For 3 percussionists and 1 bass drum.
World Premiere performance at CLUTCH New Music 02-21-11 Austin, TX
commissioned by line upon line percussion
composed by Steven Snowden
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Mvt. I – Be Prepared to Defend Yourself
Mvt. II – There are Thieves About
Mvt. III – A Man with a Gun Lives Here
Most prevalent during the Great Depression, hobos were nomads who roamed the United States taking work wherever they could. In their extensive travels, hobos learned to leave notes for each other, giving information about places to camp, where to find a meal, or dangers that lay ahead. This unique Hobo Code was known to the brotherhood of freight train riders and used by all to keep the community of traveling workers safe, fed and in work.
Life as a hobo was difficult and dangerous. These vagabonds developed their own secret pictographic language to help other hobos to food, water and work or to direct them away from dangerous situations. The Hobo Code is a fascinating system of symbols understood among the hobo community. Because hobos weren’t typically welcomed (and were often illiterate), messages left for others in the community had to be easy for hobos to read but look like little more than random markings to everyone else to maintain an element of secrecy. Scrawled in places where hobos were likely to convene, the purpose of the code was not only to help other hobos find what they needed, but to keep the entire lifestyle possible for everyone.
Each movement of this piece is based on one of these symbols and, just like those resourceful hobos, makes use of very limited materials. All activity is centered on a single bass drum. Other items utilized include steel plates, rubber balls, and a paper bag containing 3 lbs of loose buckshot