Badwater Basin for Marimba Quartet


Badwater Basin for Marimba Quartet tells the story of Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park, and what it’s like to walk across the salt flats as told through the colors of the marimba and special mallets including Slap and Crackle mallets.



Recent Performances by Heartland Marimba Quartet during 2022 Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC) in Indianapolis, IN November 9-12 and during the Heartland Marimba “Vivid Horizons” tour October 29-November 12, 2022

Duration approximately 9:30
Badwater Basin
for marimba quartet is the first movement from a larger work in progress about Death Valley National Park in California. It seemed like an appropriate place to start telling of the fascinating topography and history of this area as Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America at 282 feet (86 meters) below sea level. This wide expanse of salt flats covers almost 200 square miles and contains white sea of mostly sodium chloride, or table salt. Once an ancient inland lake, because the water had nowhere to go, sediment and salt accumulated over time, leaving behind the miles of an otherworldly landscape in the middle of the desert.

In telling the story of this location, I wanted the performers and audience to experience what it might be like to walk out across those salt flats.  The work begins with the performers playing with mallets wrapped in cellophane to create a crunchy sound much like walking out onto the salt basin. I also wanted to mix some other musical colors in here of the pristine white of the salt basin, as well as the sound of the salt crystals expanding and popping in the desert heat by using the slap mallets. At times the performers use the shafts of their mallets to play, and this represents the delicate formations of these salt structures, as if you are crouching down to get a closer look.  There’s also a rhythmic motion in this piece that represents the waves of the ancient lake that once filled this basin.

Seeing Badwater Basin is a unique and beautiful experience, and I wanted to capture that in the joyful drive of this work.  I also hope this work will serve as a reminder that we must continue to support and protect our National Parks in the United States to preserve stunning places like Badwater Basin and Death Valley National Park.
Premiered during the 2022 Composer Labfest World Premieres Tour with Heartland Marimba Ensemble

Composed for Heartland Marimba’s New Quartets Project Consortium 2020-2022
Supported in part by New Music USA.

NQP Consortium Members (*Lead Member):
Radford University (Radford, VA), Rob Sanderl*
Matthew Coley
Percussion Friends / Mallet Collective (Weert, Netherlands)
Sacred Heart University (Fairfield, CT), Andrew Kolar
San Diego State University, Greg Cohen
Southern Utah University (Cedar City, UT), Lynn Vartan
Third Coast Percussion
Troy University (Troy, AL), T. Adam Blackstock
University of Nebraska-Omaha, Hannah Weaver
William Moersch


Performance Notes

This work uses “crackle mallets” to imitate the crunch-like sound of walking out onto the salt flats. Crackle Mallets: 4 sets of mallets wrapped in Cellophane paper with the top slightly longer than the mallet and left open.  Performer will sometimes play closer to the open end of cellophane to create maximum “crunch” sound.  Slap mallets are also used in this work.


WATCH the opening of Badwater Basin with a demo of “Crackle Mallets”:

Additional information

Delivery of Score/Parts

Mail copies of Score/Parts, PDF Download of Score/Parts