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  • Writer's picturescott kim


SYMMETRY. 180 degree rotation. Turn this design upside down and it reads the same both ways.

INSPIRATION. Inspired by a performance by Luanne Warner, marimba, and Mary Chun, conductor with the San Francisco Concerto Orchestra of Tomas Svoboda's Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra. February 16, 1997, Angelico Hall at Dominican College, San Rafael, California. Marimba by Ron Samuels of Marimba One.

STORY. There certainly have been a lot of marimbas in my life recently. My wife Amy Jo Kim, who designs online environments, recently joined the techno-tribal music group D'Cuckoo, which performs on electronic marimbas that trigger prerecorded samples. A. J. is subbing for marimba virtuoso Luanne Warner, who also plays percussion with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and the Women's Philharmonic in San Francisco. Tonight we drove to San Rafael to hear Luanne perform a modern marimba concerto which proved to be a movingly beautiful performance. The piece features an unusual quintet within the orchestra of piano, harp, celeste, orchestra bells and crotales, most of which are tuned percussive instruments like the marimba. Afterward we chatted with Ron Samuels, a marimba maker from Arcata, California, who made Luanne's fabulous five-octave instrument. His company Marimba One builds custom marimbas for people all over the world. Recently two west African marimba masters moved into Ron's home town of Arcata. Although popularized in Latin American music, the marimba and the word "marimba" originally come from west Africa. Marimba music seems to be enjoying a surge in popularity. Marimba bands are becoming popular in the Pacific Northwest. Then there's the Java software company Marimba, founded by Kim Polese from A. J.'s alma mater Sun Microsystems. I met Kim through Amy as Java was gaining popularity and Kim was making plans to leave Sun and launch a new company. A canny marketer, Kim came up with the names Java and Marimba.

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