythms”, Stone unleashed a new and powerful method of technical development for all styles of drumming. The “HOW TO PRACTICE” page alone is worth the price… Read more »

Bob’s interview with Justin DeHart

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Dear Bob, It was great to talk to you the other day, and have the opportunity to hang out with you while here in Banff. Thanks again for your willingness to answer some questions for my doctoral dissertation and larger project to collect anecdotes and interviews from various important senior/accomplished percussionists in our field. Your… Read more »

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