Each of the Three Sams explores a different challenge.
In (---)-I-Am, a perpetual motion figure in the vibraphone is redistributed among the other instruments of the set-up. Melodic pitches are replaced with their closest non-pitched equivalent—i.e. the cowbell, sounding an approximate F replaces an F on the vibraphone. Similar substitutions occur in the crotales, which create a second melodic line that is derived entirely from the original perpetual motion material. By the end of the movement, the single melodic line has been re-orchestrated in to melody and accompaniment.
Son of (---), is about rhythm. Intentionally disjunct, a large part of the challenge of the movement—aside from the inherent complexity of the rhythmic counterpoint—is in maintaining a convincing musical line through its many sections. This frustration is built into the form, starting very strict, but ending with a cathartic burst of near-improvisation.
The third and final Sam, Wicked Uncle (---), asks the performer to navigate a complex musical field in which each mallet of a four-mallet configuration—plus the feet—was conceived as a relatively independent voice. It is as if the performer now has more active limbs than most mere mortals, spread almost too thin.
Three Sams was premiered by Samuel Z. Solomon on May 6th, 2007 at Boston Conservatory’s Seully Hall. It lasts approximately 13 minutes, and it dedicated to Sam with endless respect and gratitude.
David T. Little
September 11, 2008