Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 6, The Percussion Ensemble

Maslanka Weekly highlights excellent performances of David Maslanka’s music from around the web. 

David Maslanka’s percussion works are well-known and performed throughout the world. In particular, his works for solo marimba and percussion ensemble have become staples in the concert repertoire. This week, we feature outstanding performances of three of Maslanka’s best-known works for percussion ensemble. 


Bob Hohner was one of Maslanka’s closest friends and musical companions. According to the composer, “He was one of the very few people I (knew) who didn’t want a recording of music that he was to perform. It was his joy to discover musical sound. I wrote Montana Music: Three Dances for Percussion for him, and then In Lonely Fields for Percussion and Orchestra. He recorded Arcadia IIMontana Music, and Crown of Thorns, and we were started on yet another composing project when he died. That project was to have been a “Symphony for Percussion.” I had a flash vision of a stage full of percussion, a large percussion orchestra – sections of marimbas and vibraphones – and lots of players, and I heard them playing a full-scale symphony. The project came to a halt with Bob’s death, but I decided for his memorial piece that I would write at least one movement of this work, using all of the percussion forces available at the time at Central Michigan University.” Watch below as Robbert Houtkamp leads Cadenza Twello in a stunning performance of this work, entitled Hohner.

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Crown of Thorns

Maslanka said that “The title ‘Crown of Thorns’ is an obvious reference to Christ’s crown of thorns, but the name first came to me as a possible title for a piece from seeing a plant called ‘Crown of Thorns’ at the New York Botanical Gardens. Crown of Thorns is a rambling, thorny desert plant from the Middle East, with small green leaves, and small, pretty red flowers. The rambling, interweaving, vine-like stems suggested music to me.” As Maslanka started to meditate on this image, he saw a “seven-starred halo.” He continues, “The seven-starred halo is a transcended image of the crown of thorns. It is the crown of highest spiritual power arrived at through the greatest depth of suffering. The imagery is Christian, but the experience transcends religion, and is universal. The music is at times sober and reflective, but more often filled with a liberated energy and joy.” Watch below as Lance Drege leads The University of Oklahoma Percussion Ensemble in a moving performance of this work.

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Hurtling Through Space at an Unimaginable Speed

According to Maslanka, “The impetus for this piece was a cartoon that I doodled some few years ago at a concert: ‘Hurtling through space at an unimaginable speed’ – which is what we are doing on planet Earth. Considered abstractly this is a terrifying idea. Who knows where we are going, what we might hit, what might hit us? Earth and its life are the tiniest of tiny specks in a universe of billions of galaxies. What we don’t know about all this dwarfs into the ridiculous what we do know. It ‘smalls’ us! On the other hand, we are not separate from the universe. Our living minds and bodies are a manifestation of the same life force that brings us the sun, the moon, the planets, the stars, and the weirdness of the idea of time. It is not inimical to us. At the core of the core of the core of the all-that-is, is the heart of love.” Watch below as the College Park High School Percussion Studio takes us on a thrilling ride through this piece!

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We would love to hear from you! If you know of any outstanding performances of David Maslanka’s music on the web, please email us at