Click here to how do 

Marimba Studio Classes

Studio Class 26

Japanese Marimba: Music & More

Dr. Brian Zator, Director of Percussion, Texas A&M University-Commerce

Edited by Dr. Jason Kihle, Associate Professor of Percussion, Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Beginning in the early-1960’s, writing for marimba began to develop in new directions. Two Japanese marimbists, Keiko Abe and Mutsuko Fujii, helped raise the level of awareness about the marimba through commissions by many well-known Japanese composers. Through their commissioning and performing efforts they created a new part of the repertoire for the marimba.

Three distinct compositional styles have emerged from Japanese composers. These include those composers directly influenced by Japanese culture and Abe and Fujii’s virtuosity, composers influenced by Western/European music and composers utilizing improvisation. Composer names and representative works are listed below. 

I. Japanese influenced composers

  1. Many of these composers wrote pieces in the 1960s & 70s due largely in part to the commissioning efforts of Abe and Fujii 

    1. Stylistically, they are more atonal, are not idiomatic to the instrument, and use space to create tension and release moments
    2. These works developed a voice for the marimba distinct from earlier works inspired by the xylophone
    3. Characteristics of these solos:
      1. Covering the entire range of the keyboard
      2. Expansion of dynamic contrasts
      3. Different roll techniques
      4. Fast interval changes 

  2. Composers
    1. Akira Miyoshi (b. 1933)
      1. *, ^ “Suite for Marimba - Conversation”: Suite of 5 distinct movements
      2. *, ^ “Torse III”: 4 distinct movements; more difficult than “Conversation” 

      3. * “Concerto for Marimba and Strings” 

      4. * “Rin-sai”: marimba solo w/ 6 percussionists 

      5. ^ “Ripple”: composed for the 1999 World Marimba Competition 

    2. Yasuo Sueyoshi (b. 1937)
      1. * “Mirage pour Marimba”: seven sections played without pause; I 
wrote an article about this work that is published in Percussive 
Notes, April 2000 

      2. “Rondel” 

  3. Minoru Miki (b. 1930)
    1. “Time for Marimba”: composed in a little over a week; although it is 
not based on Western harmonies, it fits idiomatically on the 
    2. “Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra”; my dissertation is a 
comparative analysis of Miki’s “Concerto” and “Time for Marimba” 

    3. “Marimba Spiritual”: marimba solo w/ 3 percussionists 

    4. “Marim Dan8Dan”: marimba solo w/ 2 percussionists 

    5. “Sohmon III”: marimba, piano and soprano 

  4. Toshimitsu Tanaka (b. 1930)
    1. * “Two Movements for Marimba”: originally composed as a 28mallet 
solo and then revised and edited by Keiko Abe 

    2. “Marimba Concerto” 

    3. “Gestalt” 

    4. Maki Ishii (193682003) * “Marimba
    5. 8Stuck mit Zwei Schlagzeuger”: marimba and 2 
percussionists chamber work 

    6. “Concertante, op.79”: marimba solo w/ 6 percussionists 

    7. “Hiten8Seido II, op.55”: marimba duet version 

    8. “Hiten8Seido III, op.75”: marimba solo version 

  5. Tokuhide Niimi (b. 1947) a. “For Marimba I”
    1. “For Marimba II”
  6. Akira Nishimura (b. 1953)
    1. “Improvisation” 

    2. “Kala”: marimba solo w/ 6 percussionists 

    3. “Matra”: marimba solo w/ 6 percussionists
  7. Yoshio Hachimura (193881985) 

    1. “Ahania, op. 9a”: marimba solo version
    2. “Ahania, op. 9b”: marimba duet version c. “Holidays”
    3. Tsuneya Tanabe (b. 1935) 
a. + “Masque Suite8for Solo Marimba” 
b. + “Concertino ~for Solo Marimba and Two Percussionists”
  8. Toshi Ichiyanagi (b. 1933): has more recent compositions 80s8present a. # “The Source”: premiered by Momoko Kamiya 
b. “Portrait of a Forest” 
c. “Paganini Personal”: marimba w/ piano
    1. d. “Aki o Utsu Oto”: premiered by Momoko Kamiya e. “Inner Voice”: premiered by Momoko Kamiya

II. Western influenced composers

  1. Takayoshi Yoshioka (b. 1955)
    1. “50 Marimba Solo Pieces”: collection of 50 short pieces arranged for 
marimba; includes many chorales; pieces range from 183 pages long 

    2. y “Suite No. 1, 2, & 3”: very tonal works; programmatic themes throughout; 
all the Suites utilize short and diversified movements 

    3. y “Three Dances for marimba and four percussionists” 

  2. Takatsugu Muramatsu (b. 1978)
    1. “Land”: very popular piece; sounds easier than it really is
    2. “A Vision of Light”
  3. Kazunori Miyake
    1. “Chain”

III. Improvisational influenced composer

  1. Keiko Abe (b. 1937) 

  2. Compositional/Technical Considerations
  3. Mallet selection should be graduated a. Mallet 1: bass
    1. b. Mallets 283: med. soft8med. hard
    2. c. Mallets 4: med. hard8hard
    3. Melody
      1. Should always be heard
        1. Many times this is on off-beats but this should not affect the 
timing/pulse and flow 

    4. Bass motion is common to move in an ostinato pattern in a step-wise back & 
forth motion 

    5. Common use of groups of 3’s played with groups of 2’s 

    6. Patterns used to frame the melody line
  4. Works (not exhaustive list)
    1. “Frogs”
    2. “Dream of the Cherry Blossoms” 

    3. “Works for Marimba”: first published collection of solos 

    4. “Works for Solo Marimba Vol. I”: second published collection of solos
    5. “Works for Solo Marimba Vol. II”: latest published collection of solos
    6. “Three Monologues for Marimba”: arrangement of popular tunes 

    7. “Marimba d’Amore” 

    8. “The Wave”: marimba solo w/ 4 percussionists 

    9. “The Wave Impressions”: marimba solo w/ 2 percussionists
    10. “Michi Paraphrase” 

    11. Many of her solos have been arranged in various formats by Abe including
      1. Duets
      2. Marimba w/ percussion
      3. Marimba w/ keyboard ensembles and
      4. Concertos 

IV. Recordings

  1. Keiko Abe – Japanese Influenced works (*)
    1. Solo Marimba Selections
    2. Marimba Selections I 

    3. Marimba Selections II 

    4. Marimba Spiritual
  2. Mutsuko Fujii (^) 

    1. Marimba Music – Music of Akira Miyoshi
    2. Hiten-Seido: Marimba Works by Maki Ishii
  3. Brian Zator (z)
    1. New and Unknown Percussion Works of Minoru Miki
  4. Makoto Nakura (+)
    1. Tsuneya Tanabe Works for Marimba
    2. Momoko Kamiya – Western Influenced works (#)
    3. Marimba Virtuoso
  5. Takayoshi Yoshioka (y)
    1. Yoshioka Plays Yoshioka G.
  6. Keiko Abe – own compositions
    1. Marimba Fantasy – contains pieces from “Works for Marimba” and individually published works
    2. Fantastic Marimba – contains pieces from “Works for Solo Marimba Vol. I & Works for Solo Marimba Vol. II” 

V. Four-mallet Grip Technique

  1. Traditional Grip
    1. Inside mallet is placed on top of the outside mallet about 3 inches from the butt end of the mallets 

    2. Make a “C” shape in your hand 

    3. The back three fingers will wrap around the mallets at the cross point 

    4. The thumb and index finger will ALWAYS be inside the two mallets 

    5. Three fulcrum points: 
1. Outside mallet sitting next to cuticle of index finger or between 1st and 2nd joint
    6. Inside mallet sitting next cuticle of thumb 

    7. Back two finger wrapped firmly around the back end of the mallets 

    8. Back of the hand is facing the ceiling, compared to the thumb with Stevens