Fulkerson, James- Mobiles & Loops, for four percussionists and tape

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For four percussion and tape (CD), includes score and CD. Originally written for dance and percussion, this quartet with tape (CD) can easily find a place on an ensemble concert. Players need a pitched instrument, plus 2 brake drums, wood block and a clave. Duration: variable

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Review from Percussive Notes:

Composed in 1969 in response to a choreographer needing a more incessant pulse, “Mobiles and Loops” is a quartet with tape meant to create a flowing soundscape related to a nonstop tempo force. According to a program note from 1972, Fulkerson was approached by choreographer Beverly Schmidt with a design problem that her young dancers were unable to retain a steady, constant beat. The solution? Compose a work with the metronome built right in. The accompanying tape track is simply 26 minutes of repeating pulses at around 66 beats per minute. The really interesting and creative part of the composition is how Fulkerson creates textures around the track.


The score consists of four unique parts designed in a similar fashion. Each part contains numbered cells that are freely repeating, similar to “In C” by Terry Riley, but without pitch. Each part requires two brake drums and a woodblock, clave, or temple block, but the composer also indicates that any number of additional instruments can be added. Performance instructions indicate that pitched instruments can be also used, but only after they have been introduced in their respective parts. For example, part one contains chimes halfway through the piece. Other parts mention that pitch is relative, suggesting a free choice of pitched instrumentation or use of multiple-percussion instruments like in “Worker’s Union” by Andriessen. Fulkerson also employs different meters and metronome markings associated with the pulse throughout each part, creating a constantly shifting sense of time.


Due to the open nature of the repeats, Fulkerson suggests two time frames for the piece. During a concert performance, the piece can be played from 12 to 15 minutes—omitting specific cells indicated in the score—or 22 to 30 minutes, playing through each cell multiple times before moving to the next. The piece ends abruptly assuming all players can follow the cue of part one playing strong two-handed quarter notes in unison with the electronic pulses.


With just a few tricky rhythms and creativity required, this piece is great for a college or graduate ensemble willing to tackle an unconventional piece meant to explore the possible rhythmic relations to a standard pulse.

—Matthew Geiger