The Mallow Variations (2018)

Mallow was a very short piece of music I wrote for an exam board, intended to be a simple piece for relative beginners to play. I liked it so much that, in the tradition of these things, I decided to write a "theme and variations" around it: The Mallow Variations.

The Mallow Variations suggests many things, but rather than a flower, confectionery, or a town in Ireland, my original "Mallow" inspiration came from the character Hober Mallow in the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov.

In this music, there is a contrast between "soft" and "hard" (which, in turn, I spotted in the Asimov character). The sticks or beaters, and the sound of the vibraphone itself: both can be very hard, or very soft; very cold, or very warm; for me, there's something of a paradox in the essence of this (cold, hard, metal) instrument. This contrast between hot and cold, (and more fundamentally, dark and light) is also, in extremes, characteristic of the deep space in which we find Asimov's Hober Mallow.

From a compositional perspective, each variation is a variation of the previous variation, rather than starting again as a variation upon the original theme. This process continues until the final variation, which returns to the theme with only the slightest of embellishments. There are eight variations in total.

World Premiere

Tim Benjamin and Chris Brannick discussing The Mallow Variations

The world premiere of this work was given by Chris Brannick on 14th April 2018. Chris was instrumental in the creation of this piece - it was thanks to his recommendation that the original Mallow was commissioned.

“Every now and then a piece comes along that allows a percussionist to make music with percussion. Not just crash bang wallop, not just 90 mile-an-hour technical pyrotechnics, but real music that can be shaped and coloured and actually allows some measure of artistry. There’s nothing quite as rewarding as that for a percussionist. This is one of those pieces and I truly hope this settles into the percussion repertoire. It certainly deserves to.”

— Chris Brannick

Duration

13 minutes

Instrumentation

Solo vibraphone

Downloads

Listen

This is a recording of Chris Brannick performing The Mallow Variations.