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“Haunt of Last Nightfall” by David T. Little


“Haunt of Last Nightfall” by David T. Little

Performed by Third Coast Percussion

Mallet Selection for this Piece:


Robert van Sice Signature (M114)

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Medium. The most popular model in the series, this mallet covers the entire range of the marimba and produces a singing sound that is full of life.


Terry Gibbs Signature (M32)

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This line offers a rattan handled mallet for every dynamic range on vibraphone or marimba. Cord wound heads.


American Custom® Timpani (T5)

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Very hard. A special effects mallet.


David T. Little – Haunt of Last Nightfall

I think a lot about ghosts. Not so much in the literal sense of sheet-wearing specters, but rather, of things ghostly in function. That is, things that remain behind as the fleeting evidence of what once was. For some reason—perhaps for the same reason as the monk of old’s memento mori—I have always felt the need to surround myself with these kinds of ghosts.

The studio where I compose, for example, is full of mementos: objects from past projects, trinkets from past travel, and most notably, old photographs. I have collected these antique photos for about ten years, not for the photographic quality—I know little about photographic history—but for the mysterious stories they may tell of the people whose images they hold. They are, in a sense, my ghosts.

They lived full lives once upon a time, these people. They had husbands, wives, children, joy and pain. They were no different, really, than you or me. And yet here they are, preserved in a single moment—perhaps the only evidence of their existence—itself gradually fading. I have no idea who any of them are, specifically, but it doesn’t seem to matter. In a certain sense, they each are all of us.

Although this peculiar passion of mine is at the core of this composition, it’s not really what the piece is about. Rather, the “ghost” here is an atrocity that happened long ago, the memory of which I just can’t seem to shake. Specifically, it is the massacre at El Mozote, El Salvador, December 10th through 12th 1981, in which an entire village was erased by US Military-trained Salvadoran government forces, with American-made and provided arms.

Now, I have no interest in getting on a soapbox about El Mozote, or related issues; that is, in fact, the last thing that I want. It’s just that since reading about the massacre—first in Bob Ostertag’s Creative Life, and later in Mark Danner’s The Truth About El Mozote—I have been plagued by two questions: First, how did I never know that this had happened? (The answer to this is fascinating and upsetting.) And second, why am I completely unable to get it out of my mind; to move on? It haunts me. It has been, for the last 15 months, my ghost.

I cannot forget the story of the young boy—now known only as “No. 59,”—who was lucky enough to have a toy, though it could not protect him from the bayonet. I cannot forget the separation of families that happened on the morning of the second day—men to the right, women and children to the left—reminiscent of another atrocity, forty years earlier. I cannot forget that this village, innocent by virtually every account, was slaughtered, caught in the crossfire of a stupid ideological battle.

I would never say something so boldly reductive as “their blood is on our hands.” We all know that scenarios like these are neither that simple, nor all that unique. But I know that I have been unable to shake this ghost, and consequently felt that I had no choice but to write this piece.

What we know shapes us, and whether I like it or not, I now know this.

David T. Little
October 9, 2010


The music of American composer David T. Little has been described as “dramatically wild…rustling, raunchy and eclectic,” showing “real imagination” by New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini, and his work “completely gripped” New Yorker critic Alex Ross: “every bad-ass new-music ensemble in the city will want to play him.” Little’s highly theatrical, often political work draws upon his experience as a rock drummer, and fuses classical and popular idioms to dramatic effect.

His music has been performed throughout the world—including in Dresden, London, Edinburgh, LA, Montreal, and at the Tanglewood, Aspen, MATA and Cabrillo Festivals—by such performers as the London Sinfonietta, Alarm Will Sound, eighth blackbird, Third Coast Percussion, So Percussion, ensemble courage, Dither, NOW Ensemble, PRISM Quartet, the New World Symphony, American Opera Projects, the New York City Opera, the Grand Rapids Symphony and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under Marin Alsop. He has received awards and recognition from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Meet The Composer, the American Music Center, the Harvey Gaul Competition, BMI, and ASCAP, and has received commissions from Carnegie Hall, the Baltimore Symphony, the Albany Symphony, the New World Symphony, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the University of Michigan, and Dawn Upshaw’s Vocal Arts program at the Bard Conservatory.

Recent works include the opera “Dog Days” (Robert Woodruff, director; Royce Vavrek, librettist, based on the short story by Judy Budnitz), “Haunt of Last Nightfall” for Third Coast Percussion, “RADIANT CHiLD” for the New World Symphony, “Conspiracy Theory” for Darcy James Argue’e Secret Society–a new music big band–”CHARM” for the Baltimore Symphony under Marin Alsop, “haunted topography,” for Alarm Will Sound, and “Am I Born” for the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Brooklyn Youth Chorus and soprano Mellissa Hughes, under Alan Pierson. Upcoming projects include new works for Newspeak, cellist Maya Beiser and the Kronos Quartet.

Little is the founding artistic director and drummer of the amplified octet Newspeak. Hailed as “potent” (TheRestIsNoise.com), “innovative” (New York Magazine), and “fierce” (Time Out New York), Newspeak confronts head-on the boundaries between the classical and the rock traditions. A New Amsterdam Records artist, Newspeak released its first CD of commissioned works in November 2010, to critical acclaim. “You could call this punk classical,” one critic proclaimed, noting that the disc is “fearlessly aware, insightfully political (and) resolutely defiant.”

Little holds degrees from Susquehanna University (2001) and The University of Michigan (2002) and Princeton University (PhD, 2011), and his primary teachers have included Osvaldo Golijov, Paul Lansky, Steven Mackey, William Bolcom, and Michael Daugherty. He has taught music in New York City through Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections program, served as the inaugural Digital Composer-in-Residence for the UK-based DilettanteMusic.com, and is currently the Executive Director of New York’s MATA Festival. Here is a member of the HERE Artist Residency Program (HARP), 2012-2013, NYC, where he is developing a new multi-media theater work, “Artaud in the Black Lodge.” His music is published by Project Schott New York.


Praised by Time Out Chicago for “chops, polish, and youthful joy in performing,” Third Coast Percussion uses an impressive array of percussion instruments to create a performance experience like no other. With exceptional talent and dedicated artistry, this “sonically spectacular” (Chicago Tribune) quartet combines the driving intensity of drums, the beautiful warmth of marimbas and vibraphones, and the surprisingly exotic sounds of everyday objects to make music that is playful, memorable and profound. In performances around the country, the Chicago-based ensemble has swiftly gained national attention for effortlessly combining the energy of a rock concert with the precision and sophistication of classical chamber music.

Third Coast Percussion presents concerts for all audiences, from the percussion novice to the contemporary music aficionado. Third Coast has introduced percussion music to chamber music series in Chicago (Rush Hour Concerts, Millennium Park, Chicago Cultural Center), Virginia (Garth Newel Music Center), Pennsylvania (Dickinson College), and Wisconsin (Taliesin), securing immediate invitations to return to each of these series. TCP has also championed some of the most formidable repertoire for percussion including the music of Luciano Berio, Philippe Manoury, Wolfgang Rihm, Louis Andriessen, Martin Bresnick, George Crumb, Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich, Frederick Rzewski, Toru Takemitsu, Tan Dun, and Iannis Xenakis. The ensemble is constantly adding new works to this already expansive repertoire.

Third Coast Percussion also has the distinction of being the only professional percussion ensemble in the country to self-present a full season of concert percussion music. In their hometown of Chicago, the group performs 4 to 5 concerts each season. The ensemble is dedicated to performing the greatest concert percussion music alongside lesser-known and rarely performed master pieces.

Highlights of the upcoming 2011-12 season include a major focus on the percussion music of John Cage in celebration of his centenary in 2012, and an exploration of the relationship between percussion and architecture through a new commissioned piece from ensemble member David Skidmore, in commemoration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin. Third Coast is also active in developing new works. Future premieres include commissioned works by Glenn Kotche and Augusta Read Thomas.

The members of Third Coast Percussion—Owen Clayton Condon, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin, and David Skidmore—hold degrees in music performance from Northwestern University, the Yale School of Music, the New England Conservatory, and Rutgers University.

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