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Howler Monkey

for solo presenter, TTBB choir and hand drums

Year:  2015   ·  Duration:  4m

Year:  2015
Duration:  4m

Composer:   Robbie Ellis

Films, Audio & Samples

Robbie Ellis: Howler Monkey...

Embedded video
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Sample Score

Sample: Page 8, 9, 12, and 13

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It was the first half of 2014 when I discovered the subject of this piece – the second-loudest animal on earth, after the blue whale. I was probably just browsing Wikipedia when I saw the genus name and amusing combination of syllables ‘Alouatta’, and identified that word as a rhythmically driving, almost primal bed for a choir piece.

With a commission for my old high school choir Voicemale on the horizon, I bumped into its conductor David Squire at the Auckland regionals of The Big Sing 2014 and pitched him my idea: “Five words: choral infotainment about howler monkeys”.

He grinned, and so did I. After all, we were going to have 60+ teenage boys sing about monkeys. Heeeehehehehee.

Influences include the music of Latin America (mariachi, cumbia, bossa nova and tango); John Psathas and his coterie of kickass percussion soloists (Pedro, Evelyn, Lenny, Jeremy etc); Demetrius Savelio (aka Savage); my own piece for violin/viola and shouty chorus called Ha!; Bruno Mars’ opening drum solo at the Super Bowl XLVIII Half Time Show; nearly every video of howler monkeys to be found on YouTube; my own head’s cliché of what death metal is; dubstep; bad puns; general primal-ness; and the Second City Training Center Writing Program.

Thanks to David Squire and Warwick Robinson for suggesting edits and forcing cuts, ultimately making Howler Monkey a tighter and tauter piece of writing.

Commissioned note

Commissioned by Westlake Boys' High School for the choir Voicemale.

Difficulty note

High school, community, university

Text note

Text by Robbie Ellis. English, with a small amount of French.

Performance history