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qì (2016)

For percussion quartet
playing 2 marimbas
(two players sharing a 4.3-octave marimba and two players sharing a 5-octave marimba)

qì was co-commissioned by:
John Bierbusse
Harve Ferrill in honor of Karla Scherer
Jane Heron
Matthew Meselson in honor of Jeanne Guillemin
Bruce Oltman in honor of Bonnie McGrath
Sidney Robinson
Bob Schmidt
John Schmidt
Nick Yasillo in honor of Susan Yasillo

First performance by Third Coast Percussion at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center
at Notre Dame University on July 22, 2017
Duration: 5 Minutes

Following a long and rich tradition of composers who wrote for percussion (Edgard Varèse, Harry Partch and John Cage, Lou Harrison) over the past 30 years, Augusta has composed extensively for percussion designing works including concerto for percussion quartet and orchestra, percussion playing bells from all around the world, quartets, solos, and two octets for percussion and string quartet. Additionally, many of her 65 orchestral works feature percussion.

The last minute of the composition as performed by Third Coast Percussion.


Performance of QI by Third Coast Percussion


Performance of QI by students at the University of Miami: Torrell Moss, Andrew Riley, Lucas Sanchez, and Liam Underwood; Recording engineer: Matthew Nichols

Program Note
Dedicated with admiration and gratitude to those who commissioned the work and to Third Coast Percussion

is the circulating vital life energy that in Chinese philosophy is thought to be inherent in all things.

In traditional Chinese culture, qì or ch'i or ki in Korean culture and ki in Japanese culture is an active principle forming part of any living thing. qì literally translates as "breath", "air", and figuratively as "material energy", "life force", or "energy flow".

Concepts similar to qì can be found in many cultures: prana in Hinduism (and elsewhere in Indian culture), chi in the Igbo religion, pneuma in ancient Greece, mana in Hawaiian culture, lüng in Tibetan Buddhism, manitou in the culture of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, ruah in Jewish culture, and vital energy in Western philosophy.


With four percussionists sharing two marimbas between them, has Thomas in fun-and-games mode full-on as the music tears off at dizzying speed without pause through the work's five densely packed minutes. Thomas's underlying image here is the notion of four interlocking gears, the players having to mesh and dovetail with the absolute precision of well-oiled gears and cogs whirring away in a fine Swiss watch. The 4-way dialogue is as rapid-fire as it is incessant, and in due course one just knows that one of Thomas' favourite “stinger” endings is supposed to loom over the horizon. But when it comes, it blindsides the listener with the precision of a perfectly timed punchline!

Qi was co-commissioned by: John Bierbusse, Harve Ferrill in honor of Karla Scherer, Jane Heron, Matthew Meselson in honor of Jeanne Guillemin, Bruce Oltman in honor of Bonnie McGrath, Sidney Robinson, Bob Schmidt, John Schmidt, and Nick Yasillo in honor of Susan Yasillo; and is dedicated with admiration and gratitude to those who commissioned the work and to Third Coast Percussion. was unveiled by the four members of Third Coast Percussion at Notre Dame University in Indiana on July 22nd 2017.

Copyright © Paul Pellay

Selected Reviews

Stuart Sillitoe, MusicWeb International "Qi for four percussionists playing two marimbas is “enjoyable and vibrant. The Third Coast Percussion players also seem to be enjoying the piece as they give a performance full of life and zest."

Jeremy Glazier, La Tempestad "Thomas’s own brand of techne, or craftsmanship, is sufficiently advanced—as is the performance of Third Coast Percussion, who are always spellbinding to watch live…Their recording of Qí brims with relentless energy."

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QI map

Third Coast Percussion and Augusta Read Thomas

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