The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Percussion ensemble Clocks in Motion features guest artist Matthew Coley in rare marimba solos and other works this Friday night.

February 11, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

The acclaimed Madison-based percussion ensemble Clocks in Motion opens its spring season of new sounds, new instruments and new music this Friday night with internationally renowned percussionist and composer Matthew Coley.

Coley (below) is a versatile musician, particularly acclaimed as a marimba virtuoso and a premier authority on hammer dulcimer performance in the United States and Europe.

matthew coley

The concert is this Friday, Feb. 13, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. in the DeLuca Forum (below top) at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (below bottom).

Admission is $15, $5 with student ID.

SEW Forum room


The concert will feature two distinct halves

The first half offers a solo marimba performance by Coley and the second half has a chamber performance of works featuring hammer dulcimer with percussion ensemble. Clocks in Motion will collaborate with Coley on this latter program, which includes the world premiere of his new work, Pelagic Winter Wanderings.

The contrast of warm marimba timbres with the brittle, yet sweet sound of the hammer dulcimer promises a broad and captivating experience for the audience.

Coley (below, playing a marimba) shares his thoughts on the second half of the program:

Pelagic Winter Wanderings (2011-2015) is a collection of pieces written to capture the inspiration, synergy, and awe I get from large bodies of water. Living in the Midwest I am often motivated during the winter months, for obvious reasons, to retreat to warmer places that have water. This, with my love of traveling, and the possibilities of the hammered dulcimer and psaltery in chamber music inspired me to compose this collection. It has taken a long time to finish because the last component of knowing the right ensemble that would help give the piece the impression I originally imagined didn’t come along until I became acquainted with Clocks in Motion. It is as much a piece for them as it is a piece for me to showcase the zithers.

Matthew Coley marimba slide 2 USE

Glitz (2005) came about as part of an ongoing collaboration I had with Bjorn Berkhout for many years to increase the chamber music available for the hammered dulcimer. I asked Bjorn if he would write a percussion piece with dulcimer and through the timbre of the instrument with marimba, vibraphone, and glockenspiel he was inspired to represent the sounds of a casino. During this work you will be transported into the glitzy, flashy, cacophony of a casino. There is even a jackpot moment!

Fantezie was composed by the Moldavian cimbalom player Valeriu Luta and is included within a four-volume collection of other Moldavian folk music, transcriptions, and contemporary works for cimbalom. I came across this music while visiting Chisinau, Moldova to play and teach marimba. Fantezie is my favorite of the original Eastern European tunes from this collection and I’ve gotten to preform it in 4 different ensemble arrangements. This arrangement was created for the Sudar Percussion Group in Croatia.”

Clocks in Motion Reich Group

You can learn more about Matthew Coley at And you can hear him perform a fugue for marimba in the YouTube video at the bottom.

Hailed as “nothing short of remarkable” (, Clocks in Motion (below) is a group that performs new music, builds its own instruments, and breaks down the boundaries of the traditional concert program.

With a fearless and uncompromising ear to programming challenging and adventurous contemporary percussion ensemble repertoire, Clocks in Motion consistently performs groundbreaking concerts involving performance art, theater, and computer technology.

Featuring world premieres alongside rarely performed classic works, the ensemble strives to create a new canon of percussion repertoire.

Clocks in Motion group collage

Clocks in Motion works passionately to educate young audiences through master classes, residencies, presentations, and school assemblies. The ensemble’s unique skill sets and specialties contain an impressive mix of rock, jazz, contemporary classical, orchestral, marching, and world styles.

Clocks in Motion has served as resident performers and educators at the Interlochen Arts Academy, Casper College, the University of Michigan, Baldwin-Wallace University, VIBES Fine and Performing Arts, Traverse City West High School, Traverse City East Middle School, Rhapsody Arts Center, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Formed in 2011, Clocks in Motion began as an extension of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Graduate Percussion Group, and now serves as an affiliate ensemble of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.



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