Sound engineers know this nifty trick— that the “insert” jacks on some mixers, which are designed to allow signal to be both sent and received on a single cable, can actually be employed as a kind of simple instrument.  As you will see, when the circuit soloists touch their two wires together, a circuit is completed allowing various sounds to be heard.   That’s where the “circuits” part of the title comes from.


As for the “circus” part, well, we all have an idea of what a circus is.  But in fact the word has a history that goes back to gigantic entertainments in ancient times.  The “Circus Maximus” was a Roman venue that could seat a quarter-million people at once. They could flood it with water and re-enact naval battles. In the world of classical music, there is perhaps nothing that more closely resembles this grand spectacle of sight, sound, and yes, physical danger, than a large percussion ensemble playing loud and fast.Written for and premiered by the Victoria School District Percussion Ensemble, Phillip J. Mikula, director. First performance, November 21, 2004, Percussion Arts Society International Convention, Nashville, Tennessee. The piece features four soloists performing on makeshift sound circuits. The players hold two cables, and when the cables are brought together, sound from pre-recorded tracks that are running continually in the background is allowed to come through. The piece's intense opening is followed by a mysterious and reflective middle section. At the end, the energetic music from the opening returns, but this time with different sounds in the circuits, leading to a madcap conclusion.

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Circus of Circuits

[for large percussion ensemble and low-tech electronics]

composed 2004: 12 minutes