Minoru Miki : Concerning of Marimba & Percussion pieces

Time for Marimba

Minoru MIKI composed this piece during the summer of 1968 for Ms. Keiko Abe's first marimba recital. Before that year, Miki had listened to many marimba performances, but many of the pieces which he heard were arrangements of famous Western instrumental pieces. He also found that tremolo was used too often. When he agreed to compose this piece, therefore, he was determined to avoid the use of tremolo except in very limited cases.

From an early age Miki loved the special feeling of Indonesian Gamelan ensemble music. There are very different mechanisms at work in the Gamelan and marimba. For example, the marimba has fixed well-tempered pitches while Gamelan scales are very special in comparison. Regardless of these differences, he wanted to create a unique, fantastic music using just one marimba.

A six tone series consisting of C,B,Eb,G,E,Ab, along with variable quintuplet rhythm constructions are very important for this purpose. However, the general atmosphere through the work should be very free, almost like an improvisation. Many years later, Miki was surprised when he read a doctoral dissertation written by a Japanese marimba player, This dissertation, an analysis of "Time for Marimba", discussed the composer's careful mathematical plan in realizing the form of this work. The composer very moved by this analysis, but in fact, the piece was through-composed during a brief one week period during the hot summer.

During the 1960's, the marimba had a limited range of just four octaves. If the performer wanted to play tones in lower octave, the composer might have consented. But as it was not considered standard marimba technique, the performer should do so extremely carefully and avoid overuse.

In 1969, the year following Ms. Abe's first marimba recital, the Nihon Columbia Record Company recorded the piece performed by Keiko Abe along with Miki's "Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra" which was commissioned by the same company. It received an "Excellent Prize" at the Japan National Art Festival. During the same year, Ongaku No Tomo Sha, Tokyo (NORSK MUSIKFORLAG A/S for Europe and America), published "Time for Marimba" . About CD, see Discography in this URL.

Critics have said that these events were the crucial starting points in modern marimba history.

Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra

In 1969, the year following premiere of Time for Marimba, the Nihon Columbia Record Company commissioned Minoru Miki to compose a Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra. Miki started the composition in March, and completed the piece on July 21st of same year. When he completed the final double bar, the Apollo spaceship had just reached the surface of the moon. The piece was premiered and recorded on August 4th, 1969 at Suginami Public Hall in Tokyo by Keiko Abe (Marimba solo) and the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Hiroshi Wakasugi. Nihon Columbia Co. published the album "Keiko Abe/Marimba Art" (JX-9~11) with Time for Marimba, etc, in November and won a Prize of Excellence at the National Art Festival.

As the note for the album, the composer wrote:

"Truthfully, I wanted to compose a symphony that had been maturing in my mind for several years, and therefore, I had no ideas about composing a concerto. However, Mr. Kimura, director of this recording, and Ms. Keiko Abe urged me with great persuasion to reconsider completing this concerto as if it were a symphony.

While composing the piece, I was distracted by personal situations in my life. Even though I had misgivings about the time element involved in composing the piece and my own state of mind, I went ahead with the project.

The completed work represents a celebration of the gods in my heart. Perhaps this statement needs a word or two of explanation. For several years I had been composing using Japanese instruments. From this work I found a vivid god living in Japan's past tradition.

The musical ideas in the composition represent the universal desire for the beauty of eternal and never ending life. These thoughts sustained me while composing the work.

The quiet string section is always followed by pizzicato representing the trembling ground and the marimba enters as the incarnation of a vivid god. The first movement of the concerto is frequent conflict between dynamic and static states - life and death, but finally reaches life impulse. The second movement expresses the diversion of value from dynamic death to static life.

From the note by critic, Akira Ueno

"Sustained melody trusted by deep emotion, skillful combination and contrast of tone color, skillful execution of intricate timbre combinations, I truly recognized Miki's talent for orchestration. From this piece, I can also receive a quite fantastic, dramatic impression. This work has a theatrical atmosphere."
NB: Miki started to compose operas six years later.


3 Fl (Picc), 3 Ob (C.A.), 3 Cl ( Eb-Cl), 2 Bsn (D-Bsn), 4 Hn, 3 Tp, 2 Tbn, B-Tbn, Tba, 4 Perc, Hp, Str. Marimba solo


1st movement: 10:30 minutes, 2nd movement: 12:00 minutes,
Total: 23:00 minutes

Concert premiere was on October 11th , 1969 at the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan (Tokyo Cultural Center, Ueno) by Keiko Abe, Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Shunji Aratani. Many orchestras, including the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra, Kumamoto Symphony Orchestra, performed this piece with Keiko Abe in Japan. It was premiered in the United States in 1988 by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin. John Kasica performed the marimba solo. Miki composed an alternate ending B in 86' for this premiere

Karl Johans Gate 3.2 P.O.Box 1499 Vika, 0116 Oslo 1, Norway
Tel: +47-22-173470 Fax: +47-22-424435

NB: NORSK publishes all of Miki's marimba compositions.

Marimba Spiritual

In late 1983, Minoru MIKI received the request from Ms. Keiko Abe to compose new marimba piece with three percussionists. She had a chance to perform new piece with Dutch percussionists in next year.

Miki composed "Time for Marimba" in 1968, and "Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra" in 1969. However in 1964 he founded "Pro Musica Nipponia", a historically initial ensemble consisting of all sort of Japanese traditional instruments. Over the next twenty years he worked hard to compose many different types of pieces for them and to produce them not only in Japan but all over the world. He sought to realize new possibilities for this musical style. Also in 1975, he began to compose opera series along Japanese long history since 5th Century to 19th Century.
So he did not resume composing for the marimba until 1983.

During that year, he decided to retire from Pro Musica Nipponia to concentrate on the creation of operas, as he felt that he had completed his present aim in expanding the repertoire for traditional Japanese instruments.

When Miki completed the vocal score of the 1st Act of his third opera "Joruri", Ms. Abe just asked him to compose a new marimba piece with three percussionists. For him, it was rare opportunity to compose his third marimba piece. He started thinking about the piece on Christmas day in 1983, and completed it on January 13th, 1984. A NHK producer agreed to commission the piece at Ms. Abe's request.

This was also the year that many people died in Africa from starvation. As a person who had experienced similar suffering before and after the end of World War II, Miki could not be silent. Rather he felt that he must express his condolences and anger for that situation. He therefore composed the first slow section as a static requiem, and the second fast section as lively resurrection. The title "Marimba Spiritual" is as expression of the total process.

Many performers and listeners have been curious about the mode of the first section, wondering whether or not the composer was consciously combining a number of different scales. Although Miki has welcomed such interpretation and analysis, he insists he had no specific model in mind when composing the piece, but rather that he gave his imagination free reign over the harmonic and melodic material.

The rhythm and note patterns are strictly noted throughout the piece, but as for the three percussion parts, only the relative pitches and tone qualities (for the first part, metal and wood percussion instruments; for the second part, skin drums) are noted. There is some freedom, but the performers should pay much attention to balance between each section. The rhythmic patterns for the second part are taken from the festival drumming of the Chichibu area northwest of Tokyo.

The total duration is approximately 14 minutes.

The world premiere was given on March 18, 1984 at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam with Ms. Abe and the Nieuwe Slagwek Groep Amsterdam. After the premiere, Ms. Abe premiered the piece in many countries in Europe and America, each time with different percussion ensembles. After its publication by Ongaku No Tomo Sha, Tokyo in 1989
(Since 2009, the original publisher moved to "Zen-On Music Co., Ltd.") countless groups performed the piece probably several thousand times. Also, many CDs of this piece exist in the world (for example, see Discography in this URL). In 1988, the Safri Duo played the piece with only two people. The recording was so excellent that Miki gave them permission to arrange the piece and named the result "Marimba Spiritual 2" (see www.amazingmusicworld.com). The Safri Duo performed the piece more than 700 times all over the world throughout the 1990's. Both the original piece and "Marimba Spiritual 2" have frequently appeared in many different venues, from TV CM to numerous contemporary music festivals.

"Z Concerto" for marimba, percussion and orchestra

Next is the comment by the composer, Minoru Miki when "Z Concerto" has published by NORSK MUSIKFORLAG:

The "Z" in the title of this concerto stands for the Japanese zomeki, a word used since at least the 11th century to describe gay frolic and merry-making. The word also describes the rhythm of Awa-odori, a Japanese ethnic dance with a awing-like beat which originated in my birthplace, Tokushima, one of Shikoku's four major cities. Every August, million people gathered from everywhere and several ten thousands residents take to the streets in traditional costume to take part in festivals which feature dizzying displays of Awa-odori, So original and widely appreciated is the atmosphere of these festivals that Japanese hearing the characteristic zomeki beat immediately associates it with Awa-odori.

I have worked to incorporate this rhythm into my serious compositions for over 20 years, beginning with my 1970 ensemble piece for traditional Japanese instruments, "Convexity". Since then, the rhythm has appeared in many of my works. With "Z Concerto", the rhythmic patterns I explored in "Convexity" have evolved, been developed with new melodic themes, and have taken on new meaning as they are carried by a completely different medium - marimba, percussion, and an orchestra. The melodies, colored in an unique tone-series based on traditional Okinawan scales, are set against the Zomeki rhythm to lend a scherzando feeling to the piece.

In a previous composition for marimba and percussion, "Marimba Spiritual", I used throughout a very even rhythm which is strongly in contrast with the swing-like zomeki beat. In this sense, "Marimba spiritual" and "Z Concerto" are at opposite ends of the musical spectrum. I was so impression with the Safri Duo's performance of the two-man version of "Marimba Spiritual" that I have provided a place near the end of "Z Concerto" for the performers to insert their own cadenzas.

I begun composing "Z Concerto" in March 1992 upon receiving a commission from the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, and completed the work on May 19, 1992. The world debut performance has taken place on October 15, 1992 by the Safri Duo and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, under the conducting of Michael Schonwandt. "Z Concerto" is dedicated to Mrs. Hanne Wilhelm Hansen, whose efforts made this project possible and to whom I am deeply grateful.
(Translation: Peter L. Jaeger)
Minoru Miki


Marimba solo

Percussion solo
Metal instruments in 4 pitches, Wooden instruments in 4 pitches, Drums in 4
pitches, Roto Tom in 3 sizes

3 Flutes (3rd doubling Piccolo)
3 Oboes (3rd doubling Cor Anglais)
3 Clarinets in Bb (3rd doubling Bass Clarinet)
2 Bassoons
1 Double Bassoon

4 Horns in F
3 Trumpets in C
2 Tenor Trombones
1 Bass Trombone
1 Tuba

1 Percussion player
3 timpani, 3 Gongs, 3 Cow bells, Stand-Cymbal, Glockenspiel

1 Harp



Approximately 17 min. ~ 22 min. (including player's cadenza)

Published by NORSK MUSIKFORLAG A/S (Orchestral parts available on hire)
Karl Johans Gate 3.2 P.O.Box 1499 Vika, 0116 Oslo 1, Norway
Tel: +47-22-173470 Fax: +47-22-424435

At PASIC 06 in Austin, * marked works below had American premiere, and published by Go Fish Misic. See please www.gofishmusic.com

Dotoh (1967)
Instrumentation: Percussion duo
Duration: 5h30m
Publisher: Manuscript only, but will be published by Go Fish Music in2007
Note: this piece was originally called “Toh” and part of “four figures for four groups” for Japanese instruments, then Miki changed instruments to western percussions. 

Cassiopeia Marimbana(1982 - 2006)*
dapted by Brian zator in 2006
Instrumentation: marimba quintet (or five players using three marimbas)
Option 1: One 4.0 octave, three 4.3 octave, and one 5.0 octave
Option 2: One 4.0 octave, one 4.3 octave, and one 5.0 octave
Duration: 15’
Publisher: GO FISH MUSIC www.gofishmusic.com
Note: Adapted from the original version written for Japanese koto quintet "Cassiopera 21".

Sohmon III - for soprano, marimba and piano (1988)*
Text: Minoru Miki and quotes from Classics
Voice: sop
Instrumentation: mar, pf
Publisher: GO FISH MUSIC www.gofishmusic.com
Japanese version: JFC(The Japan Federation of Composers INC)

Yoshitsune Daiko - for persussion ensemble(1991)*
Instrumentation: Small percussion ensemble
Soloist: French Horn of Vibraphone
Percussion 1: Small crash cymbals, snare drum, and whip
Percussion 2: High shime-daiko (or bongo)
Percussion 3: Low shime-daiko (or conga)
Percussion 4: O-daiko (or low tom-tom) and four roto-toms
Duration: 3h
Publisher: GO FISH MUSIC www.gofishmusic.com
Note: This piece composed for amateur percussion (taiko) group commissioned from Komatsushima city.

Kincho Daiko - for persusion ensemble(1991)*
Instrumentation: Small percussion ensemble
Soloist:: Recorders or marimbas (or combination of both)
Percussion 1: Cowbell
Percussion 2: Temple blocks
Percussion 3: Snare drum
Percussion 4: Bass drum
Duration: 3’30”
Publisher: GO FISH MUSIC www.gofishmusic.com
Note: This piece composed for amateur percussion (taiko) group commissioned from Komatsushima city.

Requiem 99 (1981/1999)
Instrumentation: Solo marimba and Japanese instruments
Duration: 23m
Publisher: Manuscript only, so far
Note: This piece was originary composed for koto soloist and adapted by Miki for Evelyn Glennie and Pro Musica Nipponia. An arrangement for solo marimba and brass ensemble will be released in 2007 or 2008.

Marim Dan-Dan - for marimba and matsuri-daiko (2000)*
Instrumentation: Marimba solo with two percussionists or Duet for marimba and persussion (perc.2 is option)
Marimba: 5.0 octave
Persussion 1: Two or four tom-toms
 Percussion 2: Wood block. Temple block, and high tom-tom
Duration: 3h
Publisher: GO FISH MUSIC www.gofishmusic.com
Note. Originally, percussion 2 is written like chorus who surrounds two soloists and cheer them on.      

East Arc - for pipa, violin, cello and marimba/percussions (2001)
1)Fantasy on Rice Fields, 2)Pipa Nocturne, 3)Dancing along the Shore, 4)Enka, 5)Ancient War
Instrumentation: pipa, violin, cello, marimba-percussion
Duration: 28'
Publisher: People’s Music Publisher, Beijing

Z Conversion - for eight persussion players(2005)*
Instrumentation: 8 percussion players:
Perc.1: Snare drum, 4 cowbells, Triangle, Atari-gane, Crash cymbals, wind chimes, Marimba
Perc.2: Tam Tam, 4 gongs, 4 cowbells, Tambourine, Suspended cymbal, Vibraphone
Perc.3: 4 Log drums, 5 woodblocks, Rute, Bamboo wind chime
Perc.4: 5 temple blocks, Binzasara (or Snare drum rim-shot), Guiro
Perc.5: 6 Roto-toms, High tom-tom, Snare drum, 2 timpani
Perc.6: Bass drum, Low tom-toms, Wooden drum (Wood plank attached to drum shell), Suspended cymbal
Perc.7: Shime daiko (or Snare drum on a carrier), Marimba
Perc.8: Gaku daiko (or Bass drum on a carrier), bass marimba
Duration: 11m
Publisher: GO FISH MUSIC www.gofishmusic.com
         Japanese version: JFC(The Japan Federation of Composers INC)

Minoru Miki