Dave Hollinden
what clarity?
  • concerto for percussion soloist and percussion ensemble (see orchestral version)
  • duration: approximately 18 minutes + cadenza
  • orchestrated in 2005
  • co-premieres:
    • Andrew Spencer, soloist and the University of Iowa Percussion Ensemble conducted by Dan Moore, April 22, 2005.
    • Cindy Terhune, soloist, and the University of Wisconsin Percussion Ensemble conducted by Anthony Di Sanza, April 21, 2005.
Listen to Excerpt:

Performed by Andrew Spencer and the University of Iowa Percussion Ensemble.

  • play: opening, performed by Andrew Spencer with the University of Iowa Percussion Ensemble.
  • play: from the second half of the piece.
View the score:
Instrumentation for Soloist:
  • Snare Drum
  • 6 Tom Toms
  • High-hat
  • Tambourine with head
  • Almglocken
  • 2 Cowbells
  • 2 Temple Blocks
  • 2 Wood Blocks
  • 3 Bell Plates
  • 2 Brake Drums
  • Metal Pipe
  • Tibetan Prayer Bowl
  • Tibetan Prayer Cymbal
Timbre-staff Setup:
timbre staff setup for what clarity?

About the piece:

The piece opens slowly (mm=44) and quietly, with sparse orchestration and the soloist on snare drum (Introspective). There is a gradual increase in tempo and energy leading to rhythmic dialog between the snare drum and a large mallet choir formed from nearly the entire ensemble (Resolute, determinded). This erupts into a fff tutti at a ponderously slow tempo over which the soloist performs virtuosic snare drum passage work in double time (With great commotion). This large body of sound eventually collapses, dissolving into a very quiet and softly shaped section for Timpani, low marimba, vibraphone and the Soloist on metal instruments (Spent, vulnerable).

A brief chordal section (Sober, solemn) leads to the second half of the piece, which is based on brisk, angular rhythmic themes and in which the Soloist utilizes the full multipercussion setup in dialog with the ensemble. Sections for full ensemble and Soloist (Bracing, with a sudden burst of energy and Playful) are followed by rhythmic passage work for the mallet choir alone (Anxious, demanding), and finally a short duet for Timpani and the Soloist on High-hat (Persistent, determined). The final section (Precise, confident) distills the harmonic and rhythmic elements of the piece by means of rhythmic dialog between the full ensemble and the Soloist on a large, low Tom Tom.

Regarding the title:

While the question mark formally makes the title a question, "what clarity?" is actually a statement. It is a response, a reply to the assumption that answers are necessary.

When I first sat down to work on this piece, I was busy with questions about life; questions that ultimately had no answers yet were keeping me fixated. When I finally began putting notes on paper, the questions were still with me, as is evident in the opening of the piece marked "Introspective" in the score.

It was when I put these first notes on paper, however, that my ideas began to develop freely and relationships began to grow in the music. I wrote the rest of the piece without restraint, unencumbered by my earlier questioning. In searching for a title I thought of how the piece came about, of the questions to which I found no answers. In this sense, "what clarity?" reflects how the piece was composed by not needing an answer.

Purchase information:
  • Soloist part: $20
  • Full score and ensemble parts (12 players): $100

Available from: