Payton MacDonald

Super Marimba II

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The super marimba, developed by percussionist and composer Payton MacDonald, uses an acoustical marimba as its basis, but through digital processing can create a multiplicity of layers that give the effect of a marimba ensemble, some of whose players sound like they must be superhuman. MacDonald's program notes are clear, though, that all the sounds were realized live, and there was no overdubbing. For the most part, MacDonald creates sounds that are recognizably those of his source instrument, although there are some sections of heavily processed sound that mimic electronic keyboards or bass guitar, and some pieces have a layer of percussion added. (Some tracks use additional percussion players, and all the tracks were recorded live.) While the listener may be mystified about the procedures used to create such complex and richly varied textures, the effect of the layering is magical. Most of these pieces rely heavily on repeated patterns and generate interest through the interaction of the various layers of sound. The strength of the pulse gives many of the pieces a rock-like feel. The virtuosity of MacDonald's playing is evident throughout, even in the midst of the processed sounds. The sound is bright and vivid. Most of the pieces end in a fadeout, and on some of the tracks, the effectiveness is weakened by abrupt endings.

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