“Office Job” was inspired by fidgeting at my desk, wondering what instrumentation I should choose for the new multi-percussion piece I needed to write for PAS. The usual types of setups weren’t interesting me, and I was searching for something unusual. As so many of us percussionists do, I started tapping absentmindedly with my pen; before long I was excitedly trying out everything within arm’s reach to see what sounds I could combine. The stapler was good, but when I remembered the childhood buzzing-ruler sound I knew I had a piece.
Here are a few pointers for playing “Office Job”:
• Right-handed players should hold the ruler on the desk with their left hand and have a pen or pencil in their right hand. The left hand moves the ruler to change pitch and the right hand does everything else.
• These are obviously non-standard instruments, so every person who plays this piece will have a slightly different sonic palette. Experiment! Take the importance of tone as seriously as you would on any other instrument. You may be surprised at how much variety is available. For example, I found that small changes in pressure with my left hand would change the tone of the ruler dramatically.
• While there are no definite pitches in this piece, the ruler is pseudo-melodic, and the pitches of the coffee cup and water bottle interact with the ruler and each other. Find pitches that sound good to you (adding liquid to the cup and bottle can help), and try to be as consistent as possible with the placement of the ruler.
• Dynamics are a challenge! Do the best you can but remember that you can only get so much expressive range with a stapler. You can make up for some of the shortfall by having lots of contrast on the instruments that are more capable of change. But this is by nature an intimate, close-up piece, so subtlety of dynamics is just fine.
is a percussionist, composer, recording artist, and educator in Asheville, North Carolina. He teaches percussion, composition, and other subjects at the UNC Asheville and is the principal percussionist of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra. He contributed vibraphone and percussion to Infinity Plus One
by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, which won the 2017 Grammy Award for Best Children’s Album. He has also performed and/or recorded with Jonathan Scales, Lizz Wright, Jeff Sipe, Free Planet Radio, Billy Jonas, Kevin Spears, Kat Williams, and many others. Matthew loves musical theater, and he has played or music directed more than 70 productions from Amélie
to Zombie Prom
. He has also composed and directed music for dance and drama performances by Asheville Ballet, Norte Marr, TheaterUNCA, Black Swan Theatre, and The Road Company, and created the score for the feature film Flight of the Cardinal