Prime Set

Complete Work Title: 

Prime Set

Performance Medium: 

solo multi-percussion set-up of 12 instruments: sleighbells, cowbell, brake drum, small gong, castañet, wood block, temple block, pod rattle, tambourine, 2 bongo drums, low tom-tom.




to David Yoken

Date Composed: 

February - March 1985

Performance Information: 

The score utilizes a modified tablature-like notation that indicates specific timbres and mallets.

Additional Information: 

Included on the album Improbable Encounters (innova 873, 2014).

Performance/Broadcast History: 
  • 23 February 2014; radio broadcast on "Martian Gardens,” WMUA-FM (Amhurst, MA).
  • 30 March 2001; Presidio Chapel (San Francisco, CA)
  • 27 March 2001; Old Church (Portland, OR)
  • 25 March 2001; Holy Trinity Church (Vancouver, BC, Canada)
  • 23 March 2001; DAR House (Seattle, WA)

    Bruce Hamilton, percussion

  • 18 May 1992; Carlton College (Northfield, MN)

    Kay Stonefelt, percussion

  • 7 November 1989; Indiana University (Bloomington, IN)
  • 29 April 1989; Indiana University (Bloomington, IN)

    Bruce Hamilton, percussion

  • 26 April 1987; University of Jyväskylä (Finland)
  • 22 October 1985; University of California, San Diego [premiere]

    David Yoken, percussion

Program Notes: 

Composed in March of 1985, Prime Set is a twelve-part canon for solo percussionist, nearly all the parameters of which are based upon the prime number series. The percussion instruments are divided into three groups of four instruments/timbres each: skin (tambourine, tom-tom, high and low bongos), wood (wood block, temple block, castañets, pod rattle), and metal (sleighbells, cowbell, brake drum, gong). In addition, the percussionist uses four different mallets, thus enhancing the variety of attack possibilities. The canon subject (stated twice in each of the twelve "voices") is basically a straightforward ordering of the twelve available timbres, each successive voice "transposed" by means of a "timbral matrix." The gradual diminution and subsequent augmentation of rhythmic materials results in a simple arch-like structure of increasing then decreasing textural density. The work is notated using a four-line tablature staff, each line representing a different mallet; instruments are represented by twelve different symbols, the placement of which on the staff indicates the mallet(s) to be used.

Prime Set is dedicated to percussionist David Yoken, who premiered the work on 22 October 1985 at the University of California, San Diego. It is included on the album Improbable Encounters (innova 873, 2014).