I first became interested in the theatricality of percussion performance when I took the undergraduate project ‘The Body in Musical Performance.’ We talked about the idea of gesture and how we catergorised them, including into the category of ‘sound-producing gestures’. These are the movements we physically have to make to produce a sound from our instruments, e.g. plucking the string of the guitar. I then began to think about how these gestures have to be bigger when playing percussion, due to several things: the instruments are often much bigger, and the nature of the basic stroke to produce sound from a percussion instrument. To play the lowest note followed by the highest on a marimba, the player will have to take at least one step to be able to reach the bottom then top end of the instrument.
To play a note on the marimba, the player must strike the bar with the mallet, and must not keep the mallet in contact with bar, as this damps the note. The mallet therefore strikes the bar and moves upwards into the space above the keyboard. To play louder, more force is required and the mallet should ride even higher. This principle applies to all struck percussion instruments.
When I first spoke to Morag Galloway about apiece for solo marimba, I mentioned my interest in this subject. Morag had some clear ideas about how she wanted to explore theatre within the piece. Although not overly a piece of music theatre, the final product incorporates some subtle choreographed movements with the inherent theatricality of percussion performance.