Instruments | Vibraphone | Contemporary | Classical
The vibraphone is a kind of electronic steel marimba, initially produced in the US in 1916. The player uses rubber-topped beaters to strike two rows of metal bars. The sound is not amplified electronically: it is amplified by the action of the resonators (like the marimba) which enhance the sound. Each resonator has a fan, and all are joined together along a long rod which is turned by a fan-belt. The belt is driven by an electric motor and the speed of the fans can be altered. This arrangement produces the vibraphone characteristic sound. The instrument has a pedal which controls duration. The compass is three octaves, running f to f’’’. Having begun life in the dance orchestra, the vibraphone forms part of the instrumentation of Berg’s opera Lulu (1934) and later Walton’s Cello Concerto (1956). In his Le marteau sans maître (‘The Masterless Hammer’), Boulez wrote for vibraphone and the the xylorimba, a composite of the xylophone and marimba, with an extended range.
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