Fios e linhas

  • Gregory Beyer (b.1973)
  • Quintet
  • 2020

“Fios e linhas” (Portuguese, “wires and lines”) places the single-stringed Afro-Brazilian berimbau musical bow as an “inner voice” within a percussion ensemble context. The minor third tuning of the berimbau is the result of the placement of the gourd exactly six elevenths of the way down the staff, dividing the wire into two unequal parts (6:5). This segmentation inspired the formal structure of the work, which I had originally planned to last 5:30’, (i.e. eleven 30” segments).

The opening theme is derived from a short etude written for the same minor third tuning that I composed in 2007 in Poland during a percussion festival and summer course. Inspired by Linea, the timeless quartet Luciano Berio composed in 1973, the work begins in strict unison between vibraphone and berimbau. The marimba joins in soon thereafter at which point small elements of playful rhythmic counterpoint are introduced. The vibraphone and marimba soon become more and more themselves, adding long tones and tremoli to color the line.

Just before B, the bass marimba leads a duet with its melodic counterpart, the glockenspiel, this layer added over and above the opening trio, now in lockstep with one another. At D, a new melodic theme is introduced and this eight-bar figure is repeated and ornamented with increasing density until it climaxes in percussive bursts at J. At K, just prior to the 3-minute mark, a completely new music is introduced, paying direct homage to Pat Metheny’s gorgeous melodic and harmonic vocabulary. The harmonic progression at L is a quote from Metheny’s “Tell Her You Saw Me,” from the album Secret Story (1992). Letter P brings us home with a finale that is certainly inspired by Brazilian popular musical forms…a sort of baião in 3/4, with a very clear 2:3 clave pattern, iterated at Q by marimba 1. I enjoyed this final section so much that I felt compelled to repeat the material of letter Q, thereby making the piece closer to six minutes in length than the originally planned 5:30. In art, sometimes rules are made to be broken!

I am deeply grateful to I-Jen Fang and the University of Virginia Percussion Ensemble for requesting this new piece of music.” – Gregory Beyer

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