Guest post: Laurie San Martin

Laurie San Martin

Laurie San Martin teaches at UC Davis. She’s one of our featured composers on the fast approaching Sequenza 21/MNMP Concert (October 25 at Joe’s Pub). In the guest post below, she talks about her work Linea Negra, which will be performed on the program.

Linea Negra

The faint, dark, vertical line that appears on a very pregnant woman’s belly in the weeks before she bursts is called the linea negra.  So it seemed like a fitting title for the solo marimba piece that I was writing during the final weeks of my first pregnancy in the summer of 2004. Real-life deadlines work in my favor as a composer. That is to say, the countdown leading up to a big life change is an intensely productive time for me. Linea Negra is a piece I always associate with that particular time in my life. When most mothers would have been preparing the baby’s room or redecorating the house, I was making deals with my daughter while she was still in the womb. “How about you wait a few more days to come out and I can finish this piece.  Really, it’ll be much better that way.” She arrived a few days late, so I was able to finish the piece on time; I have the greatest daughter one could ask for (and the piece isn’t bad, either).

I compose from left to right. That is to say, I start at the beginning and pretty much write the musical events in the order that they happen. It probably comes as no surprise then that my music is very linear.  Linea Negra is just under five minutes in length, with an ABA structure. The outer sections are a fast and repetitive moto perpetuo while the middle section is slow and lyrical. The piece is quite virtuosic–the marimba player is asked to play very fast runs, leaps, and chords; audience members often describe the piece as “acrobatic.”

Linea Negra is written for percussionist Chris Froh, who premiered the piece in October, 2004 at the American Academy in Rome. Chris is an exhilarating performer, and I was very lucky to be able to work with him while writing the piece. Hearing the work in progress influenced the direction of the piece and helped me iron out some of the technical difficulties, and clarify the musical gestures.  Working with a musician of Chris’s dedication and commitment is such a privilege for a composer, not to mention, inspiring and rewarding.

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