percussion and electronics
(available in version for percussion quartet)


23 minutes

Commissioned by/Premiere

The American Composers Forum/JFund for a consortium of ten percussionists
First full performance: June 20, 2012 at The Stone, New York, NY by Owen Weaver


Purchase from Project Schott New York


Also available from iTunes/Apple Music | Amazon


Download electronics. Memory Palace is an electroacoustic work. In addition to performing, the percussionist is asked to cue a series of prerecorded samples that blend seamlessly with the live performance. These samples are cued with a midi foot pedal in a simple application built in Max/MSP. In addition, the application provides amplification and reverb settings to create the proper ambiance. At a minimum, the guitar and bottles should be amplified.


Memory Palace is a kind of paean to places and people that have deeply affected me. The title refers to an ancient technique of memorization that helped orators remember very long speeches by placing mental signposts in an imaginary location and ‘walking’ through it. In this piece, the palace is my life. The crickets in the first movement, ‘Harriman’, were recorded on a camping trip with two old and dear friends. The recording of windchimes in the third movement was recorded at my parents’ backyard. The sounds in the piece are the signposts; they help me remember—and more important, understand—who I am.

The majority of the instruments in Memory Palace are to be fashioned by the percussionist. This includes restringing a cheap guitar, cutting and tuning fourteen slats of wood (to be played like a marimba), tuning ten metal pipes, and tuning wine bottles by filling them with varying amounts of water. Ideally, the instruments should not be expensive to make; simple household items (and maybe a trip to your local hardware store) should suffice. In addition, a few traditional percussion instruments are used: three loose crotales, two glockenspiel bars, and a kick drum.

Memory Palace is dedicated to Owen Weaver.


“The most obvious traits of percussion in the orchestral realm are sheer power, intensity and terror — both overt, in-your-face terror and a subtler undercurrent of fear. Percussion is often used to create a color, a shimmer, a sparkle or crashing waves. The sounds we can make are limitless because our instruments actually are limitless; percussion is defined as anything one shakes, scrapes or strikes, and this is why I chose Christopher Cerrone’s “Memory Palace.” Almost all the instruments in this piece are D.I.Y.: planks of wood, pieces of pipe, bowls and bottles. It showcases the versatility of percussion — the range of instruments, the creation of rhythm, melody, harmony, character and mood.”

Cynthia Yeh, NY Times