Michael Gordon, the American composer and co-founder of the legendary ensemble “Bang on a Can”, is one of the pioneers of the post-minimalism and totalism genres of the 1980s and 1990s. His work was influenced by New York underground rock as well as his academic composition studies.
“Timber” is one of Michael Gordon’s most extreme and effective compositions. It was commissioned by Slagwerk Den Haag, a percussion ensemble known for its unusual projects, and in whose collection Michael Gordon found the only instrument suitable for his work. A dry sound rich in overtones seemed suitable: the sound of Simantras, of raw hardwood timber of varying lengths being struck. These instruments, which are used in the Orthodox Church, were used by Iannis Xenakis for his percussion work, “Persephassa”, as early as 1969. As in “Persephassa”, spatial acoustic aspects play an important role. The glockenspiel-like oscillations of the long pieces of wood allow a powerful yet finely fanned dynamic sound body to unfold. “Timber”, a strictly organized minimalistic composition with polymetric and polyrhythmic layers and overlaying, moves three-dimensionally through the space. Sounds and rhythms wander from one player to the next, resulting in complex musical textures and contemplative oscillations. The one-hour space-encompassing work turns out to be an unusual sound meditation.