Friday, March 8, 2013

a tale of two cities

Usually I don't travel too much in February. This year, a quick clinic trip to Illinois was followed by New York City for the PAS/KoSA Weekend of Percussion. 

Amtrak-tracks into Chicago; a bench curves through Central Park. 

Central Park reservoir; new-to-me UI bell tower. 


Straight lines; concentric circles. 


Huge pigeon-to-toast size ratio; an antidote to "life is good" smuggery.


T-shirt weather in Manhattan; not quite fishnets weather in Chicago.



Carbs followed me onto the El; balloons scurried away. 


necks on a plane; snacks on a plane.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

What Jane Thinks About Vinyl Today

Answers to an upcoming interview with a vinyl-specific music reviewer, conducted via Skype.

1) How did the initial idea to put out the LP come about? 
Jane Boxall: "I wanted to put the album out in multiple formats -- CD, digital download and vinyl. The vinyl format is something I like on an aesthetic level, and also I feel that the "warmth" of LP sounds mirrors the warm tone of the solo marimba as an instrument. There's also a history of marimba records being released on vinyl -- this is an instrument that has been made in its current, concert-instrument form since 1910. All the early-to-mid century marimba recordings came out on vinyl, and I wanted to connect with that heritage in my 21st-century album release."

2) Does the album have a title yet and is there any info you can give me about the contents of it? 
JB: "The working title of the album is simply Jane Boxall ~ Marimba From Zero to Eight Mallets, and the title tells you the contents. I've recorded a piece with zero mallets (in which I play the marimba with my hands), a piece with one mallet, and so on up through the numbers to an eight-mallet solo that closes the album. John Psathas' piece takes care of the four-mallet content."

3) For many of the people I've spoken to the economics of putting out an analogue recording was too much of a deterrent to bother. Why did this not apply to your planned LP?
JB: "I was lucky to have a successful Kickstarter campaign that covers the initial cost of recording and releasing the album. Also, I'm making this a very limited edition run of vinyl to start with, so the numbers aren't as huge as they might otherwise be."  

4) From what you've heard so far (if it's finished) what are your impressions of music on vinyl in comparison to hearing it on digital?
JB: "It's just... different. Both in terms of the sound and atmosphere of the vinyl by comparison to CD or a digital download. The sound of the vinyl obviously has that warm, analogue feel and slight "crackle"; psychologically I feel there's more of a "narrative" feel to vinyl. You can't set an LP to play in "shuffle" mode, and you have to turn the record over between sides. So there's an inbuilt order to the music on the album, and an inbuilt "intermission" -- both these factors make it feel, to me, somewhat like a live concert program (in which the musician has crafted a program order for the first and second halves). Because my "program" on this album is numerically sequential as I increase the number of mallets, I like this aspect of vinyl. I also think that tactile media -- whether vinyl or a CD -- makes a connection between the performer and the listener. The marimba is an acoustic instrument, and the physical space in which it's recorded has a really significant effect on the sound produced. I feel that releasing the album on physical media in some way brings the listener into the space in which I recorded (in this case, an 18th-century church in rural Vermont), while bringing the recording itself into the listener's home, as part of their CD or vinyl collection they look at, touch and listen to (and, in the case of vinyl, probably curse every time they move house -- I have lugged a lot of vinyl crates around the country!) I do think the convenience and reach of digital-download media is great for musicians in the 21st-century -- people from Auckland to Alabama will be able to download my album instantly -- but I also think the growth of non-tactile media has an isolating effect. Vinyl, in particular, maintains the real-world, physical connection between musicians and listeners. 

5) Have you had an opportunity to hear a lot of classical music on vinyl? If you had a chance to hear a classical music recording/s on vinyl which would it be?
JB: "If at all possible, I like to hear my classical music live. That said, I live in a rural state so I listen to classical music on both vinyl and CD. One of my favourite vinyl albums is Vida Chenoweth's LP Classic Marimbist, released by Epic in 1962.  This album reassigns music by Bach and Telemann to the marimba, but it's incredibly important in the history of the instrument for also including original pieces written specifically for marimba, by Musser, Fissinger and Goodrich. Chenoweth was the first marimbist to play programs of solo music composed specifically for the marimba. Composers only started writing for the marimba as a classical solo instrument in the 1940s and 1950s, so she really was a pioneer and her LP is a slice of history. 

6) Do you know of any other classical music composers or musicians recording on vinyl? 
JB: "Not off the top of my head. Nancy Van de Vate puts out a great series of contemporary-classical CD recordings on her Vienna Modern Masters label, now going through Naxos. I'd love to see some of these recordings anthologized on vinyl! However, I see lots of rock bands opting for vinyl these days. I think it's a way to make a release more "special" and collectible."

Monday, August 20, 2012

marimba mail august 2012

Hi all, 

Apologies for the somewhat delayed arrival of this month's marimba mail! I could blame a carrier-pigeon strike, rising fuel costs for the marimba-mail steamship... truth is I've just been ridiculously busy and all over the place. Mostly pinging around between New York City and sunny Vermont. 

~~~Video Killed the Radio Star~~~ 
Video footage of Garry Jones' park-bench concertino is now up, with some of my photos. The actual bench-marimba I used for this concerto performance is now looking for a home, see for more details.

July 30-August 4th I was teaching drums at Girls Rock Vermont. I'm also director of development at this non-profit day camp, which I co-founded in 2011. Stuck In Vermont did a great video piece about camp, check it out here: 
I successfully avoided the camera, but I think my influence is present in this video -- every time a young drummer counts something off metronome-style. Plans (and grant applications) are already underway for Girls Rock Vermont 2013. It's one of my favourite things that I do. 

~~~Home Taping is Killing Music~~
I'm moving forward with recording my 0-8 mallet solo marimba album. I've already recorded Frank Zappa's 'The Black Page' (2 mallets), the Pitfield Xylophone Sonata (2 through 4 mallets), 'Indigo Spanish Fantasy' by Charles Joseph Smith (5 mallets) and the 8-mallet extravaganza 'Marimba Moods II' by Ludwig Albert. The remaining tracks are getting recorded September 12, and they'll be out on CD, vinyl and digital media shortly thereafter. 

~~~Keep it Live, Keep it A-live~~
The New York Musical Theatre Festival performances of Shelter: The Musical were a blast. Newell Bullen's score is an intricate, layered double-kicking rockfest. I sweated around NYC playing a variety of electronic drums and almost losing my cool when the theatre's kit completely collapsed during one of the performances. Crucially, it didn't unplug itself so I kept going -- at an increasingly horizontal angle -- without losing the beat... It was an honour to work with the cast, crew and pit on this show. I now have 100% more friends in Utah than I did the previous month, and see the value in (very occasionally) using drumsticks lighter than an X5B. 

I also returned to the Salisbury, VT concert series to perform rags and tangos with Rose Chancler on her birthday. Belfry-bats commented throughout our rehearsal, I played Lucas Guinot's 'Tango for Six' for the first time, Rose's little girl came on stage to sing 'Happy Birthday'. Word from the series director was that our program was "universally loved". Boast!

I also played marimba in the city-park sunshine, made my Higher Ground debut playing and microphone-singing at the marimba, and sweated behind the kit at Permanent Wave's warehouse-based music fest. Completed my second sprint triathlon in unfortunate shoes and the only swimwear remaining un-chewed by my dog. I will never be speedy but I am certainly stoic. No audiovisual linkage for this -- the finish-line cheerleaders chanting "you're looking good!" were, frankly, big liars. 

The Autumn-Fall is shaping up to feature some interesting music -- as well as releasing and touring my solo album, I'll be doing more music theatre work here in Vermont, and learning a lot of brand new repertoire with the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble. Playing bones for hundreds of kiddos via the VSO's percussion trio outreach program is also on the agenda. 

Hope your summer's been great, 


marimba from 0 to 8 mallets

Concertino for Park Bench and Strings

June 30th, 2012 I was the concerto soloist in the premiere performance of 'Concertino for Park Bench and Strings' by Garry Jones. The bench is a public-installation marimba, made of untreated cedar that is weather-proof for 25 years. At Music New England's inaugural Event In A Tent,  I played the concertino under a huge marquee in the middle of a field (Brattleboro, VT). Live video is above, photos below:

 The bench had to be raised on four sections of log to be at a conventional marimba-playing height.

 The natural notes of the marimba are a bench you can sit on; the accidental notes (black notes on a piano) were made especially for the performance so there could be a chromatic range.

The dark-brown knobs are a striking mechanism for the natural notes.

In the afternoon, I practised at the Harmonic Forge workshop.

The bench marimba has a range of just under 3 octaves -- each individual note is significantly wider than on a typical concert marimba.

 Loaded into the back of a trailer for transport to the event.

The morning of the concerto I went for a dirt-road run and stopped at this bench by the river. It was flooded with sand.

Still scenic, however -- it's Vermont.

The Event's Tent!

marimba mail july 2012

Hey marimba friends...

A lovely Vermont summer -- it's raining cats and dogs -- so my planned outdoor marimba performance in Burlington today has been rescheduled to July 19. Meantime, I believe rainy weather is good for practising...

~~~Concertino for Park Bench and Strings~~~
Saturday June 30 in Brattleboro Vermont, I'm premiering the 'Concertino for Park Bench and Strings' by Garry Jones. The park bench is a public-installation marimba, the strings are drawn from the Windham Orchestra (conducted by Jacob Mashak) and we will all be performing under a giant circus tent on a Southern Vermont farm. More information is at and you can see the marim-bench being built at I'm pretty excited about this and would love to see you there -- 1pm on the nose.

~~~0-8 mallet marimba album in progress~~~
I've said it before, but I'll say it again: thank you so much to my Kickstarter backers for making this project a reality. I've started focused work on the 0-8 mallet marimba album, with recording sessions tentatively scheduled for late July and early September. Jacob Mashak has written me a really intricate new solo for one mallet; Lucas Guinot has already sent me a lyrical yet contemporary Tango commission for 6 mallets. Both pieces are great, and tough to play! I have a CostCo membership and bought a tub of BandAids (plasters) the size of my torso to aid the recording process. It's all happening!
Thank you: Russ Bennett, District Drum CompanyMcVeigh Skiff, Emilie White, Linda Fraser, Kelly McCracken, Dennis Bathory-Kitsz, Paloma Bruce, Meredith Yayanos, Toonuva Games, Chris Boxall, Mikey, Rebecca Scully, Alia Thabit, Roberta Hickman, Nancy Weber, Peter Pein, David Drexler, James Stephenson, Thomas Negovan, Wesla Weller, Lesley Boxall, Raph Worrick, Steven Klimowski, Dean Sanders, Matt Grix, Holly Deitchman, Samantha, Rich Palmer, Quez, MisterEM, Jerry, Michael Desilets, W. Wright, Don P., John Boxall, Alan Z. and Andy Eldridge.

~~~July schedule~~~
MAGLIANERO ~ 18 July (Wed) @ Maglianero, Burlington VT
4-6pm: Coffee-shop set. Also performing: the loops/tapes/vocals of Nuda Veritas, the homemade electronics of Apocalypso (MA). Free, all ages.

MARIMBA IN THE PARK ~19 July (Thu) @ City Hall Park, Burlington VT
12noon-1pm: Free lunchtime performance in the park

RAGTANGORAGTIME ~20 July (Fri) @ Salisbury Congregational Church, Salisbury VT
7.30pm: Back by popular demand! A ragtime and tango program with pianist Rose Chancler. Music from Milhaud to Joplin to Albeniz to Guinot to George Hamilton Green.

In between hitting things, I'm sectionally hiking the Long Trail. Hope you're all getting outdoors too!



marimba from 0 to 8 mallets

Monday, March 5, 2012

marimba mail march 2012

Well hello!

It's a jam-packed marimba month here at Boxall Towers. In addition to hitting things, I've been spending some time climbing hills this past month. Not long til I hike across the UK...

~~~gongs and glory~~~
I won second prize in a marimba competition in NYC! Usually in competitions I become an anxious mess, but in this one I busted out Ludwig Albert's 'Marimba Moods II' and the judges liked it. Here's a blog about the day, complete with picture of winners' lineup and my face not wanting to stay still.

I'm performing twice with the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble this month. Our program includes the first full performance of Vida Chenoweth's 1951 'Pointillism' suite for marimba, flute and clarinet. I am thrilled to be performing this piece (a mere 61 years after its composition). Also on the program: Marc Mellits' 'Tight Sweater' suite for marimba, piano and bassoon. Movement titles include "Pickle Trousers" and "Evil Yellow Penguin". If you're intrigued, please join us:
Friday March 23, 8pm @ Unitarian Church, Montpelier VT
Saturday March 24, 8pm @ Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, Burlington VT
Tickets for either concert are between $5 and $25 per person.

~~~and gigs~~~
Tuesday March 27, Ricochet Duo collaborate with saxophonist Dan Gordon in a concert at the State University of New York (Plattsburgh). 7.30pm in the Giltz Recital Hall, this concert is free and open to all ages. The program will include music by David Maslanka, Eric Ewazen, Gareth Farr, Darius Milhaud, Evan Chambers and the ubiquitous Mr Marc Mellits.

~~~and gigs~~~
Friday March 30, Doll Fight! returns to lay waste to Charlie-O's World Famous in Montpelier VT. Free entry, 21+, we'll be playing 2 hours of mostly original material including some corking new tunes. Local journo Dan Bolles calls me "ferocious" in this recent review:

~~~ and golly gosh! double-drumkit debut! ~~~
March 31, Snap Drag drum duo will debut a program of experimental music for two drumkits at Burlington VT's North End Studios. Tickets are on sale now via With NYC drumming ace Jessie Nelson, I am really excited to present a concert program including:

Frank Zappa - 'The Black Page'
Gary Chaffee - 'Seventh Heaven'
Bjork - 'Mutual Core'
Jane Boxall - 'Particle Series' (world premiere)
Jessie Nelson - 'New Work'
James Romig - 'Portraits'

Don't miss out! When was the last time you saw a double-drumkit concert? We'll follow the concert with a clinic, and repeat the whole thing in Lowell, MA the following day.

For now, back to the tactical metronome practice for me. Take care all,

marimba from 0 to 8 mallets

Monday, February 27, 2012

PAS/KoSa Day of Percussion

My family had planned a visit to Boston from Scotland the weekend before Valentine's Day, and I'd booked my Megabus tickets down from Vermont.

Then, a couple of weeks before the trip, I heard about the PAS/KoSA Day of Percussion at NYU. As part of a weekend of percussion clinics, workshops and presentations, there would be a marimba competition without an upper age limit. I've been playing marimba 11 and a half years now, but was a late starter in terms of age.

Thanks to Expedia, my Boston trip could be triangulated to include New York for only $50. I drove to Burlington airport in the early-morning dark and snow, with a minimal number of mallets in my hand-luggage and six copies of the score for Ludwig Albert's 'Marimba Moods II' for the judges.

On the Air Train into town from JFK I practised the solo in my head, twice. I've usually been very dependent on physical practice, but recently have developed the ability to practise certain pieces in my head by visualising a marimba keyboard with the notes lighting up as I imagine playing them. Working through a memorised eight-mallet solo mentally involved a lot of imaginary lights and doubtless the kind of facial expression that kept other subway passengers at a distance.

I got out of the subway in lower Manhattan, and walked to NYU past Washington Square park. It snowed a bit. I trundled to a grocery store and bought banana, diet Coke and cashews. The banana is for potassium, which I find calms the nerves if I eat it 30 minutes before a performance. In the few marimba competitions I've previously competed in, nerves and stage fright have usually pretty much destroyed my performance.

I found the percussion floor at NYU, changed and read through my score a few times. Went down to the designated warmup room an hour before my performance time, only to find the marimba dismantled and being removed. Normally the lack of warm-up would make me worried, but instead I told myself I knew the piece well enough a warm-up shouldn't matter.

Once I got on stage, the judges were very close and the marimba was unevenly adjusted, so the corner of the lower manual was significantly higher in the bass than the treble. Having already locked in my 8-mallet grip, there wasn't too much I could do about this, so I just got on with it. I hadn't played the piano-type Yamaha 6000 in several years, and its note spacing is a little weird, but this instrument had a big full sound over the inevitable frame rattle.

I placed 2nd in the 18+ division, winning a gorgeous Zildjian suspended cymbal, mallets, sticks, drumheads and other assorted percussive swag. Wai Chi Tang was first-prize winner with a fantastic performance of 'Ripple' by Akira Miyoshi. Apparently we were within one point of each other in the overall scoring.

Here's the winners' lineup with the competition judges: