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Bebop Riddle for solo marimba (2021)

For solo 5-octave marimba

First performance in May 2021 by John Corkill as presented by Miller Theatre in New York City
Commissioned by Miller Theatre at Columbia University
Duration: 5 minutes

To be performed with dancers when feasible.

John Corkill performs from memory BEBOP RIDDLE for solo marimba

Program Note

“Bebop or bop is a style of jazz developed in the early to mid-1940s in the United States, which features compositions characterized by a fast tempo, complex chord progressions with rapid chord changes and numerous changes of key, instrumental virtuosity, and improvisation based on a combination of harmonic structure, the use of scales and occasional references to the melody.

Bebop developed as the younger generation of jazz musicians expanded the creative possibilities of jazz beyond the popular, dance-oriented swing style with a new "musician's music" that demanded close listening and enabled the musicians to play at fast tempos. Bebop musicians explored advanced harmonies, complex syncopation, altered chords, extended chords, chord substitutions, asymmetrical phrasing, and intricate melodies. Whereas the key ensemble of the swing era was the big band of up to fourteen pieces playing in an ensemble-based style, the classic bebop group was a small combo.” [From: Wikipedia]

BEBOP RIDDLE, for expert marimba soloist, is virtuosic, playful, dance-like, nuanced, and nimble. A bit like Stravinsky and Bartok crossed with Bebop, with an occasional hint of a Big-Band-like brass fill, the composition unfolds chains, links, collisions, alterations, and deviations. Like an engine with several different kinds of motors, wheels and cogs, the music churns and hops along at a fast tempo, unfurling a chain-link of transformations, variations and outgrowths. Musical connections are orbital; sounds cross-fertilize and establish relationships which, in turn, create new intersections, amalgams, and fulcrum points. The spirit of this work is that no two chords, motives, lines, phrases, rhythms are exactly the same. Everything is transforming - everything is an amalgam.

Commissioned by Miller Theatre at Columbia University, BEBOP RIDDLE is dedicated with admiration and gratitude to John Corkill, Melissa K. Smey, and Miller Theatre. The world premiere took place in May 2021 as part of Miller Theatre’s MISSION COMMISSION podcast series performed by John Corkill, whose masterly skill, virtuosity, and finesse are world-class.

Selected Reviews

Hannah Edgar, Chicago Tribune, May 27, 2021 “Bebop Riddle’s angular bursts, intervallic calls and responses, and easy virtuosity nod to its namesake without becoming a hackneyed jazz pantomime. Bebop Riddle is all controlled freneticism.”


John Corkill, percussion.

Miller Theatre at Columbia University.

BEBOP RIDDLE for solo marimba (2021)

To obtain examination or performance material for this
Augusta Read Thomas work, please contact Nimbus Music Publishing.