Program Notes

My Grandfather's Kalimba

When my grandfather passed away, I came to realize that while I knew many things about him, I hadn't really known him at all. He was a quiet man in a loud household, always present but never, somehow, a presence. Emotions he held deep inside, at least around the visiting grandchildren, while around him raged torrents. He was a collector of many things; sword-canes, movie props, turquoise, all kinds of odds and ends. When he discovered that I was interested in collecting coins, he would always give me some medal that he had picked up somewhere. This was his display of love for me--not hugs and kisses, but a medal pressed quietly in my hand during my visits--and in the ignorance and arrogance of youth, I sometimes refused his gifts, because medals are not coins. I did not attend his funeral, having moved away for graduate school. His collections passed into the hands of his other children and grandchildren while I read Forte and Schenker, believing my priorities in the proper place. My brother, also being a musician, inherited my grandfather's African thumb piano. Years later, upon seeing my own collection of musical instruments, he offered the kalimba to me. This delicate and subtle instrument is what remains of my grandfather for me, a gift of love handed from grandfather to grandson and brother to brother.


The nature of ritual is as an abstract re-enactment of significant events with a fundamental purpose of catharsis as an ultimate goal. Religious rituals, in particular, share a common theme of transformation through sacrifice. My inspiration for Rite was the concept of a religious ritual in which the transformation of the celebrants became unexpectedly real and complete--that the ritual was no longer abstract, but something which changes the celebrants' completely in unknowable and dramatic ways.

The piece is in four sections. The static, repetitious material of the opening represents the initial call to worship. The ritual itself, with the preparation of the sacrifice, is presented though rapidly moving figures. The third section, in which musical motion almost ceases completely, represents the sacrifice of one of the celebrants. The final orgiastic section portrays the transformation through sacrifice into a new state of being.

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