“Memento Mori by Emily Koh is a piece for violin, double bass, and percussion quintet. According to the composer, the violin and bass were conceived as a single instrument that she refers to as the “superbass.” The piece starts out with a taiko-inspired opening played by several of the percussionists. From there, the double bass grows out of the percussion sound before becoming more prominent. The percussion writing is quite interesting as it incorporates unorthodox instruments such as hollow plastic tubes as well as extended techniques such as scratching the drum heads with the fingernails. One interesting aspect about the piece as a whole is that both the stringed instruments and the percussion instruments take on the characteristics of one another. For example, at one point, the double bass player plays rhythms on the body of the bass with the hand as if it were a percussion instrument. Another example occurs around the halfway point when the violinist makes her entrance. The violinist plays a passage consisting of continuos glissandos while the bassist bows a high harmonic. Then one of the percussionists responds by playing a pssage on roto toms while another percussionist simultaneously detunes them resulting in an imitation of the violin glissandos. The works ends with antiphonal calls between two waterphones that imitate the harmonics played by the bassist earlier in the piece.”
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