Swing Abeba for Solo Bassoon - Marilyn Herman

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Swing Abeba for Solo Bassoon - Marilyn Herman


“Abeba”, in the title “Swing Abeba”, means “flower” - part of the name of the Ethiopian capital city, Addis Abeba (“New Flower”) where modern Ethiopian music took root. “Abeba” is also a common refrain in their vocal music. True to its title, this work is influenced by Ethiopian popular music, which in turn was strongly influenced by swing rhythm in American big band jazz transmitted from an army radio station in neighbouring Eritrea in the 1950s. In this way, musical influences from other regions of Africa contained in jazz reached Ethiopian music via North America.

Ethiopian music – essentially song-based – consists of melodies which tend to be deeply embedded in copious melismata, progressing in an improvisatory manner, similarly to jazz.

Accordingly, Swing Abeba begins with Ethiopian treatment of an un-Ethiopian theme, breaking into a jazz-swing scherzo. The call-response nature of this scherzo recalls this feature of Ethiopian music. The second section begins in a different vein, with a slow ad lib passage marked “molto espressivo e pensivo”, which leads into a second swing scherzo. The opening themes make an appearance in a different guise in the closing section.

In the accompanying audio, an earlier version is performed by Glyn Williams at the New Winds Festival, 2014. A later version was subsequently recorded by John McDougall, and streamed each day for 7 days at the IAWM International Online Congress in 2015.


Swing Abeba
Performed at the 17th London New Wind Festival by Glyn Williams.

No recordings of this piece currently available.
1 performance.

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Past Performances