for marimba & piano
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listen to RIFF

duration 14 minutes.
Percussion Area

In rock music a riff is a short, repeated series of notes that forms a distinctive rhythmic motif, one capable of defining the identity of a piece. In this context, to talk of ‘the riff’ of a piece is to talk of its ‘groove’ and mood. In this tradition, that now extends for more than half century, a riff has become an original way of understanding and using repetition.

I have always felt that riffs were ideally suited to be used as themes for musical variation, and I have over the years invented or borrowed riffs to develop my own approach to the variation form. In this sense I have departed form the rock convention of keeping a riff unchanged throughout a song.

My piece opens with a riff that almost immediately begins to transform. The musical ‘story’ of this piece is  the story of these transformations. It is above all, a rhythmic adventure, one where the initial ‘feel’ and ‘groove’ of the riff are subjected to constant changes even if at times the notes that form the riff itself remain the same.

I had initially planned to used for my piece a riff from Led Zeppelin but in the end I could not find one that exactly fitted my musical purposes. I have instead invent one that I hope carries within -at least to some extent- the spirit of what was once called ‘progressive’ rock.

RIFF was commissioned by  Michael Burritt and Alan Chow.

A.V. 2006




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