The idea for this work came from my Defiance Duo partner, Kia Frank. I wanted to do a work with seven movements, and she suggested the seven continents. Each movement has text from a specific continent and draws its musical material from the style and culture of certain countries within the continent. Hopefully, it's the first of many pieces written for Defiance Duo.
Europe begins by referencing the beginning of Gustav Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, or Song of the Earth. It goes on to feature very Romantic gestures and arguably German pitch content and use. The movement sets the text of Oscar Wilde's La Mer.
Africa begins with the marimba part imitating a traditional bell pattern of Afro-Cuban music. This motive "keeps time" throughout but also introduces rhythmic tension and another characterstic sound of Africa: buzzing. Before playing, the marimba player must insert sheets of paper into the instrument to create a buzz when certain bars are struck. This movement uses a traditional poem of the Akan people as text.
North America is very minimalistic and imitates the music of Steve Reich. A poem of Emily Dickinson is set in a very technically and rhythmically complex musical structure.
Asia uses an old Asian Proverb as text and is preceded by an improvisatory section limited to certain pitches on the marimba. After improvising, the marimba player plays a sparse accompaniment, so that emphasis is given to the meaning of the text.
Australia is very folk-influenced and presents a text from Cuthbertson in a very jovial manner. With some mixed meter and a major key, this jaunty movement is simple and fun.
Antarctica, as you may guess, has no indigenous poetry and therefore includes no text. Instead, this movement has widely-spaced intervals and sliding vocal pitches on neutral syllables to represent a cold, bleak landscape. It is written to feel windswept and timeless.
For South America, I found a wonderful bit of text by Silva and decided it would be beautiful to set as a spoken story. The accompanying marimba part adds to the bittersweet poetry with a very subtle tango element and lament bassline. While mostly sorrowful, it ends with a degree of hope.