Zonn, Paul- Xoe, for solo percussion

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For solo percussion, includes score. Primarily a timpani solo (4 kettles plus one snare drum), Xoe explores the sound concepts of slack and tight heads rather than exact pitches. Five pages contain proportional notation for both rhythms and pitches. Duration: ca. 3' 30"

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Review from Percussive Notes:

Paul Zonn – Xoe

Although the subtitle for Paul Zonn’s “Xoe” reads “for percussion,” the piece is, for all practical considerations, a timpani solo, with only the added presence of a single snare drum to argue otherwise. Written in 1971, this piece is a good example of the graphic notation experiments taking place during that period, and although not nearly as visually intimidating as the works of Herbert Brün or Christian Wolff, it will still require a mature interpretational approach. As such, this piece would best be undertaken by an advanced college student or professional. Musically, “Xoe” will come across as overwhelmingly improvisatory, despite the frequent rigidity of the composer’s instructions. Much of the decision-making responsibility has been delegated to the performer, including the length (at my calculation, the piece should run between 5:45 and 8:30), form, tempo, and the pitches themselves (Zonn avoids pitched material on the timpani in favor of indicating “middle range,” “low range,” etc.). Notation systems and extended techniques aside, “Xoe” bears a strong similarity to some of Keiko Abe’s more improvisatory marimba works, in that the piece is largely gestural, with activity coming in flourishes that will lose their connective narrative tissue if care is not taken by the performer to avoid the experience devolving into mere sonic exploration. However, in the hands of an adept contemporary percussionist, the work is a remarkably interesting and sorely needed contribution to what is normally the infertile soil of timpani repertoire. The highest compliment I can give this piece is that I personally can’t wait to play it.

—Brian Graiser