This high-energy piece for percussion and piano is the work that launched my international career, thanks to Evelyn Glennie championing the piece and performing it hundreds of times around the world in the 1990's. It was first played by her in the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington with pianist Philip Smith at the 1992 NZ International Festival of the Arts.
Matre's Dance was commissioned by Jack Body and originally premiered by David Guerin and Bruce McKinnon in the Adam Concert Room at Victoria University of Wellington. The first recording of the work is on the inaugural Rattle Records album Different Tracks. Matre's Dance is also one of the only pieces of mine that I've actually played. You can see a low-res video of me and percussionist Murray Hickman, performing the work in 1994: part 1, part 2.
The title actually confuses two characters in the Frank Herbert Dune series. When writing the program note I was thinking of the Honored Matre's in the 5th and 6th books of the series, whereas the dance I remembered from the books was actually danced by the character Sheena;
Slowly, not wanting to arouse the prostrate priests, Sheeana began the shuffling, unrhythmic movements of the dance. As the remembered music grew within her, she unclasped her hands and swung her arms wide. Her feet lifted high in the stately movements. Her body turned, slowly at first and then more swiftly as the dance ecstasy increased. Her long brown hair whipped around her face. The priests excluded from their attention all except the child. Not the slightest quickly repeatable rhythm entered her movements. There was rhythm but it was an admirably long beat, at least a hundred steps apart. She kept it up while the sun lifted higher and higher. It was almost noon before she fell exhausted to the sand.
Watch and Listen
Matre’s Dance (piano and percussion)
for Piano and Percussion
Commissioner: Jack Body
Instrumentation: Bongo/Toms(3x)/Timpano(2x) & Piano
Premiered by Bruce McKinnon (perc), David Guerin (pf), on April 1, 1991 at the Wellington, New Zealand,
Player 1: Percussion
There have been many variations on the original percussion setup:
Hard Mallets - 1 high bongo, three toms, and two un-pedalled timpani
Drum Sticks - highest root-tom, three toms, 2 low tom toms
The decision is usually made according to what mallets are preferred by the player, and what kind of edge the percussionist wants on their sound. Sometimes a very high snare is used at the top end, and sometimes timpani heads are sacrificed in order to use drum sticks but retain the (important) C-A pitch dimension at the low end.
Player 2: Piano (it is recommended that the piano is amplified)