Although I had not originally conceived Spook as having any sort of extra-musical associations, when it came time to find a title for the work I thought of the mercurial nature of much of the music. Like a ghost, glimpsed in the corner of your eyes and vanishing when you spin round to look at it, the substance of the music is elusive, the tonality continually sifting and the patterns of repeated figures subtly changing as soon as they can be grasped. – Gareth Farr
In some respects Spook is a technical etude for the marimba. The main body of the work focuses almost exclusively on the use of the double lateral stroke, one of the virtuoso innovations of the last few decades. With four mallets available, extremely high velocities can be achieved by playing two consecutive notes with each hand instead of with the traditional left hand, right hand figuration. The quieter contrasting moments emphasise the independent roll, where instead of executing a roll between the two hands, the roll is played between the two mallets of a single hand. Sustained chords are played by one hand as an accompaniment to the other, which plays more articulate, rhythmic material. After a steady build-up to a powerful climax which utilises the full range of the marimba keyboard, the music subsides before setting off on an even faster coda, a percussive frenzy of slow rising patterns and accents which culminates in a clatter of open fifths in the very lowest register of the instrument.
Throughout Polynesia, Tangaroa is the god of the sea. The sustaining life force of the cultures of this region (and the mythical origin of humanity), the mighty Pacific Ocean, is the inspiration for this work. In its surging ebb and flow, the music evokes the ocean in its many moods – from the gentle rippling of calm, sparkling waters to the turmoil of a chaotic storm.
Composed at the request of the American marimba player and Andy Harnsberger, Tangaroa is a virtuosic work in which a number of contemporary performances techniques are intentionally exploited.