Anthracite Dances is a Xylophone solo with brass band accompaniment in a Nu Ragtime style. Commissioned by star percussionist Yasuaki Fukuhara in 2013 for his debut album released in 2014, The Golden Apples of the Sun.
In this approach to writing a Xylophone solo, the composer did not want to write a comical piece, especially limiting the use of glissandi. Instead, Anthracite Dances joins a small pool of brass band repertoire that respects the Xylophone as a serious instrument, but within the boundaries of being highly melodic. Although traditional ragtime on the piano should not be played too quickly, a lot of the Xylophone soloists would perform works at a much faster tempo than Ragtime traditionally sets.
James follows in this same vein, writing Anthracite Dances in duple time, and the resulting tempo is fast! The use of chords on the Xylophone is limited, and instead focus is given on the strength of melody.
However, there is a section in the middle of the work where the soloist is to improvise based on a set of given notes, whereby the soloist may play melodic passages, chords, tremolandi, or a combination of.