History Introduction - Type here
- 1 Antiquity (c. 200,000 B.C.) to Medieval (c. 1100 A.D.)
- 2 Medieval (476 A.D.) to Classical (c. 1750)
- 3 Early Romantic Era (c. 1800 - 1910)
- 4 Late Romantic (c. 1900) to Early Modern (c. 1950)
- 5 Early Modern (c. 1950 - 1980)
- 5.1 The Percussion Section in the Orchestra
- 5.2 The Percussion Ensemble, Avant-Garde, and Minimalist Composers
- 5.3 20th-Century Percussion Education
- 5.4 Jazz Drumming Evolves
- 6 The Modern Era (c. 1970 - 2017)
- 7 References
Antiquity (c. 200,000 B.C.) to Medieval (c. 1100 A.D.)
The Paleolithic Era
Fossil and Archaeological evidence shows us that humans began appearing in the eastern regions of Africa, specifically in the regions near present-day Kenya. (c. 198,000 B.C.) Almost as soon as humans began to spread into the jungles and seas surrounding Africa, primitive music began to develop. Body percussion was the apex form of instrumentation during the beginning years of man. However, striking one’s body to create ‘music’ was not the intention, there was no connection to striking the body to producing a sound to be appreciated. This however was short-lived, using body percussion assisted in the hunt, dancing and rituals, and soon became important in primitive East African culture, it still was taken seriously, and not used as a recreational outlet, such as for entertainment purposes.1 As human ideologies developed, they began to strike other objects. Sticks were important, as well as stones, especially when it came to testing sounds. One of the earliest human societies, the Zulu, were known to beat their shields and hunting bows in times of battle, a trait that would be used by civilizations throughout the world. Striking objects in order to obtain a specific sound slowly began to incorporate itself into the culture of the area, using objects that have been made for other purposes, such as bows and shields for battle, began to replace body percussion. After a successful hunt, a hunter would place the bows in front of him with the string facing him, and strike the string to assist in the rhythm of the victory dances for a successful hunt. As stones and sticks would become more involved in societies to create tools, early man of the Paleolithic Era (c. 198,000 B.C. – 10,000 B.C.) would begin looking for objects that resonated. Having this goal in mind, man began to discover idiophones, an object that vibrates when struck to produce a sound. These idiophones would be shaken, stamped, scraped, struck, or struck together (concussion). These included, but were not limited to: Proto-Claves, Xylophones, Wood Blocks, Rattles, Rubbed Shells, Scrapers, Stamped Pits, and Proto-Cymbals (Stone). Most if not all of these instruments, were created from wood, or the flora and fauna around the primitive societies. These instruments would comprise the Early Strata Instruments of the Paleolithic Era of the Stone Age.
The Neolithic Era
As we progress through the Neolithic Era, we can follow man as he journeys throughout the world. After the first Ice Age in 58,000 B.C., humans leave Africa and begin a journey through India and the Far East. Some humans leave the continent and began island-hopping until they reached Australia in 48,000 B.C.. In 38,000 B.C., evidence has been found that suggest humans began to travel north and east, to fill out the rest of the continent, and by 33,000 B.C., the Middle East and Asia had become very populated. Shortly before the Mid-Neolithic Era begins in 15,200 B.C., creativity begins to appear amongst the peoples of the world, specifically Africa. Humans there would begin to create wollogallu’s, which translates to ‘Drum of the Earth’. Stamping pits, which were platforms made of wood, would be placed over a hand-dug pit. A larger pit would then be dug next to the first one, and when the Stamping Pit was struck, vibrations would be felt through the second, larger pit, and the earthen cavity would create a larger, resonant sound. Humans also started to place the skins of animals over hollowed out stumps, or pots, and would then strike the skin with a bare hand to create a sound. These innovations would take us into the Mid-Neolithic Era of the World. Also, during 13,000 B.C., humans use the Bering Strait to travel from Eastern Europe to the Americas. Once the Mid-Neolithic Era (15,200 B.C. – 4,500 B.C.) of the Stone Age begins, we see new instruments begin to appear on many continents. Two cultures of significance would begin to produce slit drums. These drums were generally made of wood, and would either have a slit traveling through them to produce the resonance, or they would be hollowed out and have a slits that would resemble two tongues that would be in an H shape. The tongue slabs would be struck to produce two distinct sounds. It’s important to note, that wooden ‘gongs’ may often be referring to the African slit drum. In China, the t’ak was developed, which was a wooden slit drum. It would have a single resonating chamber and would be struck to produce a sound. In Africa, the gong would often be crafted from large logs that would be hollowed out. The wooden tongues would then be carved into the log and it would be adorned with carvings. It was often associated with housing the spirits of the dead. The Stamping Pit also would evolve into the Stamping Tube, which was a cylindrical drum that would be struck upon the ground to make a sound, rather than digging a hole and placing a platform over it. The most important contribution to percussion instruments of the Stone Age however, was the invention of the membranophone: the drum. As this instrument becomes prominent, music is used more for recreation in some cultures and less for serious events. We then move into the transition period of the Bronze Age, we move away from the Mid-Neolithic, and into Late Strata and Recent Neolithic Era.
The Bronze Age
As the drum begins to appear, at this point in most cultures, it is a frame drum of varying sizes. From anywhere to a small wooden frame only 9-12 inches in diameter, to frame drums that stand 4 feet tall and require two people to play them. As we enter the Bronze Age (c. 3,000 B.C.), we begin to see a diversity among the cultures of the world with their respective creations of percussion instruments. In Africa, drums were used for special events, such as births and deaths, important public events, dances, and communication between villages. Drums that were used for communication could be as large as 10 feet tall. The Leader, or King of some villages may have a special drum to play that was only used by him. Sometimes, a family of drums may be crafted from one tree. If the drums were all made in the same fashion, the largest would be the ‘mother’ drum, and they would all have scenes depicted on them, or proverbs. In the Bantu area of Africa (Congo-Nigeria), there was a popular skin drum used called the Ingqongqo, a goblet-shaped drum. A similar drum was also popular in South Africa among the Swazi, there it was called an Intambula. As time went on, and communication became easier among the peoples of Africa, the enormous log drums slowly began to fade and the African kettledrum became the standard African drum. A mid-size drum, standing around 2-3 feet tall, it would have a membrane stretched tight over the top portion of the wooden drum. Gut cord would pull the top head to the bottom head, which was not used for playing. The Kalengo however is one of Africa’s most fascinating drums. A double-headed drum that would either have a cylindrical or hourglass wooden shell. Two skins would be pulled by gut cord, but it would not pull it tight, by tightening the cord with the arm, one could tighten the head and replicate the inflections of the human voice. Thus, giving it the name, the talking drum, it was the next evolutionary step in communication between African peoples by way of drums. The Kalengo was cut and crafted from trees that were close to well-beaten paths of travelers, it was believed these trees knew language better than the trees rooted farther into the forest. A language was developed and used between peoples chiefly in the Nigerian and Guinea forests, entire conversations could be held using this drum language. During Egypt’s First and Second Dynasty, the country was beginning to spread so large that a monarchy would have to be put in place to control the territory, this time has been designated as the Early Dynastic Period (3100 B.C. – 2686 B.C.). Music of this time was reserved for the elite, this was in part because of the priests and religious authorities of Egypt, and this greatly hindered the progress of music. Even though drums were not prominently used during the Early Dynastic Period, castanets and sistrums were used. The castanet would be two clam-shaped pieces of wood or stone that would be clasped together to produce a resonant sound. Sistrums were a type of idiophone that would have a jingle of some sort that was suspended, it would then be shaken in order to produce a sound. When sistrums were shaken, it was believed to signify the power of the Egyptian Queen, sistrums were also known by Iba, Sehem, and Kemken. Another instrument closely related to the sistrum was the menat, it would be made of wood or ivory, and it was used as a proto-clave. In fact, early reliefs depict that when grapes would be smashed with the feet, people would be standing on the side beating menat’s in time with the feet stamping. The menat was associated with Hathor, the goddess of music, dance, foreign lands, and fertility. Later, during the 18th Dynasty, sistrums would be associated with the god Aton., Like Egypt, China is also in the beginning stages of its Empirical development, the time before the Chinese Dynasties is known as the Neolithic Era (c. 8500 B.C. – 2070 B.C.). There are some written records of percussion during this time, there is even a record written that the drum was introduced to China around 3500 B.C., and was referred to as barbarous instruments from Turkey and Tibet. Emperor Shun of the Neolithic Era is regarded with having been the first to divide the instruments into categories due to the philosophy of Fuh Shi, who was the followed philosophy of the time. Fuh Shi revolved much of his belief around the number eight. Because of this, seasons were broken up into eight categories, and some percussion instruments corresponded to these seasons: Autumn/Winter – Stone Chime, Autumn – Bell Chime, Spring/Summer – Tiger Box, and Winter – Drum. What was interesting about the double-headed frame drum of China, was that inside the heads, they would place rice husks, which would give the drum a rattle, or buzzing type sound, this drum was known as Po-Fu. In a Chinese Book of War believed to have been written circe 5,000 B.C., there is instruction that “The drum was used to beat the assembly, and in the advancement, the bell as a signal to halt.” The Chinese also had created what would be called today a Chinese Temple Block, or Dragon Mouth: the Mu-Yü. It ranged in size from being able to fit in one’s hand, to resting on enormous cushions. They also had another wood block drum previously described, known as the t’ak. A scraped instrument known as a Tiger Box, or Yü. Was a resonant wooden chamber, often carved into the shape of Tiger, would be scraped with a bamboo stick in order to produce a sound. They also had crafted a clapper made from flat bamboo strips known as a tchoung-tou. What the Chinese were most famous at, was the development of metals into cymbals. The YoShu, a written record of Chinese history suggests 2 things: 1. That China is the oldest cymbal-producing country, and 2. They were formed in conjunction with Tibet, Turkey and India. What further supports this, is that Chinese cymbal proportions are the exact same as Turkey, 81% copper and 19% tin. However, Chinese cymbals are known to have larges bosses with upward turned rims, and produce a brittle sound and texture. What also separates China from the other countries in terms of cymbal-production however, is the importance that they place on them. Even before the bronze age, China was using resonant stones and striking them together to create some form of sound. Whether it’s the Stone Era rocks being struck together, or the Bronze Age cymbals, China considers cymbals with the utmost importance. Other countries have also started to develop their musical identity, through Mantras and Vedas, we have a written record of India’s early history. One of the earliest Indian percussion instruments include the Aghāti, an early clapper. There was also an early drum called a Dundubihi, it was made of wood, and had a kettle shape with a cow skin stretched over it. It is also likely that this drum was a precursor to the ancient Carnatic Indian drum, the mrdanga. The mrdanga was important to vocal music and the Mahãdeva dance. Tibet was another country that, like China, held an importance on cymbals, specifically bells. They had crafted a small hand-bell called a dril-bul, and it was used in religious services.
The Bronze Age in Egypt
As we move into 2,000 B.C. - 1,000 A.D, we see the rise of a strong Egyptian Kingdom, and an Imperial Chinese. Other countries begin to adopt their own musical identities, either adapting current instruments, or creating their own. The Old Kingdom of Egypt was generally associated with the instrumentation discussed before, in the Old Kingdom music was reserved for the upper class, but that changed once the drum became popularized. As we enter the Middle Kingdom of Egypt (2060 B.C. - 1802 B.C.) we see the lower class begin to have more prominence in music, however the only way you could become a professional musician was if you were the immediate descendant of one. There is a relief that was to have been created during the time of Pharaoh Osorokon II. The relief depicts two men playing a frame drum that stood three to four feet tall, one man held the drum, while the other played it. This specific drum was believed to be double-headed, and played from both sides, this is from the disappearance of the player’s right hand behind the drum. During the Mid- and New- Kingdoms, the barrel drum became increasingly used. They were created from a tightening tourniquet, to a system of thongs that would pull the drum tight, as well as serve for protection of the drum shell. Frame drums were greatly associated with two gods, Sekhmet (A goddess solar deity, and known as the goddess of warriors and healing), and Bes (Protector of the household, mother, children, and child birth). Other drums that were popular at the time not only in Egypt, but in other parts of Northern Africa, and immigrating to the Middle East, were the goblet-drum, also known as a djembe or darabukka. Egypt of the time had two kinds of cymbals, tinkling, and crashing, and they were believed to have been introduced during the conquest of Alexander the Great in 332 B.C. Archaeologists have recovered cymbals from the tomb of Ankhape, who was a religious priest at the time. Excavations in Thebes has also revealed crotales, a kind of tinkling cymbal, which date back to circe 200 B.C. These crotales have also been found attached to split bamboo, or a wooden stick, they were perhaps called cymbals, or clappers. Bells also began to be crafted, and were often made of either gold, or silver. Tambourines were also used, of which there were two types: 1. Royal tambourines, these were often eleven inches in diameter, had deep hoops and five sets of two jingles. 2. Lower Order/Common Tambourines, these would be crafted with the same dimensions, sometimes with the exception of a deep hoop, and did not have jingles.
The Bronze Age in the Far East
In China, excavations have revealed sonorous stones from the Shang Dynasty (1600 B.C. - 1046 B.C.), continuing to show us that even 1,500 years later, stones are still being held in importance, now along with cymbals, and the rest of the percussive instruments of China. Stones were often crafted into musical instruments known as lithophones. In two instances, a grouping of these lithophones has been discovered, once in 1949 by the French ethnologist Georges Condominas in N’Dut Lieng Krac village in the Vietnamese central highlands province of Dac Lac. Then again in 2005, another set of 11 lithophonic stones had been discovered in the southern province of Binh Duong near My Loc village in Tan My Commune of the Tan Uyen District. Both sets of lithophones are believed to be roughly 3,000 years old. By this time, the tuned lithophones were becoming greatly important as well as the stone chimes. These were developed and used the most frequently in the territory of Annam, which is the southeastern part of present-day China. The reason for the development of lithophones was probably from the excess of volcanic rock. The Nio-King was a special lithophone reserved only for the Chinese Emporer to play on. Hand bells probably made from metal or stone that were used for military purposes began to appear in the Tang Dynasty (1046 B.C. - 256 B.C.), metal Chinese bells were known as chung. More drums also began to appear, three large drums began to take residence in important buildings. The hiuen-kou was a very large drum, and was built specifically to be housed in the Imperial Palace in 1122 B.C. The tou-ku and ying-ku started to be placed in opposite sides of temples, the reason for this was so that the energy from one drum would be able to balance the other out. In grand halls in certain important buildings, another large drum named the t’ang-ku began to appear. In southern China, another drum began to appear that was later adopted by Japan: the kakko. This was a laced drum, and is believed to be the precursor to certain Japanese hand drums. During the time of Emperor Xuanwu of the Xianbei Dynasty, the gong was invented. A recorded document written during the time, known as the Hsi Yu explains that development of the gong is uncertain but was probably developed between Tibet and Burma. The gong however, was adopted quickly in China, and was used for many things. In higher society, as well as government uses, the gong would be used for music, war, macabre dances, drama accompaniment, transmitting messages, retreat calls for the military, and as a decoy during the hunt. In lower class society, it served some different purposes, these included, healing sickness, attracting wind, chasing away evil spirits and defense against ghosts, and demon exorcism. In the lower societies, it was also believed that bathing from a gong would promote good health, and drinking from a gong would enforce an oath. Good quality gongs would be made with 80% copper, and 20% tin or bronze. Lesser quality gongs would be made with 70% copper, and 10% of either lead or tin, and the remaining 10% may consist of other material. Gongs that produced a darker sound would often have a quantity of iron as well. While the gongs took some more finesse when crafted in order to produce the desired pitch, tam-tam’s were often the more adorned of the two, having inscriptions, or artwork upon them. One of the more recent additions to the collections of percussion instruments was a drum called a kero, used in the T’ang Dynasty (618 A.D. - 907 A.D.). This drum was used primarily to symbolize the appearance of dawn. It was a large drum and probably crafted in the same style as the the temple drums. As cymbals were important and made advancements and changes in China, the same thing was happening in Africa. Water drums began to be used, these were gourds made of clay that would be turned upside down in buckets of water in order to produce a sound that would change pitch as the surface of the gourd was slapped. Slit gongs which resembled the chinese wood block, and rasps that would be scraped to create a sound would be made from wood or iron. Bells also became popular among the royalty, a leader or king’s appearance in a village would be preceded by bells. Bells would also accompany a judge’s decision, marking it as final. Different types of rattles would also begin to appear, especially in the dancing community, rattles would be worn as necklaces, bracelets, calflets, and ankle bracelets. Shekere’s which were large gourds covered in a net that would have beads intertwined could be shaken and struck, they were built to accompany dancers. Metal instruments also began to become prominent in African cultures. These would include the plucked idiophone, the sansa, as well as small bells, jingles and gongs. These gongs were made of circular bronze, or beaten iron, and were believed to have the power to overcome the spirits. Iron was in a higher quantity, and so beaten iron gongs were certainly more prominent. Iron was also made to create other instruments such as agogo bells which at one point may have been called a double gong-gong. A real testament to the ingenuity of the ancient human, was the development and creation of the ambira, which later became the xylophone.. Having its start as just resonant pieces of wood placed together in a scalar fashion, it evolved into a sophisticated instrument of the time. Using the resonant wooden proto-bars, vines would be used a kind of rope to tie the wooden pieces to gourds of varying size. This was done with no European or Asian influence, we know this because the African xylophone is constructed in reverse order of pitches as opposed to the Asian xylophone. ====The Bronze Age in Mesopotamia and the Middle East==== The area of Mesopotamia also was starting to become populated and incorporate music into secular forms (1,000 B.C. - 500 B.C.), this was due to strong influence from Egypt. Mesopotamian art from the time depicts all sizes of frame drums, with the shallow frame drum being the most common. Small cylindrical drums played horizontally were also depicted, as well as large-footed goblet shaped drums. A small single-headed drum carried vertically on a belt and played with both hands may have been an early form of a tabor or naker. Mesopotamian instruments also included clappers, sistrum, bells, and cymbals. Timbrels were also common in this area. They would be small round or square frame drums with deep hoops and few or no jingles. Hebrew music was also in the same area, with the central hub being Jerusalem. Instruments of this time included little tof’s which were little drums, small bells, and cymbals. In circa 1,000 B.C. during the time of King David (who was, himself a professional musician and would organize orchestras), and Solomon, larger cymbals began to appear as well as the sistrum which was likely adopted from Egypt. The only drum excavated from the Israel area was (likely) a double-headed frame drum, that would have been played exclusively by women. King David also likely saw the introduction of the gong, castanets, and tambourines., After Egypt had incorporated the drum, Persia adopted it for military use. Specifically the frame drums and tom-toms (double-headed drums). Many of the instruments used in Mesopotamia were likely incorporated into Persian and Arabian instrumentation. They would have frame drums that would be called tambourines, that had been around since pre-Islamic times. There were two types of tambourines, the round which would be called da’ira, and the other being rectangular shaped. The largest of the round drums however, would be called a ghirbãl, and the double-headed drum of the area would be called an atambor. Orchestras in Arabia would generally consist of many drums and be accompanied by singing. These drums would be made in two ways, they would either be small, shallow drums made of pottery with cord stretched across the head; or would be a small wooden rim with parchment for a thin head, these would be crafted with and without jingles. These drums would be used similarly to Persia to confuse and frighten the enemy in battle, bells would also be used to break down the morale of superstitious Turkish soldiers.
The Bronze Age in Greece and Rome
Although the Greeks main contribution to music would have been music theory, they used percussion instruments as well that were mainly immigrated to the country. This included castanets, cymbals, and tambourines. It is assumed through common trade routes, that cymbals were brought from Egypt to Greece and would be known as kymbala. We can deduce that they came from Egypt due to them being very similar, wide, flat, with a large flat boss in the middle which acted as a resonating chamber. As cymbals started to immigrate from Western Asia, cymbals slowly began to be used for more secular purposes. Starting to be used to worship the goddess Cybele, they would then be used in the service of the god Dionysus, and finally begin to be incorporated into Greek theater. This would include crashing and tinkling cymbals, and a third cymbal that was specific to only Greece: the discus. The discus would have a large central hole in the middle of a curved body with a downward turned rim and would be suspended on a rope, it’s assumed they gained this idea from Asia, but formed it on their own. In both Greece and Rome, the double-headed frame drum was the popular drum to use during the time, they would also use clappers known as krótala. The clappers were adapted to be fit on soles of dancers shoes and be used as time-keepers during dances, in Greece, these were called kroupalon, and in Rome, they would be called Scabellum. Pairs of Bronze finger cymbals that resemble Egyptian crotales have been excavated in both Greece and Rome. Romans also used gongs and metal discus’, they referred to tambourines as light drums, and goblet drums of Arabia were adapted and crafted with bronze for military purposes. Rome was known as the bridge between Egyptian, Greek, and Hebrew music as well as early Catholic music. As the Roman Catholic Church rose to power, percussion would be outed from the musical orchestra due to its association and provocation of war.,
The Bronze Age in India
India had developed some new instruments and began to developed a strong northern and southern musical identity. The Hindustani tradition had developed a corresponding instrument to the mrdanga, the tablä. Comprised of two separate drums, the lower bayan, and the higher tablä. This pair of drums would be played with both hands and comprises most of the Indian Hindustani percussion instrumentation. Small Carnatic tambourines would be called däsar, or tapputtai. Small gongs would also be used, they were known as sẽmakkalam. Hindustani would have clashing cymbals known as jhãnja, brahma, and tãlon. The tãlon was a pair of small basin cymbals, and would be made from a heavy metal. They were usually unconnected but would be struck on the edges to produce a bell-like tone. The Hindustani tinkling cymbals would be known as mandira, tãla, and jãlrã. Indian castanets of Hindustani and Carnatic would include chiplã, kurtar, and chittaka. India also had two primitive xylophones, one known as kãshta-tarang, and the other known as jalatarang. The current name for jalatarang however, is called an udaka vãdyum. Excavations in northwest India have uncovered bronze pieces that had a central boss and upturned rims, these were believed to be lids, but also are believed to be precursors to cymbals. The Tibetans were also masters at the art of crafting cymbals, bells being as important to the Tibetans as resonant stone and cymbals were to China. One of the first developed small Tibetan hand-bells, a dril-bul, was used in religious ceremonies. The two cymbals that were native to Tibet but had made their way to the Assyrians, Israelites, and the Greeks, were the clashing cymbals, the tsöl-rog. These were used in Earth worship, and had narrow rims, with large central projections, they were held vertically and vigorously struck in a horizontal motion. The tinkling cymbals, named the rol-mo, were used in Heaven worship, they were broad rimmed and had small central projections, they were held in a horizontal position and struck softly with vertical movement. A pair of laced kettledrums, the idu-mãn, were possibly similar to the Indian Hindustani tablä. The large single-headed frame drum of the time was known as the lãgna.
The Bronze Age in Japan
During the Bronze Age, China made contact with Japan, who had not been in contact with the mainland for several thousand years due to a land bridge ceasing to exist. Once China made contact though, Japan began trading and communicating with the rest of the world and even incorporating instruments into their culture. One of the drums integrated into Japan from China was known as the kakko, this drum that originally assisted in Shinto temples would now lead the Japanese Bugaku orchestra. In 588 A.D. Japanese men would be sent to Korea to learn the art of the gakko. The main drums of Japan are known generally as taikos, and they are generally created in two different ways. The first, is drums that are have braced or nailed heads, these will usually have the ending of daiko. The second are hand drums with hourglass shells known as tsuzumi’s and were likely developed from the kakko. The o-daiko had a nailed head and was often used in temple services. A smaller version was also created after, known as the ko-daiko. Another drum with a nailed head is known as a tsuri-daiko, this drum is usually suspended and is used in Bugaku dances. Another drum popular with entertainment purposes is the uta-daiko, the song drum, and it is used often in the Geza theater performances. The uta-daiko is also reminiscent of the taiko drum used in the Noh orchestra. Shinto monks were also known to use percussion instrumentation. This included the Japanese frame drum: the uchiwa-daiko. They would also use a wood plaque type instrument called a han, a wood block called a mo-kugyo, and three different gongs, kei (or hokyo), a temple gong, waniguchi, an entrance gong, and the furin, a wind gong. Wooden clappers named shakubyoshi’s would be used even before the Chinese made contact. During the Bronze Age however, the suzu, a bell-tree began to be used in folk Shinto music during the sixth and seventh centuries. Gongs were also used in the Bugaku orchestras and were known as shoko, dora, hi, and atari-gane. Cymbals were crafted to sound mysterious and gloomy, they would also be used in funeral services.
As we approach 1100 A.D., we can draw our attention to the New World. Incans in South America would use drums and rattles made of a variety of materials, clay, wood, and sometimes human bones. On the south coast, the Nazca people would use ceramic drums, anthropomorphic figures with bulbous bodies would form the sounding chambers for the ceramic drum. The mouth of the drum would then be covered by a stretched skin, the drum would then be either placed upside down, or sideways to play. The Andean people in the Andes mountains would play music in their homes, for entertainment, or for domestic rituals. Music was also at the center of political and religious activities. This included processions, burials, feasts, festivals, and staged ceremonies. The Maya of Central America would use large turtle shell drums, and would use deer hooves or antlers as beaters. An animal skin would be stretched over the turtle carapace for resonance. The other two drums that were used often by the Maya were the pax, which was made of ceramic, clay, or gourd. The drum would be held in one hand and the other would beat the animal skin head. Players may also shake rattles or would be wearing shell jingling belts. The other drum resembled the Aztec huehuetl, it was a barrel drum that had a skin held tight by nails. A little farther north is the Aztec, there several drums were used. This included the ayotl, which was a drum made from a turtle shell, probably in the same way that the Mayan crafted theirs. Another drum used by the Aztec was the teponaztli, which was a horizontal log drum, played with mallets. They also shared the huehuetl with the Mayans as well, this was the only drum played with hands and not mallets or sticks. Drums would accompany music or be used as a chamber setting, or in battle. The teponaztli and huehuetl were believed by the Aztec to have been fallen gods, and were banished to Earth in the form of drums. Rattles were also common and were filled with beads or pebbles.
In North America, double-headed drums were used often, mostly in communal singing or events. They were used for keeping time for the singing with people around the drum all beating it together with beaters. It is a sacred drum and would often be left out in the sun in order to tighten the head in preparation for use. There were also frame drums, which were probably double-headed as well since they were portable versions of the communal singing drums. Log drums were also used, a skin would be sewn into a hollow log and played the same way as the double-headed drum. Square drums, which were square versions of the log drums were used often by people on the Pacific Coast, specifically the Costanoan, Coastal Miwok, and Pomo. Skin drums were also used, a skin of an animal would be left in the sun with four poles attached to it and stuck in the ground. It would be stretched using the poles. The skin drum was used mostly by the Arapaho in the Rocky Mountains, and the Northern Plain Indians which were probably the war-torn Chippewa. Water drums were also used, different from their African counterparts, iron or other metal kettles pots would have water inside and would be struck with a thin stick. In these societies, drums would be used for ceremonial purposes, to make music or accompany dance, gather the tribe, or send signals. Certain tribes, like the Santa Domingo of the Southwest area, would name their drums and treat them as people. Container rattles made from hollow gourds, turtle shells, shaped and dried rawhide, or buffalo horn, would be filled with beads, seeds, or pebbles. A handle would then be inserted into one end of the rattle for use. Hoof rattles, generally made from deer would be attached to a stick that would have holes drilled into it. This way, when the stick was shaken, the hooves would rattle. Other instruments of Native American people include rasps made from sticks, whistles made from wood, clay or bone, or clappers, which would be made from thin sticks. The Lummi tribe would also create concussion sticks made from cylindrical sticks measuring 7-12 inches in length. A special whistle known as the eagle whistle would be made from the long bones of a bald or golden eagle. The bones would be boiled to remove the fat and marrow which would then be used as a salve for the eyes. The eagle whistle was considered sacred and would be used by such tribes as the Ute in the sacred Sun Dance. The eagle whistle is said to make a sound resembling its namesake. When it is in use, it would be worn around the neck, and when it was not in use, it would be carried in a special buffalo skin pouch for safekeeping.
Medieval (476 A.D.) to Classical (c. 1750)
The Middle East Invades
The start of the medieval era begins with the fall of the Roman Empire, when the German barbarian Odoacer overthrew Romulus, the last of the Roman Empire Leaders. This led to the collapse of countries that relied on the Empirical system for economic purposes, as well as safety and protection. This caused a spike in poverty, and a lack of an educational system in Western Europe. However, countries in the Middle East as well as the Far East were thriving. Arabia had adopted the single-headed, closed body drum from Egypt, and adapted it to the early naker, which was called the naqqāra, or nacair. A pair of nacairs would be mounted on either side of a camel, and the musician would sit and play on the camel as well. These drums measured 24 inches and 18 inches in diameter. In 622 A.D., the Middle East saw the rise of Islam, and through more unified countries, Islamic countries were able to seize Constantinople in 673 A.D., thus introducing their mounted nacair drums to Western Europe.
New Instruments Appear
During this time, education became a public opportunity for many peoples, and during this time, music was taught in monasteries around Europe, especially in the northwestern region. Religious music is on the rise, but secular music was still popular around parts of Europe. Triangles used in secular music were often crafted with several rings on the lower rung of the metal instrument. This instrument was a close cousin to the sistrum from Egypt, as the desired sound was different from modern-day triangles. The sound produced from these instruments was accomplished by both striking the triangle with a beater, but also shaking the hand holding the instrument, so as to prolong the acquired jingling sound. Another instrument that has begun to evolve and is seen more often, is the friction drum. These instruments became associated with peoples traditional events over time. In some countries, the friction drum would become associated with religious factions; in Flanders, their friction drum, the rommelpot, is heavily associated with the Christian community. There are other places where it was not associated with religious factions, such as Italy, where this instrument was known for the sound it produced, and was called either a puttiputi, and puttipu, or known by its actual name, cacavella. In Spain, the friction drum was known as a zambomba, and in Germany, it was called the reibtrommel. An older German name for the reibtrommel was brummtopf, which translated to growling pot. Germany also had a friction drum which resembled a modern-day Lion’s Roar, this instrument was known as a waldteufel, meaning, forest devil, and was likely used in pagan rituals. By the 11th century, religion had spread far and wide. This was also reflected in the percussion instruments that were played. Clear, and ‘pure’ tones began to be accepted as proper religious instrumentation. We can see this in the religious version of the Triangle. Where the goal of the secular Triangle was to achieve a prolonged jingling sound, the religious Triangle had no rings, and was more similar to the Triangles used today. The goal with those instruments were to produce a clear tone, and were made not only in the shapes of triangles. They were also equilateral with open ends, or trapezoidal. The beater that was used would have likely been the equivalent of a modern-day thick metal beater. The triangle is the second most depicted instrument besides the cymbals, and is often shown with women or angels playing them. Like the triangle, the cymbals were meant to produce clear, resonant, tones. They were heavy, and thick, it is likely because of these measurements, that the cymbals would have produced a pitch when played. Like the triangle, cymbals were also largely depicted with women and angels. The production of these types of cymbals also originated in Turkey. Small finger cymbals were also used, and due to their close proximity to Egypt, it’s likely these finger cymbals were relatively similar. It is also thought that Turkey may have imported Chinese cymbals and used those frequently as well. There is also evidence that larger, thinner cymbals, these were more often used outside of the church and were used as time-keeping tools in dances., Though the highest regarded percussion instrument in the church, as well as among royalty, was the bell chime. Part of the reason that we know this, is from depictions that show prominent figures such as priests, and higher-up royalty holding, or near these bells. These depictions are from as early as the sixth century. The sixth century manuscript called the Viennese Genesis, shows an illustration of what is widely believed to be four true bells. These bells also evolved into chimes, which were often used in churches. In the churches in Britain, chimes were known as chymmes, bells, and cymballs, which were little bells, rather than chimes. Small bell keyboards were also crafted onto frames, which were called clavicymbalum, another document that was written much later named Agricola’s Musica Instrumentalis describes a German instrument with ten bells mounted on a frame called a glocklein, which was undoubtedly an early version of the glockenspiel. Bells were also used in religious drama’s to proclaim God’s word. Another form of bell that was often used, were brass bells. These were crafted by casting brass in buckshot or pellets, this instrument was very similar to our modern-day sleigh bells.,, Another instrument that was not quite as universally important as the clear-tone producing chimes and bells, were the castanets, which were almost exclusive to Spain. The castanets and other clappers were often made of either bone or wood. These instruments were often used in the Spanish Sarabande’s, as well as other Spanish folksongs and church music. The castanets would be presented and performed sometimes with multiple instruments ranging in size to form a sort of non-harmonic rhythmic structure. For instance, large, medium, and small instruments would be played together to form a kind of chord. Clappers were also used to hunt birds, as well as played by lepers to warn passing people of their condition. Due to their easiness to make, clappers survived into the new era with variations on the instrument existing in Greece, Rome, Britain, Latin-America, and Egypt, although in most of these places they were often used by peasants. An instrument that was very popular both amongst the royalty of the Middle Ages as well as the minstrels of the Renaissance is the tambourine. The tambourine that developed during this time was very close to the tambourines we have today. However, Spain, Central Europe and parts of Russia were known to have variations on the instrument, some had no jingles, while some had a gut string stretched across the head to create a buzzing noise. The tambourine might also appear with small brass bells, jingling metal discs, or having no drum head and only jingles on a wooden hoop, known in Germany as a schellenreif or jingle-ring. Tambourines were so widely used that even King Henry VIII in Britain employed four tambourines in his 79 person orchestra.
The Crusades, Tabors, and Nakers
As the Catholic and Christian communities started to grow and expand, Pope Urban II began the Crusades, which were an attempt to reclaim Jerusalem from the Islamic community. Although the idea was to drive Muslims from Jerusalem, the Crusaders in fact, adopted the Arabian Nacairs and converted them into war drums of their own. Even though percussive instruments were frowned upon due to their association with war, drums had the ability to direct movement of large groups of people quickly. Two drums were used early on in the Middle Ages that gave rise to instruments used often in the modern-day Orchestra. These two drums were called the Tabor, and the Naker. It is important to note, that the physical dimensions of the Tabor changed radically during the early stages of its development. Due to this, most drums mentioned before the 11th Century should be considered either frame drums (either single, or double headed) or proto-tabors. The word Tabor was also known by different names as it developed, in Spain, it was known as an atambour, old and middle French called the drum tambours (During the 11th Century on, in France, the drum was known as Tambour de Provence). Then in 13th Century France, it was called a tabour, and during the renovation of the English language during Shakespeare’s time, the u was dropped, and was called Tabor. We have written documents of this from when Shakespeare wrote and performed his play “Winter Tale”. Several similar names included Tambourin from Germany, and Tamburino from Italy. The first common form of the Medieval Tabor was a double headed drum that had a single gut string* that would be stretched over the struck side. The majority of these drums were rope-tuned, and would have leather tug ears, or buffs, that would help add tension to the struck head. Sheep and calfskin was the most common drum heads used with the Tabor, these drums were placed on the drum with hoops made of wood, or metal. A Landsknecht drum found in Munich dating back to the 17th Century, was found to use a hoop of withies, which is a kind of bendable, durable branch. Tabors were played traditionally with one stick, and in art depictions of the times show us that the stick would be held confidently, and would be long and slender when held in the hands of angels, whereas the sticks would be clumsy in the hands of humans. The Tabor player may also play a small pipe, that would add some flourish to the playing of the drum. In some cases, the pipe may even have a form of beater attached to it in order to be used as a second stick for odd flourishes on the drum. In the 13th Century, the Tabor starts to be created as larger drums. These larger drums were recorded to be present at the Great Feast at Westminster in 1306, and King Edward III of England had a Tabor player in his house band. In the 15th Century, the tabor officially took the fife as a companion in England, this was inspired by the Swiss Drum and Fife drums. However, the Swiss had developed another drum around the same time as the mid to late tabor, this drum was two feet in length and 20 inches in diameter. It has a cord that holds the membrane taut, and has wooden ribs that made up the shell and served as some extra protection as well, this was what led to what we know today, as tenor drum. The Tabor and Fife combination not only became the principal infantry instrument during the Crusades, they were also often used in the 11th Century by minstrels, especially in Estampie’s, which is a kind of dance in triple time. Another companion to the pipe was a larger, double-headed drum., Developing out of the Tabor, came the military side drum. A major adjustment of the 16th Century side drum, was that the snares would be placed on the bottom rather than the top. Details of the French side drum included a shell and diameter, both 2 ½ feet in depth. The drum was closed at each end with parchment paper and hoops, bound with cords to keep the heads taut. A pair of snares were kept on one head and buffs were used to on the cords to help keep the heads even more taut. A recovered drum from 1575, measured with a depth of 20-25 inches, with a single, rather than a pair of snares, and a threaded unit for the snare adjustment. The side drum also began to be played with a pair of sticks rather than only one, and it’s possible that both the modern-day bass drum and the side drum both developed from the Tabor, the bass drum would keep the single beater, while the side drum began to require two. A new musical idea that began to appear during the time of the military side drum was the long roll. In order to perform this feat properly, the side drum began to evolve. The two sticks used to play the instrument slowly became slender rather than thick, longer, and were often more elaborately decorated, care was taken to create thinner heads that could allow for higher tension to produce a more crisp sound when struck. In the beginning, single strokes were most likely used to create the long roll, but over time, the double-stroke roll took its place, with performers able to sustain a double-stroke roll longer and produce a stronger sound. The military side drum came with many responsibilities and was looked at respectfully, a drummer was second to the the Captain, and drummers were not to be harmed in battle as they were seen as men of peace and not of the sword. These duties included the call and break of the watch, summons, march, retreat, call to troupes, and battalions. Side drums were also often used to signal the direction of the army’s movements as well as keep time for the march. Being a drummer in the military was seen more as a master/apprentice type relationship, and due to this, much of the drumming was learned by rote, there were known to be many cadences that would help communicate what the Captain wanted his men to do. These cadences would be either Baton Rond (single beat), Baton Compu (round beat), or a combination of the two: Baton Meslé (single/double beating). With very little little written down, it wasn’t until the Brothers Philador, who began recording side drum cadences using an early notation system in the mid 17th Century. The relative of the time of the Tabor was the Naker, which was likely adopted in the western countries from the Middle East. Due to the eastern countries quick advancements of the time, it is likely that eastern Nakers were used in pairs, but there is little to evidence of that until they become adopted for use in the Crusades in the 11th Century, however these drums were used in Russia, and Poland. King Louis the IX was one of the first of the aristocracy to use small Nakers, he adopted these instruments under his rule from the 13th Century onward. Around 100 years later during the 14th Century, the Nakers became the official symbol for aristocracy, they were used in musical entertainment, encouragement in the tournament, as well as being played to increase the sounds of turmoil in battle. We are lucky that so many artists and sculptures have depicted Nakers, they were shown suspended in the front around the waist. Another difference from the Tabor was the Naker was played with two sticks rather than one. Kettle drums had also started to develop, which were essentially bowls that would be laid on the ground, where you would either sit down and play them, or bend over. It’s difficult to tell how the head on a Naker or kettle drum was attached, all solutions appeared to be problematic, but were still done anyway, they would either be: nailed, rope-tied, or necklaced. Drums were made of either wood, pottery, or even copper if there was a good enough metalsmith available. There was a variety of playing sticks, they would be either light, heavy, or elaborately fashioned, some however were simply crude sticks.
The Early Kettledrums
It was during this time of the Tabor and the Naker that the race to who will dominate the percussion section of the orchestra was occurring. The Naker held the upper hand due to its association with the aristocracy, as well as the use of two sticks to play, with two sticks, the embellishments could be significantly more elaborate. During the 9th Century, the Hungarians began to spread throughout the surrounding countries with their large kettle drums mounted on horses. Other countries became envious of Hungary’s drums, and began to copy them. When the King of Hungary began to travel, he would be accompanied by the largest kettle drums of the time. In the 15th Century, true kettle drums , the precursor to the orchestral timpani began to appear, and spread throughout Western Europe. When the larger kettle drums were introduced into Germany, a priest named Virdung wrote disapprovingly of the drums. Virdung was not impressed by the boominess of the drums, or the pomp and flourishes they provided, this further pushed the church to believe percussive drums as provocations of war. However, this didn’t stop the German aristocracy from adopting the drums from Hungary. Germany later sent an embassy accompanied by their new kettle drums to France, where the French royalty was appalled, so much so that they order the drums be “dashed to pieces”. The kettle drums then made their way into Britain, there is a consistently referenced record of King Henry XIII specifically asking the kettle drum makers in Vienna in 1542 to create a pair of large kettle drums for him as well as to send men that can play the drums skillfully. Just as the Hungarians had carried their kettle drums on horses, the English had constructed carriages that would be attached to horses, but would allow the kettle drums to sit with a kettle drummer in the back. These were integrated at the close of the 17th Century, and were adopted by Germany as well. Germany continued to be the best in drum manufacturing, as well as now having beat Hungary in terms of having the best kettle drummers, that Germany had then created Imperial Guilds for the kettle drum by the 17th Century. Being of Imperial title, members would hold the same ranks as military officers, and being a closed group as well, this allowed the secrets of Germany’s playing technique to be passed down safely through generations. When recruiting for new guild apprentices, officers in the guild would carefully select younger people from aristocratic, respectable families. The guilds were so well enforced in Germany, that they actually had the ability to impose penalties on people who were not part of the guild if they were caught owning, or playing kettle drums. Germany is not the only place where kettle drummers of the time were persons of high ranking importance, in Portugal, in 1606, there is record of a kettle drummer for the aristocracy whose title read: William Pierson, Timpanist to Prince Henry. The word timpanist had actually developed when Italy was the largest cultural center of the time, every that had travelled to study in Italy started calling kettle drums, timpani, and it stuck until around 1600 and wasn’t widely used again until the classical era when Italian opera would call for timpani. In 1624, a kettle drummer in England held the title of: Richard Thorne, King’s Drummer. After 1661, there are various references in England referring to men as ‘His Majesty’s Kettledrummer’. The timpani during the Baroque era were generally 18 and 20 inches in diameter, and 12 inches deep. Due to the problems discussed earlier and the shallow drum, the skin, which was often calf, was held over the drum with less tension. This may not have produced a clear tone all the time, and in fact may have simply induced intense, non-harmonic pitches such as a high and low sound. Mallets used had tiny knobs at the end, which is the end you would play with, or sometimes, they would have tiny discs, these early mallets were generally made of Beech or Boxwood. For softer dynamics however, mallet heads would be covered with either chamois, or leather, pieces that were a little more solemn, such as for a funeral may be covered in wool or gauze. The timpani were faced with some challenges when becoming integrated into the orchestra. Often, the timpani were the solo instrument and the composer would rely on the timpanist to realize the intent of what the composer wanted, as well as express the artistry as an individual instrument. The timpanist must also listen and find where his part fits into the orchestra, as parts were often written as though the composer had just written down what may have sounded nice and easy to play on a keyboard. One constant began to happen in the orchestra however, and that is the timpani began to be placed near the brass, as the parts often lined up.
During the Baroque era, some composers began to write for percussion instruments in a classical manner, where the instruments were required to play notes that were written on sheet music, rather than playing in an improvisatory style. These composers included Jean-Baptiste Lully, who is famous for first writing for timpani in his opera Thésée (1675). Even earlier however, the timpani were used in Matthew Locke’s semi-opera Psyche ((1675), although this is not a very well-known piece as it was not a financial success. It was based loosely on a work of the same name that Jean-Baptiste Lully had composed in 1671. Johann Sebastian Bach was another composer who was one of the first to begin writing for timpani. His standard composition technique was to use three trumpets, with timpani, however there were some instances in Bach vast literature where the number of trumpets or the inclusion of horns changes. Some famous works of his where timpani are included are Sanctus in D Major, BWV 238 (1723), and Mass in B Minor, BWV 232 (1749). George Frederic Handel’s most famous piece, his oratorio The Messiah, HWV 56 (1741), also includes two timpani in the orchestration of two movements. The timpani would likely be played along with the trumpets, and wouldn’t necessarily have a pitch, they would serve purposes such as assisting the dynamic crescendos, and filling out the register of high’s and low’s of the trumpet sound as they transferred from tonic to dominant, which the timpani were often tuned to.
Another instrument that was not as popular in Europe but was still used, was the xylophone. Having a great presence in southeast Asia and Africa, the xylophone migrated to western Europe in the 16th Century, but had little to no place in serious Renaissance music, the instrument had a reputation for having poor, inexpressive bars. The first mention of it during the Middle Ages in Western Europe was in 1511 by organist Arnold Schlick, who referred to it as hultze gletchr, or wooden percussion. There were two xylophone that were popular during the 17th Century, the first had 17 bars and was struck on the underside of the bar. This instrument had a range of a 17th, and grew longer as the bars were more bass-like. So much so, that the lowest bar was twice as long as the highest. The second instrument had only 12 bars, and was played with a small mallet. this second xylophone didn’t grow longer, but became thicker as the bars would produce lower tones. Trough xylophones had also become widely used, where the instrument would be constructed by loosely strung wooden slabs, each resting on ropes of straw. Another percussive keyboard, the marimba, had began to migrate from Africa to central America during the Atlantic slave trade in the 15th Century. As instruments from Africa would begin to mingle with instruments of Central America, changes began to occur. The resonators on a marimba, which were traditionally gourd that were tied to a frame, began to have coffin-shaped resonators built specifically for the instrument, a little later, the Central American/African marimba used metal resonators on a frame with resonant wooden bars to play with.
Early Romantic Era (c. 1800 - 1910)
The Transition into the Romantic Era
As the percussion world develops, we see a real expansion of innovation and technique. The timpani continue to advance in their construction and the machine timpani began to be used, the side drum becomes very incorporated into the orchestra, as well as the demand for large bass drums, not necessarily the Turkish drum. An array of auxiliary instruments become used by composers as well, such as the sleigh bells and slapsticks/whips. The early Romantic era is also the first time that we begin to see three timpani being used and written for by composers, this was started by timpanists who were a part of the Paris Opera. However, even though it was not common for more than two timpani to be used, some composers did write for more, Daniel Auber writes for three drums in La Muette de Portici, also known as Masaniello. (1828) Another composer, Louis Spohr, writes for six drums in his oratorio: Calvary. The percussion section continues to evolve throughout the century, in 1800 François-Adrien Boieldieu scores for a high and low triangle in his opera Le Calife de Bahgdad. The anvil makes its appearance as enclume in Le Macon (Auber). Halévy-Juive writes for the anvil in 1835, and Berlioz Benvenuto Cellini writes for it again in 1838. Even more auxiliary instruments begin to be added to the traditional orchestra, Jean-Georges Kastner employs the fouet (whip) for the first time in 1838 in Le cris de Paris, as well as an alarm bell (beffroi) and jingles (grelots). France really is the cultural center for percussion development in the 19th century. Georges Bizet is credited with being the first to employ the castanets in Carmen Suite (1875). The tambourine is also well-used in France such as composers like Auber and Bizet, and is speculated to be employed possibly as early as 1750. As virtuoso’s began to appear and give concerts, among the pianists such as Chopin and Liszt, there was a xylophonist who is credited with introduction of the xylophone into the western countries from the east: a Russian named Michael Josef Guzikov. He had visited France on one of his tours, and had played for some popular composers of the time, Chopin, Liszt, and Mendelssohn are some of the composers to have seen him. Chopin and Liszt were impressed with Guzikov’s abilities, and Mendelssohn had mentioned that he was even more impressed with Guzikov then some of the piano virtuoso’s of the time. Even though Guzikov died in 1837, some of his students had taken the title of xylophone virtuoso, this included Sankson Jakowbowsky, and Charles de Try. It’s possible that the composer Saint-Saёns was inspired to use the instrument in his famous Macabre Dances.
Berlioz was not only well known for his innovations in the percussion section, but he had also written textbooks explaining instruments and orchestration, which he titled Treatise on Instrumentation. When it comes to percussion, Berlioz divides the percussion into two groups, the first describes fixed sounds that are musically appreciated. For instance, Berlioz is credited with his introduction of crotales into the orchestra in his scherzo Romeo & Juliet (1839). The second are less musical instruments, that might either provide special effects, or color to the rhythm. By the time that Instrumentation was published in 1844, the timpani drums had a range of a fifth. Berlioz felt very strongly that the percussion section, especially the timpani was not utilized properly, therefore, he wrote extensively about what he wants the performers to do. Especially in terms of mallet use, Berlioz believed that sponge heads were the proper mallet to use, and even commented that Beethoven’s Symphonies 1 and 4 should be played using sponge headed timpani mallets, it has been speculated that he was inspired to use this choice from witnessing the felt on piano hammers. Berlioz went through much deliberation in what would be a proper mallet for the timpani, this included Leather wrapped over wood, mushroom and sponges, cork balls on handles, flannel discs, woolen yarn, or lambs wool. There are three distinctive sounds that Berlioz describes, the first is made of wooden ends, used for dry, loud notes, or to overcome/match the volume of the orchestra. The second is the leather-covered mallet, which he describes as still a dry sound, but a little more appealing than the wooden mallet. The third is the mallet he appreciated the most, which was the sponge head, later cork covered in flannel also became popular among players. During the time, it was vital a timpanist would own a multitude of mallets, including these three pairs. It is likely due to Berlioz’s innovations with how he wanted the mallets to sound, often instructing softer mallets be used as opposed to harder wooden or leather-covered, along with a general want for drums to produce resonance, that we use our soft beaters on timpani, and bass drum today. Like Beethoven, Berlioz also utilized harmonies on the timpani, however, unlike Beethoven, Berlioz would have two or three timpanists in order to effectively convey the melodic and harmonic lines he desired. In 1830, Hector Berlioz premiered Symphonie Fantastique at the Paris Conservatory, and with it, came an enormous leap for the percussion section of the time. The Symphonie poses many challenges to any timpanist that is required to perform such a piece, the first movement is fairly standard for the time. It calls for one player to play two timpani, the latest edition from Breitkopf & Hartel specifies for three mallets, the first are wood heads wrapped in leather, the second being sponge headed mallets, and the third being wooden headed mallets. When performing the first movement, toward the end when Berlioz asks for sponge heads, it is common practice to use wooden mallets covered in piano felt if you are playing on plastic timpani heads. However, if you are playing on calfskin, one would generally use the sponge heads. A third option if you have access to either calfskin or plastic timpani heads, is to use bamboo shafts with the heads covered in piano felt. In movement three, the score calls for three players, two onstage, and one off. The two onstage players are to play with wooden mallets. This is an instance where the instructions must be followed in order to match the intensity of the orchestra. In today’s common practice, during the thunder section, sponge mallets are called for, but soft ball mallets of wool or cotton may also be used. The important aspect of this section, is that the articulation of pitch must be present at all times. The third, offstage player needs to choose his mallets carefully in order to have his volume be effectively present on stage, otherwise, the intensity of the programmatic scene is lost. In the fourth movement Berlioz mentions quavers, which translate to eighth notes. The connecting stems where one tail faces up and the other down are not meant to be played as flams, rather as double stops in order to produce the sound of a drum in the distance, Berlioz’s intention was to have a slightly muffled sound. There are different ways to play this section, should the conductor attempt to play the passage faster than what it is marked. The first way is to hold a third mallet in the left hand, and to play the double stop with this hand holding the two mallets, and have the right hand play the remaining notes. The second option is to only hold the two mallets, and then play the remaining notes alternating. Should this tempo issue arise, in order to stay true to Berlioz’s intentions, the first option is recommended. In the beginning of this movement, Berlioz desires a muffled effect, due to modern innovations of the timpani being able to sustain a struck note for a long period of time, common practice is to use very light muffles on the drums, whether you are using calfskin or plastic timpani heads, after the section is through, the muffles should be removed. In the fifth movement, it is important to play with a hard, or leather-covered mallet. The movement should have a macabre feel, and it is important to remember that the timpani are accompanying a solo clarinet in C. Another liberty some conductors take with the ending passage at measure 496, is a piano crescendo, rather than playing only forte. This passage is traditionally played as singles with crossovers, but if the conductor decides to take this liberty, it may be easier to use doubles to attain a piano dynamic, and grow it into a forte. Another monumental feat of composition in the way of percussive writing and notation was in Berlioz’s Grande Messe des Morts (Requiem) (1837). The percussion instrumentation for this work isn’t very diverse in the way of instruments used, but the number of players to each instrument is staggering. Berlioz requests four tam-tam’s be used, two bass drums, ten pairs of crash cymbals, and sixteen timpani to be played by ten timpanists, all on stage. The entirety of the percussion section requests 26 players altogether, one of the largest percussion sections the orchestral world had seen yet. When examining the timpani parts of Berlioz Requiem, it is easy to see how he was able to manipulate each drum to effectively create the harmonies and melodies that could fully support the low end of the orchestra. This piece also presents many challenges to the timpanist that perform it. Each drum must be exactly in tune with each other so as to not confuse the pitch that comes across to the audience. When timpani are playing with other instruments, it is easier to convey pitch due to the sympathetic vibrations reaching the timpani head from the other instruments being played (often wind). However, timpani do not produce a strong enough sustained tone to warrant a sympathetic vibration to its neighbor drum. It’s important to note that sympathetic vibrations happen only when the timpani is within a few cents of a similar pitch being played.
Timpani's Involvement among Romantic Composers
The timpani is consistently being used more and more as a melodic device as opposed to a harmonic or rhythmic one. Giacomo Meyerbeer gives the timpani the melodic line in the 4th Act of his opera Robert le Diable (1831). Meyerbeer again composes a famous rhythmic line known as the ‘Coronation March’ in his opera Le Prophète (1849). Around this time, one of the first timpani method books is published by Jean-Georges Kastner in Paris in 1845. Méthode de Timbales was dedicated to M. Poussard, a popular timpanist of the time. Felix Mendelssohn composed well for the timpani, and wrote a famous solo for them in his Fourth Symphony. Richard Wagner attempted to model his timpani writing after that of Mendelssohn, Wagner would often employ two timpanists with a pair of drums. He did this famously in his funeral march: Götterdämmerung. Thankfully, due to the machine timpani of the time, Wagner could write tuning changes in the drums and expect that the changes to be quick. Wagner wanted to push the timpani farther than Berlioz had, asking for techniques and pushing previous limitations, in his composition Parsifal (1882), he asks for the drums to be muted, gedämpft. In another piece, Siegfried (1876), Wagner asks for unusual tunings in the timpani, rather than the usual tonic and dominant or fourths and fifths. Wagner was also a masterful composer in terms of other instruments, using the triangle, glockenspiel, and cymbals in The Mastersingers (1868). He also uses the percussion section programmatically, in his piece Das Rheingold (1869), he has a cymbal be rolled with timpani mallets in order to represent the glittering metal. In terms of further timpani innovation, Robert Schumann uses the timpani in order to effectively modulate a key change in his Piano Concerto in A Minor. By 1900, the timpani had a range of just under two octaves between four timpani. Smaller timpani drums probably somewhere between 23 and 20 inches, also began to appear, where composers such as Mikhail Glinka and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov would ask for the upper G. Glinka in Russlan and Ladmilla (1842) and Rimsky-Korsakov in Easter Festival Overture (1888). Many other composers began writing virtuosic passages for the timpani as well. In Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony 4, a prominent timpani part is present as well as the famous heartbeat motif from his Romeo & Juliet (1880). Verdi would make use of 3 timpani, some players add a fourth drum to accommodate some pitches in terms of whether the pitches are in high or lower register of the drum. Even though machine timpani were available, Verdi would rarely ask for tuning changes to make machine timpani effective. Saint-Saёns also wrote a solo for the timpani in the Bacchanale from Samson & Delilah (1877), and in his Algerian Suite (1880), he writes a passage that is traditionally practiced and performed using crossovers.
Percussion's Involvement Among Romantic Composers
Percussion instruments besides the timpani were also being utilized. The side drum, which was still quite popular in military bands, had begun making its way into the orchestra. A side drum that would be instructed to be muted, may traditionally use a cloth to cover the head and have the gut string loosened. Today, we have the luxury of simply flipping the snare throw-switch to the off setting. Gioachino Rossini is credited with the revival of the side drum in Italy, and by the time it had arrived, its dimensions had changed from the being on the battlefield. The diameter, as well as occasionally the depth had been reduced. The shell was commonly more made of brass than of wood, and Cornelius Ward of England had innovated to use screws to help tighten the head to the shell rather than traditional rope, although rope tension drums were still popular amongst the military bands. Especially among the military bands in the early United States in John Philip Sousa’s military bands. Gut strings however were still used as snares and placed against the lower head. While the indoor side drum had began to evolve, the military side drum was still learned by rote, as well as using stout, short sticks to play the tilted drum as it rested against the players hip. Numerous calls were still committed to memory, as this was still the primary purpose of the military side drummer, calls included: Call to Attention, To Arms, Commence Fire, and Cease Fire. Other than Rossini, Russians had embraced the side drum, and often used it to keep the time, as well as add color to the rhythm. Rimsky-Korsakov is a notable composer who used the side drum well in his pieces Scheherazade (1888), and Capriccio Espagnole. (1887) The bass drum also began to evolve, and it came in two forms. The first resembling the Turkish drum, being deep and cylindrical, or the second, resembling H.G. Distin’s monster drum, which was often very large and would only have a single head. In some cases, as opposed to a bell, a town crier would use a bass drum of Distin’s monster drum proportions. When it comes to the bass drum and cymbal combination, as which is often used in Sousa’s marches, in Italy, is was a little different. The words Gran Cassa or Cassa, could potentially have been meant by the composer to use only a bass drum, or to use both cymbals and a bass drum, and have them play the same notes. This decision was often left to the principal timpanist or the conductor, or both. In Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture (1880), he employs some strange instrumentation toward the very end of the piece. In modern times, it is appropriate to play the final bell tone section on tubular bells using an E flat major scale. However, this was not Tchaikovsky’s original intention, he wanted large bells, resembling those of a church to be the instrument that would be struck for those notes. This is one of the first examples of a composer desiring to put the sound, in priority above playing in the appropriate key. This piece was composed to be performed at the consecration in 1882 of the Moscow Cathedral, the piece was supposed to reflect the liberation of the Russians from the Napoleonic French Invasion of 1812. As well as large drums, and bell chimes, Tchaikovsky writes for a cannon to be played as well, as time went on, it proved more effective and easier to perform, if the desired gun shot sound was played on a .22 rifle. In contrast to these bombastic images, Tchaikovsky also is able to write delicately. In Danse Arabe (1892), he asks for a gentle tambourine flutter, which is often played as a thumb roll in order to obtain a delicate tambourine effect. Tchaikovsky was also known to make sparing use of the glockenspiel, only adding it for color, which he achieves effectively in Casse Noisette (1892) and the waltz section from Sleeping Beauty (1890).
Mahler also added plenty into the percussion world in the mid to late romantic era. In Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 (1889), the timpani opens with a solo marked as dämpfr, muted. In measures 29, the muffles muting the drums are removed, and it is speculated that this would happen in one of two ways. In the first, the timpanist would have an assistant that would remove the muffles, as the timpanist continued to play. The second way would be that the timpanist plays with one hand, and removes the muffles with the other.
In the Symphony, Mahler calls for bass drum, and crash cymbals, and writes for them with shared notes. Suspended cymbals are also played with soft sticks, or perhaps Berlioz’s sponge mallets, or soft wool mallets. On the other end, the timpanist would use wooden headed mallets, holzschlagel. In the first movement, the timpani mostly is just setting the mood, and it is important to follow the character of the piece. At rehearsal 33, the timpani should be played in an effort to push the orchestra forward with energy and vigor, but the timpanist should take care to muffle once the passage is complete in order to maintain effectiveness. In movement two, the fortissimo passages should be observed with a sticking that is comfortable with the player near rehearsal 9. A factor that may help the timpanist is to play the passage on a 28 inch drum, where the head is a little tighter, in order to attain the fortissimo quickly and easier. The opening procession present in the timpani can pose some issues, the first being that the drums should have as clear of a tone as possible. The second being that the section is marked to be muffled, but the timpanist should use muffles that are not so heavy that they dull the tone of the drums. In the finale, it is important the two timpanists play with passion, however should back off quickly so as to not overcome the orchestra in sound. It is important to have clear tone producing mallets between the two players and that the players strictly observe the dynamics, it is very easy to be caught up in the moment and overcome the other or members of the orchestra in volume.
Mahler calls for two timpanists in the first, third and fifth movements of his Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection”. In the orchesterbesetzung from the score, Mahler calls for 2 Pauker, mit 3 pauken spüter tritt ein dritte Pauker hinzu. This translates to two timpanists with three timpani, later a third timpanist steps in. The following drums should be used for each player, the first timpanist should use 31, 28, 25, and 23 inch drums. The second timpanist should use a 31, 28, 25, and 23 inch drum with an extra 31 inch for ease of certain passages. Seven pairs of mallets should be used for this second symphony, Simco offers his choice of brand mallets, but the feel of each pair of mallets should be: soft, medium soft, general purpose, medium hard, hard, and wooden mallets.
Late Romantic (c. 1900) to Early Modern (c. 1950)
Orchestral Composers Branch Out
Composers of the late Romantic period began to incorporate more and more percussion into their orchestration, whether to promote ethnicity, nationalism, or programmatic use, the percussion section was growing. Even traditional composers such as Johann Strauss began to use several unorthodox instruments, in his composition Elektra (1908), he uses a slapstick to represent a slave whip. In his piece An Alpine Symphony (1915), he uses a thunder machine, he also, as with many other composers, begins to explore the creative potential of the xylophone, using the instrument for repeated, and scalar passages. Igor Stravinsky begins to take advantage of different instruments, as well as providing new ways to play the traditional ones. In his piece Firebird Suite (1910), the timpanist is requested to play the drums with his hands, marking the passages as Avec des baguettes en bois. In his piece Petroushka (1911), he writes for recurring timpani solos using hard sticks. He also writes for side drum without snares, using metal sticks on cymbals, and an unusual compositional technique, he writes for the cymbals and bass drum to read off the same staff, with connected note head tails. Stravinsky’s sound experimentation was also a factor in his compositions, such as asking for triangle beater scraped across a gong in The Rite of Spring (1913), Glissandi colla bacch. di triangolo. In the second part ‘the dance of the adolescents’, the crotales are played with the combination of a triangle played with a snare drum stick. In Le Noces (1923), Stravinsky essentially employs a percussion orchestra, he calls for four pianos, timpani, xylophone, two crotales, a bell in B, two side drums (with and without snares), two tambourines (with and without jingles), a bass drum, cymbals, and triangle. Stravinsky also writes mordent accents for the timpani, helping to give a sense of rhythmic direction in the changing meter. Stravinsky further pushes the boundaries of not only the percussion section, but the percussionist. In 1918, he wrote Histoire du Soldat, where the following instruments are meant to be played by one percussion soloist. The following instruments are to be played, bass drum, large side drum, small side drum, deep military drum without snares, tambourine, triangle, and cymbals (attached to the bass drum). Stravinsky also writes detailed instructions for how to set up these instruments, but how to play the piece as well. The use of the four differently tuned drums was some of the best percussion writing of the time. Several composers of the time such as Stravinsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Shostakovich, and Prokofiev started to use percussion differently than how it had been used in the past. The xylophone became prominent in their works, often gaining lengthy solos. Prokofiev did this expertly by combining the xylophone and glockenspiel in Alexander Nevsky (1938) and The Scythian Suite (1914). Shostakovich also uses the xylophone often in The Golden Age (1930). During this time also, composers began to write for four timpani, rather than the timpanists simply using them on their own accord. Shostakovich uses four drums so that he can retain 3 upper pitches while also maintaining a low pitch, this was in his first Symphony (1925). In his Alpine Symphony (1915), he writes for two low pitches in the timpani. Other innovations during this time were happening as well, what was likely the first ‘closed’ snare drum roll of the time, was played during Charles Stanford’s The Middle Watch, from Songs of the Fleet (1910) Gustav Holst was an expert in percussion writing, possibly from his high regard for the section. This is especially true in his piece The Planets (1917). The movements in this piece are quite exciting, the timpani solo in Uranus requires four drums, and the use of two timpanists with three drums each in Saturn. Holst also uses the xylophone quite colorfully in Uranus, and a colorful use of chimes with metal and felt mallets in Saturn. Also, in Holst’s Beni Mora Suite (1910), the timpani are used melodically, by this point the timpani have proven themselves as harmonic structure and melodic leaders. In Paris, France, at the opera house La Scala, they had amassed quite the arsenal of exotic percussion instruments. The composer Puccini, used many of these instruments in his compositions, especially his grand operas. He would use instruments such as side drum, bass drum, cymbals, tam-tam, orchestral xylophone, and orchestral glockenspiel, which was normally a keyboard instrument and listed as campanelli tasteria. In Madame Butterfly (1904), similar sounding instruments would be used onstage, and sometimes would be mock-played by the actors but in reality play in the pit. For instance, the glockenspiel that would be used onstage would be marked as campanelli giappa. An opera written by Puccini, Turandot (1924) uses many exotic instruments from La Scala’s collection, in the piece, Puccini scores for a series of chinese gongs, which he refers to as in the score as Gong Chinesi. To differ between the gong and tam-tam’s, Puccini notates the tam-tam as Tam-Tam Grave. Puccini also attempts to replicate the Indonesian gamelan orchestras by using xylophone and bass xylophone, in addition to the glockenspiel. He also uses the tam-tam programmatically, the tam-tam on the stage is struck three times to signify that the opera character, Calaf, will undertake the challenge of the riddles. It is struck three times again as Tosca lays three candles near Scarpia’s corpse after she is killed. Puccini also notates for some other interesting sounds, in La Bohème, the chink noise of wine glasses are used in the pit, notated as bicchiere e carillon. It is with these specific notations that one could speculate that Puccini is reminiscent of Berlioz. A british composer named Havergal Brian is also reminiscent of Berlioz in his 2nd Symphony Gothic (1927), he wrote for 22 timpani, 2 bass drums, a long drum, side drum, 6 cymbals, including crash, gong, tambourine, xylophone, glockenspiel, tubular bells, chimes,thunder machine, chimes, and ratchet. Bartók was another innovator with his percussion writing. Although composers had employed the timpani glissando, Bartók was the first to explain what he wanted efficiently. In his piece Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta (1937), the timpani glissando is used with and without tremolo. In his Piano Concerto 1 (1926), he calls for four different sizes of suspended cymbals, and requests each one be played with different beaters, and some even call for a sizzle effect. He also uses a marcato-like symbol to signify moving from the edge to the center of the side drum. Percussion also is used quite effectively in his Sonatas for 2 Pianos and Percussion (1937). The second movement has a suspended cymbal part that uses a wooden stick and soft mallet at the dome and edge. A side drum with snares and no snare is also requested to be played at the extreme edge and center. The timpani are also used melodically, as the tam-tam, xylophone, and timpani all echo the piano at different points of the composition. Suspended cymbal in the finale calls for the cymbal to be played with fingernail or blade of a pocket knife. In the same piece, the bass drum uses a double headed mallet for a roll, and the triangle is asked to be played with three different beaters. The first is a regular metal beater, a thin wooden stick, and a short heavy, metal beater. This is one of the first times that the snare drum is requested to have the snares turned off to avoid unwanted vibrations. Paris was still a hub of innovation, especially in the percussion division. Darius Milhoud was a fantastic writer for percussion. His piece Concerto pour Batterie et Petite Orchestre (1930), was quite extravagantly written in the way of diagrams for instrumentation and mallet use, it required a solo percussionist to play 16 instruments, effectively playing the entire percussion section by themselves. On the other hand, in Milhoud’s piece Christopher Columbus (1929), the percussion section is quite large, and often serves as the sole accompaniment to the speech presented. Another innovation of the timpani drums that Milhoud introduced was to have a sixteen-inch piccolo timpani, and he scores it for treble clef. Although Alban Berg is credited with introducing the vibraphone into the orchestra, Darius Milhoud had written a paramount piece for percussion: Concerto for Marimba and Vibraphone (1947). He uses specific instructions for how to play the instruments, it includes several different kinds of mallets, including linen thread, yarn, medium and hard rubber, and to strike bars with the players hands as well. Another composer who was able to capture the ‘essence’ of each percussion instrument is Benjamin Britten, and this is especially obvious in his piece Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (1947). We can see the percussion section slowly grow to become a percussion ensemble accompanying the orchestra. We can see this in russian composer’s Alexander Tcherepnin’s Second Symphony (1947), where the entire second movement is played by the percussion section. Hindemith also uses percussion extensively in his Kammermusik pieces, in No. 1 (1922), the xylophone is provided with a lengthy xylophone statement. In No. 5 (1929) the timpani are provided with plenty of embellishments. In Hindemith’s piece Symphonic Metamorphosis, the percussion ensemble is provided with many solos. Jazz has also began to incorporate itself into orchestral playing, in The Rio Grande (1927) by Constant Lambert, he asks for the side drum player to use wire brushes on the head which was becoming popular at the time in jazz music. Another composer, Mátyás Seiber also was influenced in his orchestral playing by jazz music, writing pieces titled Jazzolettes (1928) and Improvisations for Jazz Band and Symphony Orchestra (1959). While many composers treated this as an age of expansion for the percussion section, it was not well-accepted by everybody. Gordon Jacob in an orchestration book he had published in 1931, briefly talks about percussion. He states the the tambourine should be used in dance-like pieces or purely dance compositions, and every other percussion instrument doesn’t need to be spoken of much. Timpani often would be treated with slightly more kindness than the percussionists, but often a complement to the timpanist would be at the cost of the percussion section. Even though the timpanist would sometimes be praised for their playing, changes in the tradition of playing timpani were met with hostility. Especially when the player would add extra timpani to accommodate tuning changes when it had not been written for it. There were some authorities, such as Charles-Marre Windsor that stated that it was often not the fault of the percussion section that their part may sound out-of-sorts or strange, it is more likely to have been negligence of the composer (1906).
The Percussion Ensemble Emerges
There is some controversy as to which was the first percussion-only piece. If one were to include pianos as percussion instruments, the piece would be George Antheil’s Ballet Mechanique (1924). Written to accompany a silent film of the same name, the original composition was actually twice as long as the film. The instrumentation is strange, calling for 16 player pianos playing four parts, two piano played by pianists, four bass drums, three xylophones, a tam-tam, seven electric bells, a siren, and three differently sized airplane propellors (high wood, low wood, and metal). It took a two re-arrangements in the 1990’s and a third in 2001 for the piece to finally be deemed ‘playable’. However, if you were to not include pianos as percussion instruments, then Amadeo Roldán’s Ritmicas 5 and 6 (1930) would have been the earliest. Although these two ritmicas stand out as they are performed by percussionists alone, not all the Ritmica’s are written with only percussion in mind. As the percussion section grew larger, it eventually split off to form its own entity, the percussion ensemble. However, Edgard Varese’s Ionisation (1933) was the first work composed with solely percussion in mind to be performed as a percussion-only work for the concert hall. The percussion ensemble became especially popular in the United States. William Russell also was a popular experimental composer of the time, composing for only percussion instruments. His piece Fugue for Eight Percussion Instruments (1933) calls for piano, timpani, bass drum, side drum, cymbals, triangle, xylophone, and glockenspiel. He also calls for certain instruments to be played differently than usual, he requests the side drum player place a handkerchief over the head, and placing a piece of paper between the snares and head, and scratching the snares with a coin. Timpani also have strange requests, Russell asks for the timpani to sweep wire brushes near the rim of the head, the metal hoop, and for the copper kettle to be played with a metal triangle beater. Other special instructions include muffled triangles, and a suspended chinese cymbal. He is equally demanding in another composition Three Dance Movements (1933), calling for the triangle and anvil to be struck with a hammer. Russell also calls for a saw blade to be drawn across a cymbal, and then be struck with a wooden stick with rubber bands at one end.
Johanna Beyer, and Henry Cowell
Another composer who began writing percussion chamber works at the same time that Ionisation premiered at Carnegie Hall was Johanna Beyer. A native of Leipzig, Germany, Beyer moved to the United States in 1923. Singing, dancing, playing, and composing, her list of works began to increase. She attended the Mannes College of Music and received two degrees in 1928, shortly after, she began studying with Ruth Crawford, Charles Seeger, Dane Rudhyar, and took Henry Cowell’s percussion class at the New School for Social Research in 1934. Beyer was heavily involved in the same modern musical social circles as Henry Cowell, Ruth Crawford, and John Cage. Beyer was an important innovator and composer during the 1930’s when percussion music really began to become popular, her works include Percussion Suite in 3 Movements (1933) which is probably her most pivotal piece of percussion chamber music. Other works include IV (1935), March for 30 Percussion Instruments (1939), Percussion, Opus 14 (1939), Three Movements for Percussion (1939), and Waltz for Percussion (1939). A close friend and mentor of Johanna Beyer was Henry Cowell. Cowell also studied under Charles Seeger who at the time had been appointed as chairman of the Music Department at UC Berkeley. Under Seeger’s tutelage, Cowell was introduced to the modernistic musical views of Europe, and the orchestral section percussion music of the United States which was quickly becoming popular on both continents. During his studies with Seeger, Cowell was able to write a book entitled New Musical Resources which was published in 1930, and became one of the most widely accepted music texts of the 20th Century. Cowell had also coined new techniques for playing the piano. These included the tone cluster, where many notes are struck at once using the forearms or fists. (These were so popular, that Bartok actually wrote Cowell inquiring for permission to use the technique) Cowell would also strike, strum and pluck the strings within a piano, when all these techniques are used together, Cowell would refer to it as a ‘string piano’. Cowell did all he could to help other musicians in any way that would help music progress. In doing this, he founded the New Music Society of California in 1925 which helped premiere modern works by United States and European composers, the society also published this music. Then in 1934, he helped establish New Music Quarterly Recordings, which helped create some of the first recordings of these composers, including Charles Ives, Edgard Varese, Ruth Crawford, and Johanna Beyer. He developed a similar group in the 1920’s upon moving to New York, with the help of Edgard Varese, Carl Ruggles, Carlos Chavez, and others, they developed the Pan American Association of Composers. This society helped promote American music overseas in Europe, often helping fund Henry Cowell’s trips there. Cowell also held an interest in non-western music, learning to play the endblown Japanese bamboo flute, the shakuhachi, and writing the first western piece for it, The Universal Flute (1940). It was in 1928 when Cowell accepted a position at the New School for Social Research in New York, where he taught contemporary music, and percussion, which is how he met Johanna Beyer, Cowell also offered a class entitled “Music of the World’s People”. This was possibly the first ‘world music’ course taught in the country. Cowell also spent time travelling to Germany, where he studied Javanese and Balinese Gamelan music, and attended classes on composition by Schoenberg. All through his life, he composed almost 1,000 pieces of music.
Lou Harrison, and Carlos Chavez
During his young adult life, Lou Harrison was exposed to many types of music upon his move to San Francisco in 1934, there he was exposed to indigenous music, as well as classical western, and even heard indonesian music very early in life. He then went to study with Henry Cowell, learning counterpoint and composition from him. Harrison also studied 12-tone music with Schoenberg. Even with this classical training, Harrison was still writing pieces primarily for percussion, but with unconventional instruments, such as car brake drums. In 1943, Harrison moved to New York City, where he was introduced to Charles Ives, and due to Harrison having accepted a position at the Herald Tribune as a music critic, he was able to help bring Charles Ives music to the attention of the world. Harrison’s musical writing began to change from twelve-tone to Indonesian, but rather than write exclusively gamelan music, Harrison’s music begin to exhibit the timbral effect of Javanese and Balinese gamelan music. It was from this point, when Harrison began studying with Virgil Thomson, who had given him a copy of Harry Partch’s Genesis of a Music, a book on musical tuning. It was from here that Harrison began simply writing in intonation only. After trips to Japan, Korea, and Taiwan between 1961 and ‘62, Harrison began constructing a tuned percussion ensemble, using resonated aluminum keys and tubes, and oxygen tanks. Harrison called this an “American Gamelan”. Carlos Chavez’ first music teacher was his brother Manuel, and he began taking lessons from him at the age of 9. During this time he also studied briefly with Asunción Parra. Then in 1910, he became a student of Manuel Ponce, Mexico’s leading composer of the time. Then in 1915, Chavez met Pedro Luis Ogazón, who taught Chavez the harmony theories of Juan Fuentes. Despite only having heard a symphony orchestra once, Chavez began composing his first symphony in 1914 when he was 15, and completed it in 1918, Sinfonia para orquesta. Chavez never took another composition teacher and relied on his analysis of other composers for teaching, he did however receive his diploma in composition from the Mexican National Conservatory in 1920. From early on, Chavez was recognized for his work, shortly after the first public concert of his music, including Sextet for Strings and Piano, in 1921 the new revolutionary government commissioned Chavez to compose a ballet based on ancient Aztec themes. Chavez was successful in incorporating indigenous Aztec themes in his El Fuego Nuevo. However, it was turned down by the director of the Orquesta Sinfónica, it wasn’t performed by that orchestra until Chavez was the conductor himself in 1928. Chavez then spent some time in 1922 travelling Europe and promoting his compositions, his music was well-received and he began to make a name for himself outside Mexico. It was in Paris that Chavez met and befriended Paul Dukas, who encouraged him to concentrate on writing music using themes of Mexico’s rich musical heritage. With this new musical undertaking, Chavez performed a concert of his music, along with Bartók, Honegger, Milhaud, Schoenberg, Varèse, and others. However, the reception in Mexico was lukewarm, prompting Chavez to travel to New York to perform his music, where, with help from Aaron Copland, and Edgard Varèse, his music was well-received. Chavez then returned to Mexico, where he became the new director of the national orchestra, and changed the name to Orquesta Sinfónica de México and became the first stable orchestra in Mexico’s history. Under the baton of Chavez, memorable works of his included Sinfonia india (1935), Chapultepec (1935), and his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1938). Chavez also championed some fantastic works for percussion, a commission to New York’s Museum of Modern Art brought us Xochipilli: An Imagined Aztec Music (1940), which was composed for four winds, and six percussion using indigenous Mexican instruments. John Cage approached Chavez in the 1930’s and asked if he could compose a piece for percussion ensemble that Cage could program for a tour. Unfortunately, Cage was unable to perform it on his tour, so Chavez had the Orquesta Sinfónica de México perform it in 1948. The piece requires indigenous instruments similar to Xochipilli. He has also written a solo piece for timpani, entitled Partita for Solo Timpani. (Praeludium, Sarabande, Allemande, Gigue) Another composer similar in style to Chavez, was the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. Villa-Lobos music would also combine elements of indigenous melodic and rhythmic elements with classical music. He spent most of his life attempting, and succeeding, to combine Afro-Brazilian music with classical western, and through this, he was able to establish a plan for music education, and take charge of music education for the country of Brazil.
John Cage was so much more than a composer, he may even be considered the driving force behind percussion music’s evolution and expansion during the early 20th century. In his early life, he studied briefly with Richard Buhlig in Santa Monica. He then moved to New York City upon the advice of Henry Cowell, it was there he studied with Adolf Weiss while attending contemporary music courses under Cowell, from 1935 to 1937, Cage left Weiss to study with Schoenberg. Cage struggled with tonality, which was very important to Schoenberg, and this would often discourage him. Then in 1936, Cage met the film-maker Oscar Fischinger who asked Cage to compose new music for his visual media projects, this ultimately led Cage to overcome his lack of feeling for tonality by composing for percussion, this also led him to question Schoenberg’s teachings in the last year of his studies. In 1937, Cage moved back to California and worked as an accompanist at the Demonstration School at the University of California at Los Angeles, and an instructor of percussion at Virginia Hall John School of Dance in Beverly Hills. During this time he wrote Quartet (1935) and Trio (1936). In 1938, Cage moved to Seattle, and assembled a percussion orchestra at the Cornish school in Seattle. Then, in 1938, Cage presented a concert of percussion music, the first of its kind. In 1940, Cage wrote Imaginary Landscape No. 1 for phonograph records, large chinese cymbal, and string piano. This is considered to be one, if not the first, electronic percussion piece. Cage also began to use mathematics to help him compose, in his First Construction (In Metal) (1939), he composes with 16 large sections, referred to as the macrostructure. Each of those 16 sections is comprised of 16 measures that are based on the durational proportions 4:3:2:3:4, referred to as the microstructure. He follows this similar structure of 16x16 in Second Construction (1940), he referred to it as his square root formula. Again, Cage performs a second percussion concert in 1940, this included Chicago Sketches by Russell, Canticle by Harrison, Suite by Ardeval, Pulse by Cowell, Cage’s Second Construction, and Ritmicas 5 and 6 by Rolden. In 1941, Cage moves to Chicago to work at the Works Progress Administration (WPA) where he was not placed in the music department after sharing his works, but the recreation department. This didn’t stop him, and in 1942 with backing from The Arts Club, he puts on another concert. He performed William Russell’s March Suite and Three Dance Movements, Lou Harrison’s Counterdance in the Spring, and Canticle, and John Cage’s Imaginary Landscape No. 3 and First Construction (In Metal). Then, again in 1942, the percussion ensemble world took a huge leap forward. John Cage’s percussion ensemble is programmed with the University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The program featured the UCSO playing Holst, Beethoven, Bach, Saint-Saёns, and Dvorak, while the percussion ensemble performed Harrison’s Canticle, and Russell’s Three Dance Movement. In February 1943, Cage moved to New York City and performed at the Museum at Modern Art, this established John Cage as a proponent of experimental music. Other works of John Cage’s early works were Living Room Music (1940), Credo in US (1942), Forever and Sunsmell (1942), The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs (1942), and Amores (1943)
The Birth and Expansion of Jazz Music
Jazz drumming began around 1900 in New Orleans, Louisiana, this was due to the mixing of several cultures music, making it a unique place for music to develop. Unfortunately due to the early recording studios not allowing snare or bass drums to be recorded as it might damage the equipment, we don’t have much audio evidence of what the drums would have sounded that early, especially in regards to Dixieland Jazz. The first popular drummer of the area was Warren “Baby” Dodds, playing in King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, and Louis Armstrong’s Hot Seven. “Baby” Dodds was the first to begin to fill spaces between solos, which would come to be called ‘breaks’, this was considered an early beginning to the drum solo. Another prominent drummer George Wettling said that “Baby” was the first to use the basic 4/4 ride cymbal rhythm that is so common today. During this time in the New Orlean’s port of Storyville, 200-300 musicians were being employed, this unfortunately was stopped when the Navy closed in the port in 1917, causing many drummers to move in the first jazz music exodus to Chicago.
In Chicago, drummers style began to change, urgency was added to horn solos, by the drums ‘exploding’ into the next soloist. The strong beat also was shifted to be heard on beats 2 and 4, rather than 1 and 3 as which was prominent in Dixieland music. Cymbals would be left ringing rather than choked after being struck, and the common bass drum pattern known as ‘4 on the floor’ was started. Also, the term ‘solid left hand’ started, where the left hand became a strong time-keeper and the right hand would play the syncopations. There were several Chicago drummers that helped shape the evolution of jazz drumming. George Wettling was born in Topeka Kansas in 1907, but moved to Chicago in 1921. Wettling wasn’t a flashy drummer or known for his solos, but he was known for having good, solid time. David Tough was a Chicago drummer, who was the first to start to use larger cymbals, he is also the first known to make effective use of the ride cymbal. As recording equipment improved, bass drums would be allowed to be used in recording, and in 1928, the Chicago drummer Gene Krupa was the first to have his bass drum recorded on the Okeh Label with the McKenzie-Condon Chicagoans. Krupa was well known for playing dynamically, with much energy, and good showmanship.
The second exodus of jazz music, was from Chicago to New York City. Here, big bands became popular, as well as swing music. Many accessories were no longer used, and the drum set began to look more similar to the drum sets used today. William “Chick” Webb was a prominent New York drummer, forming his own band in 1926, “Chick” was well known for his famous solos and breaks. “Chick” discovered Ella Fitzgerald in 1935, and had her join the group. Four years later, “Chick” died from having physical health issues, Ella then fronted the band until its split-up in 1942. William “Cozy” Cole was also a prominent New York drummer during the 30’s, and gained fame from playing as a member of Cab Calloway’s band. “Cozy” Cole was influenced by military drummers, and was likely the first to master foot and hand independence. Although he was credited with this, “Cozy” Cole was an unimaginative drummer. Although Gene Krupa was a member of the Chicago movement, Buddy Rich was a direct product of Krupa’s drumming style. Rich’s playing was more technical rather than conceptual in his solos, he had famously fast hands, and a quick right foot. His music has been described as tasteful, and he is known as a good swinger.
During the swing era of the 30’s, there was an offshoot to New York City, where Kansas City had developed its own style that became popular. “Papa” Jo Jones was born in Chicago, but moved to Kansas City to join the new swinging scene. He was most known for his innovations, he discarded the accessories, similar to the New York school of thought, he reduced the size of the bass drum, and used the high-hat as if it were a ride cymbal rather than a off-beat filler. Similar to Wettling, Jo Jones was not prone to virtuosity, but was a great band member to play with. In 1948, Jones left Count Basie’s Kansas City group to move to New York, there he played in smaller groups and combos. Jones is also known to have been a major influence for bebop drummers, and was a master of playing with the wire brushes.
Early Modern (c. 1950 - 1980)
The Percussion Section in the Orchestra
Composers are not only beginning to experiment with new percussion instruments, but notation as well. Benjamin Britten explored combining different instruments on to the same staff of music, effectively combining the suspended cymbal, side drum (with and without snares), tenor drum, and bass drum. This instrumentation was used in Britten’s Rape of Lucreita (1946), he does it again in Turn of the Screw (1954), where the instrumentation includes side drum (with and without snares), tenor drum, bass drum, and timpani. In the same piece, Britten also writes for clashing notes on the chimes, sometimes three or four at a time. Britten also writes for glissandi on the chimes using the chime mallet handle. The timpani by this point have only become better in their effectiveness of changing pitch quickly. Britten utilizes this in his Nocturne for Tenor Solo, 7 Obbligato Instruments and String Orchestra (1958), by this time, the timpani can effectively be used as one of the seven pitch-changing instruments. Britten also uses the percussion section programmatically as in his Noyes Fludde (1958) where he recreates the sound of raindrops by playing wooden spoons on suspended mugs. He also employs several different percussion techniques in Curlew River (1964), such as suspended bells played with xylophone mallets. He also calls for five small untuned drums that are to be played with thimbles, fingers, the flat of the player’s hand, soft and hard sticks, and utilizing center and edge sounds of the drums. He also calls for a Japanese taiko, effectively incorporating an ethnic sound. Aaron Copland stays fairly traditional with his percussion instrumentation, but rather employs a full percussion section. He also chooses to use indigenous American and Latin-American percussion instruments, specifically in Music for a Great City (1964). Copland, along with other composers of the time were beginning to use the xylophone more. The xylophone is given important musical statements in pieces such as Tippett’s Concerto for Orchestra (1963) and Vision of St. Augustine (1965). Addison’s Carte Blanche (1956), and William Burdwell’s Little Serenade (1953). The xylophone is also given an exciting melodic solo in Alan Hovhaness’ concerto Fantasy on Japanese Woodprints (1965). Jazz music was also beginning to appear in music written for the orchestra. Malcolm Arnold was heavily influenced by America’s jazz music as well as Latin-America’s music and instruments. In Arnold’s 4th Symphony (1960), he writes for marimba, maracas, bongos, and tom-tom’s. Another big leap for the orchestral-jazz genre was Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story (First Premiere 1957). Leonard Bernstein later arranged music from the musical into his Symphonic Dances: West Side Story (1961). The orchestration for percussion ranges from classical orchestral instruments to the inclusion of latin-percussion. These include vibraphone, concert toms, cowbells, bass drum, conga, guiro, bongos, triangle, maracas, and drum set and others indigenous, and orchestral. It is not uncommon to see a vibraphone or drumset passage on a orchestral excerpt list. Many corporations for percussion instruments have began appearing, and have kept up with the demand for differing percussion instruments. At this point, manufacturers have began developing timpani that have become so resonant, that performers have become wary of performance practice and making sure to play in the appropriate style. A good example of what was expected of a percussion section in the late 20th Century was seen in Henze’s Opera Elegy for Young Lovers (1961), and his Fifth Symphony (1961). It also is evident in Hartman’s 7th Symphony (1960), this work employs two timpanists, and both are entrusted with virtuoso passages. In Hartman’s 8th Symphony (1963), tuned percussion contains many cadenzas, which are given to the two marimbas, two vibraphones, a xylophone and a glockenspiel. Another composer that writes well for percussion was Carl Heinrich Maria Orff. He is responsible for the modern revival of the steinspiel, musical glasses, and waldteufel. His style is also reminiscent of the Far East Gamelon music. This type is especially evident in Catulli Carmina (1944), Antigonae (1949), and Astutuli (1953). In Antigonae, Orff writes for seven timpani, xylophones, trough xylophones, wood blocks, bells, glockenspiels, ten pairs of cymbals, anvil, three triangles, two bass drums, six tambourines, six pairs of castanets, soprano steinspiel, and ten Javanese gongs. Some other composers begin to really utilize the multiple percussion aspect of percussionists abilities. Pierre Boulez uses this efficiently in Le marteau sans mâitre (1957), he calls for three percussion, one player on xylophone, one player on vibraphone, and the third plays side drum, bongos, maracas, double cowbell, two tam-tams notated aigu and très profond, gong (grave), cymbal (grande), 2 cymbalettes, and triangle. Boulez was also deeply influenced by African and Eastern music, present in his piece Pli selon pli (1960), which features a gamelon-like array of high pitched instruments, which were used in addition to the full symphony. Luciano Berio’s Circles (1960) also requests an ethnic group of percussion instruments. This includes the Indian tablā, the Injun (a metal plate that makes a box-like resonance), the female singer in the group also plays claves, finger cymbals, glass chimes, and wood chimes. During the early 20th Century, a need for multiple percussion to have easier notated staves arose. Symbols became used to dictate what instrument needs to be played next. Triangles would be drawn as a triangle, cymbal would be notated as a drawing of the top of a cymbal. Other symbols that would be used are crash cymbals, and tambourine. Luigi Torrebruno wrote a notation book for percussion entitled Notazione per Strumenti a Percussione. Other exploration of notation began to occur, when avant-garde composers of the late 20th Century began to experiment with different ways of notation, mostly with graphical notation. Several pieces that use graphical notation include Bernard Rands’ Actions for Six (1965), Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Zyklus (1960), Ladislau Kupavič’s Das Fleisch des Krueges (1964), and Giuseppe G. Englert’s Aria pour timbales et quelques instruments (1965).
The Percussion Concerto
As percussion begins to develop as a classical performing art, more composers have began to write for solo percussion, and in this way concerti have began to appear. With timpani being one of the more popular instruments of the symphony orchestras, it is only natural that composers would have been drawn to that instrument to write concertos for. Several timpani popular concertos include Michael Colgrass’ Concertino for Timpani, Brass, and Percussion (1953), William Kraft’s Timpani Concerto No. 1 (1983), James Oliverio’s The Olympian (1990), and Robert Parris’ Concerto for Timpani and Orchestra (1955). Some had taken to writing for the keyboard percussion instruments such as the xylophone, and marimba. Some of the earlier concertos for percussion keyboards include Alan Hovhaness’ Fantasy on Japanese Woodprints (1965) for xylophone. In regards to the marimba, Paul Creston had written Concertino for Marimba and Orchestra as early as 1940. Japanese composer Minoru Miki had also written a piece in concerto style of marimba and ensemble, albeit a percussion ensemble entitled Marimba Spiritual. Multiple percussion concerti had also began to appear, with popular composer Darius Milhaud writing what was possibly the earliest multiple percussion concerto Concerto pour batterie et petit orchestre (1930).
The Percussion Ensemble, Avant-Garde, and Minimalist Composers
We can see the percussion section slowly becoming a percussion ensemble. In Elliott Carter’s piece Double Concerto for Harpsichord and Piano with two Chamber Orchestras (1961) calls for 45 percussionists. He also gives detailed instructions on what mallets to use, and diagrams that present the instrumentation. Carter also began to experiment with the timpani with controlled resonance, and chords to accompany itself, he does this in his movements Recitative and Improvisation from Six Pieces for Timpani (1950), this later became Eight pieces for Timpani (1966). Works for solo unaccompanied timpani were fairly rare, but the pieces that were written, were pearls among other solo percussion music. Some of these pieces included Daniel Jones’ Sonata for Three Unaccompanied Kettledrums (1953), Alan Boustead’s Sonata for Timpani (1960), Alan Ridout’s Sonatina for Timpani (1967), and Reginald Smith Brindle’s Concert Piece for Timpani (1967). Peter Schat’s Signalement (1961) was written for the percussion group at Strasbourg, and uses Latin American instruments. It uses two sets of two cowbells, two conga drums, two pairs of bongos, two african drums, three cowbells with no pitch, claves, and maracas.
NEXUS, Kroumata, and Blackearth
Probably one of the earliest percussion group was known as NEXUS, the members included Bob Becker, Bill Cahn, Russell Hartenberger, and Garry Kvistad, and was formed in 1971. NEXUS became very well-known for their improvisatory musical skills as well as becoming popular through their revival of ragtime xylophone music. This can be heard on their album Ragtime Concert (1976), recorded on their self-titled label, Nexus Records, featuring the music of George Hamilton Green and featuring soloist Bob Becker on xylophone. NEXUS was also the first western percussion group to perform for the People’s Republic of China, where they were very well-received and continue to tour there often. As well as the People’s Republic, NEXUS also participates often at many world drum festivals, and international music festivals, such as the BBC Proms. NEXUS also were avid soundtrack composers, and created improvisatory soundtracks to many award-winning films. A close friend of NEXUS was Toru Takemitsu, who composed one of the group’s most famous pieces From Me Flows What You Call Time…, this was premiered at Carnegie Hall for the building’s centennial celebration, the composer also wrote the piece with each performer in mind. NEXUS has also performed several collaborations with Steve Reich, the Kronos Quartet, Canadian Brass, and the clarinetist Richard Stoltzman. More recently, NEXUS has commissioned pieces by Peter Schickele, Libby Larson, Michael Burritt, Eric Ewazen, and Gordon Stout. NEXUS also co-commissioned Steve Reich to write Mallet Quartet which not only launched NEXUS into their 40th season, but was written for the Amadinda Group. In 1978, the Kroumata Percussion Group was formed in Sweden. Its members include Johan Silvmark, Ulrik Nilsson, Pontus Langendorf, and Roger Bergström. While not being known for innovations in improvisation, the group is known for being a fantastic percussion group. The group also features a strong commitment to contemporary music, and promoted work by a diverse group of composers, this included: John Cage, Iannis Xenakis, Sofia Gubaidulina, Giovanni Verrando, Steve Reich, and Sven David Sandström. The group has given the world premiere of over 200 works, and frequently will perform with orchestras internationally. The Blackearth Percussion Group, consisting of Chris Braun, Garry Kvistad, Richard Kvistad, Allen Otte, and Michael Udow started from the University of Illinois, Northern Illinois University, and the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, and was formed in 1972. The group was only active from 1972 to 1979, however much interest remains, and the members often play together as the Blackearth group today for special performances. The group is responsible for rediscovering John Cage’s Third Construction (1940) in 1977, and then proceeded to program it in their concerts. The group also performed several pieces from memory, which was a novel thing to do at the time.
Late John Cage
John Cage’s mid to late works experience two differing styles from his early works. Immediately following his early percussion works, Cage came to accept non-traditional noise as music. This is what ultimately led him to his second phase of composition, chance music, with an emphasis on writing for the prepared piano. We could examine some of his earlier works and relate them as precursors to some of his later works. Using the radio as a constant rhythmic structure in Credo in US (1942) could be viewed as a contrast to his later piece “4:33” (1952), in which the silence could be seen as an empty rhythmic structure. His Landscape pieces which featured amplified sounds, were later used in Cartridge Music (1960), and Child of Tree (1975). Cage’s first real chance music piece was Music of Changes (1951), in regards to this and other chance music pieces, Cage would often say in regards to his chance music, that his responsibility was not to compose the music, but to ask questions of the performer. From the 50’s onto around the 70’s, Cage would use the Chinese book of Wisdom, the I-Ching. He would specifically use the coin oracle, where a number between 1 and 64 is chosen by throwing three coins six times, and he would translate the results to compositional technique. Although Cage’s chance music was not technically difficult, one piece did stand out. 17’10.554 for a Percussionist (1956) combines thorough composition with streams of notes, with extremely varying dynamics. It is so challenging to read, in fact, that Cage specifies the performer may start anywhere on the score. John Cage’s third era of composition was improvisatory, but not in the standard sense of the word. Cage would say that he didn’t want his improvisatory pieces to have to be bogged down by the memory, and did not like that traditional improvisation would not only require memory, but tastefulness in the performance. Cage’s improvisatory technique in Branches (1976) require ten non-pitched instruments that would be chosen by the performer, as well as cacti plants. The improvisatory part would be the picking of the instruments, as well as the cacti. However, once a player is comfortably able to perform the piece, the cacti would deteriorate, and a new cacti would have to be obtained, causing the performer to improvise on the new instrument.
Steve Reich, who is well known for his minimalist work, graduated from Cornell in 1957, with a major in philosophy and studies in music history and analysis. During that time, he also took drum lessons with Roland Kohloff, and played drumset in local jazz and dance bands. Reich studied composition with Hall Overton, and in 1961 received a Master of Arts degree from Mills College, where he worked with Luciano Berio, and Darius Milhoud. During his time at Mills, Reich heard recordings of African drumming and became intrigued, beginning to research the African music, and eventually found full sets of notations from A.M. Jones book Studies in African Music. By this time, Reich had written Piano Phase (1967) and Violin Phase (1967), both these pieces use superimposed rhythm of 12/8, 6/4, and 3/2 ambiguously. While writing Drumming (1971), Reich would record himself bongos and then play over the recording and phase against it on the same set. He would then notate that on the manuscript paper. As Reich began taking lessons on marimba from James Preiss, he began the same recording techniques as before with the bongos, only on marimba. He then began to imagine a woman singing over the top while he would play, he imagined the woman singing in the style of Ella Fitzgerald’s scatting, he then notated the marimba and female voice. This became part 2 of Drumming. As he began to write upwards of the marimba, he would whistle the higher tones as he would continue to play higher. He then began to play on the glockenspiel and notated piccolo. This became part 3 of Drumming. After finishing the third movement, he looked at his studio and saw the 7 marimbas, 7 pairs of bongos, and 3 glockenspiels, and was inspired to use these instruments to write part four. Drumming was then premiered at the Museum of Modern Art in 1971, the same place John Cage was established as an experimental composer.
An advocate for percussion, tonal, and atonal music of the 20th-Century was Meyer Kupferman. He was a jazz clarinetist, and was heavily influenced by it in his writing. He was also influenced by his father’s immigrant eastern European folk music. When Kupferman began composing and wanted to branch out in his compositional technique, some pieces garnered attention. His first opera In a Garden (1948) earned him a teaching position at the Sarah Lawrence College in 1951 in New York City. His 4th Symphony (1956) also gained much popularity and attention after being premiered by the Louisville Orchestra. Due to not being classically trained, Kupferman devised his own 12-tone system. Being of his own device, it was different than other atonal composers of the time. He used this 12-tone technique in his piece Chamber Symphony. Kupferman felt 12-tone music of the day was too slow, and rhythm was not utilized efficiently. This led to his piece Sonata on Jazz Elements (1958), this is a 12-tone jazz-classical piano work in classical sonata form. Kupferman was known as a great jazz-classical composer. His piece Jazz String Quartet was commissioned by the State Department, and played at the Johnson White House by the Claremont String Quartet, and later adopted by the Kronos Quartet. The Hudson Valley Philharmonic also commissioned a piece, Jazz Symphony (1988), to celebrate the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. Kupferman’s 12-tone technique evolved further when he began working with flautist Samuel Baron to compose a 2 hour work to be performed as a single concert by Baron. The piece was titled Infinities One, and was based on a single 12-tone row that became known as his ‘infinities’ row that he would use for the rest of his career, the row included G, F, A flat, C flat, B flat, D, F sharp, E, C, E flat, A, and C sharp. Kupferman would continue to experiment during the 70’s with visual/graphic scores, aleatoric pieces, improvisatory, and pre-recorded tape with live performances.
20th-Century Percussion Education
Percussionists around the world maintain to have one of the strongest senses of community in regards to other instruments. This is due in large part to the Percussive Arts Society (PAS), which was formed in 1961, and is still going strong today, putting out publications on scholarly percussion articles, being a wealth of educational information, and providing performances of new music, and celebrations of historical percussionists and pieces during the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC). The PAS charged themselves with compiling a list of international rudiments, which are the foundation for any drummer to know. This was a five-year project that was organized by Jay Wanamaker, along with a highly select group of percussionists. Completed in 1984, in addition to the traditional 26 rudiments, this group added another 14, in order to present the 40 Percussive Arts Society International Drum Rudiments. Several pedagogs that have been critical to the development of the percussion art include Saul Goodman, Morris Goldenberg, Clair Omar Musser, James Blades, Cloyd Duff, Charley Wilcoxon, Fred D. Hinger, William Kraft, and many others.
Jazz Drumming Evolves
Bop eventually replaces swing as the popular style. Drummers then would follow Jo Jones’ style by getting rid of the accessories, reduced the bass and snare drum size, used lighter and longer drumsticks, cymbals grew lighter and larger, and wire brushes were used less until they fell from popularity. The man given credit for launching popular bop (klook-mop) drumming was Kenneth “Klook” Clarke. Due to his experimentation of drumming during the 30’s, he was let go by Louis Armstrong and Teddy Hill, however, Clarke played in New York at Minton’s Playhouse with Thelonius Monk, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie. Clarke was also known for his non-use of the bass drum, which was adopted by Max Roach.
Max Roach was one of the most influential bop drummers, and the first drummer to audibly complete melodic lines. He was also known to experiment in 3/4, 5/4, and superimposing 6/4 on 4/4 as well as groups of 5. Cool jazz, or the cool school, took over from bop in the late 40’s. Similar to the Kansas City offshoot style of swing, Los Angeles developed an offshoot style of cool jazz, this became known as ‘West Coast Jazz’. The most important drummer of the cool, and west coast styles of drumming were Sheldon “Shelly” Manne. He played in both New York and Los Angeles, he played in the late swing era, through bop, and into the cool age. Manne was a colorist, and was a melodic drummer, sometimes even tuning the drums to specific pitches. Showcasing Manne’s style well was in a duo record Manne recorded in 1954 with pianist Russ Freeman on the Contemporary Label.
In the late 50’s there was a response against the cool movement, by emotionally-driven music known as hard bop. The style was often complex, and used out-of-meter patterns. Drummers of this era included Art Blakey, who was a New York drummer and was famous for his rolls and explosive playing, he was known to even knock over his floor tom with his enthusiasm. He lived in West Africa for a while and injected the flavor of the African drums into his drumset playing. What he lacked in finesse, he made up for in enthusiasm, and excitement. Another hard bop drummer was Joseph “Philly Joe” Jones, a New York drummer, who received recognition from playing with Miles Davis in his group. Jones was also known to combine the best elements of Max Roach and Art Blakey. He would also be dynamic, and use explosive playing with melodic elements.
In the 60’s, a new jazz form began to develop: avant-garde. This style had no strict rhythmic pulse, and employed free polyrhythms as both the rhythmic and melodic functions of the music. Hi-hat’s no longer mark off any regular beat and often various forms of triple or compound duple playing would be superimposed over 4/4 passages. Elvin Jones was the layover from hard bop into avant-garde. Living in New York, Jones played often with John Coltrane, who was a proponent of hard bop music. Jones would often play with complex rhythmic juxtapositions and superimpositions. He also mastered complete independence of his four limbs, one of the first drummers to achieve this. The bass drum by this point had evolved through Jones into a complex series of syncopated accents and notes to accompany the fast syncopated lines from the hands. Elvin Jones was also a proponent of holding rhythmic conversations with the soloist that was playing at the time. During the avant-garde era, the drum set begins to change again. Additional toms are added, and many different cymbals are incorporated into the drum set.
Conversely to jazz drumming, we have also have funk drumming developing as well. James Brown’s line of drummers goes back to greats such as Nat Kendrick, Nate Jones, and Melvin Parker. Other fantastic drummers included Mike Clarke who played with Herbie Hancock, and the famous David Garibaldi with the funk group Tower of Power. What is established as one of the prime members of starting the funk genre of drumming is Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste of The Meters. However, “Zigaboo” claims that his drumming style originated from listening to Joseph “Smokey” Johnson. “Smokey” played often with Fats Domino, and applied his own brand of funk of R&B. One of “Smokey”’s most famous pieces of work is on a collection album entitled “Smokey Johnson: It Ain’t My Fault, Legendary 60’s Recordings”.
As “Smokey” was young, when he began playing he first learned the New Orleans style of drumming, and was the leader of his drum section. When “Smokey” was in High School, he was playing with guitarist Rob Brown, where they played mostly blues, but that slowly transitioned into jazz and bebop. In 1965, “Smokey” began playing with Fats Domino, and what was an intended two week gig period turned into 28 years, “Smokey” left the band in 1993. It was then when he really developed his R&B/Funk style. In “Smokey’s” own words, the funk comes from the drummers bass drum, and the bass guitarist.
The Modern Era (c. 1970 - 2017)
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