A bamboo forest creates a unique sound when the stems strike against each other as they move in the wind. These sounds surround me as I perform my duties as a docent in the Asian Garden of the Naples Botanical Garden in Naples, Florida. The stems of the forest seem to talk to each other. Listening to their conversation inspired me to write a percussion ensemble that features the sound of bamboo. When I began thinking about a performance for the music I realized that I had not written a piece for the percussion ensemble at my alma mater, the Eastman School of Music, since 1971. I am pleased to have the opportunity to write Danza Bamboo for the Eastman Percussion Ensemble and its director, Michael Burritt.
The music requires performers to play a variety of instruments made from bamboo: a rain stick, bamboo sticks, boo blocks, bamboo wind chimes. An unusual instrument that originated in Indonesia, the bamboo angklung, appears in the slow section of the music. It is tuned to a specific pitch and the performer shakes it to produce the sound. There are angklung orchestras, societies and ensembles in Indonesia. The diatonic versions of angklungs are performed with many people involved, producing a musical result similar to that created by western handbell ensembles. Danza Bamboo is a celebration of bamboo and its distinctive sound.