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Review from Percussive Notes:
Composed in 1959, this set of three pieces for unaccompanied vibraphone (using four-mallet technique) lasts about 10 minutes and is representative of settings indicative of the late 1950s and 1960s for unaccompanied instruments. James Beale’s three pieces in this collection are titled “Declamation,” “Aria,” and “Finale.”
Although not overtly tonal, “Declamation” ends on an A-major triad (there are not any key signatures utilized in this opening piece). It is set in a modified ternary form, with the opening 18 measures being indicated at a tempo of 72 beats per minute. After a cadence on B-flat major, the middle (or B section) portion speeds up considerably (to 138 bpm) before returning to and recalling some of the opening rhythms and melodic leaps that characterized the opening, slower section, setting an austere mood for the three-piece set.
“Aria” is a more pensively reflective composition (marked at a tempo of 60 bpm), with perfect fourths being the prevalent accompaniment interval in the left hand, and the right hand being utilized to project a simple one-note melodic line—primarily in the upper register of the vibraphone (no vibrato being indicated). This 81-measure movement is quite accessible to the listener with its slow triple-meter presentation—although a few shifts metrically to 2/4 and 5/4 subtly change the lilting predictability. At measure 26, Beale presents the melody in the right hand by using octaves, before shifting back at measure 34 to a solitary line. At measure 42, Beale returns to octaves in the right-hand before a final shift to a one-note melody brings the movement to a satisfying ending.
“Finale” has a fanfare-like opening at a tempo of 126 bpm. This 50-measure movement is angular in its melodic and rhythmic content, and it can be performed with two mallets. Attention to small contrasts in the dynamics will permit a performance of this movement to bring the piece to a successfully satisfying conclusion. This composition is not for everyone, but it might be appropriate for the junior or senior undergraduate college recital. It is certainly a “throwback” to the non-jazz utilization of unaccompanied vibraphone literature.