Internal Combustion

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John Rack

General Info

Year: 1985
Duration: c. 6:30
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: MFP
Cost: Score and Parts - $0.00   |   Score Only - $0.00



Player I - V: Bongos, sandpaper blocks, pop-gun, high tom-tom, maracas, slapstick, snare drums(4), hi-hat, cow bells(2), wood block, vibraslap, shaker, guiro, tom-toms(4), claves

Program Notes


This short ensemble is written for five percussionists each playing a large assortment of instruments as follows: (player 1) bongos, sandpaper blocks, popgun, high tom-tom, maracas, (player 2) slapstick, three snare drums, hi-hat, two cowbells, woodblock, small metal snare drum; (player 3) vibraslap shaker, guiro, low tom-tom, (player 4) three tomtoms, small metal snare drum rum, two cowbells, woodblock; and (player 5) two cowbells, woodblock, maracas, claves, slapstick, shaker, and vibraslap. Rack marshals these forces in interesting fashion. The texture is carefully controlled throughout, using trio combinations (player 1, 2, 3 or 3, 4, 5), duets, and even solo sections, such as the section featuring player 2 on three snare drums. Only at the climax of the work in the last nine measures is a tutti statement found, and even then, the five players do not all play simultaneously, but rather in contrapuntal fashion. An ever-changing ostinato pattern is the unifying element that threads its way throughout the entire work. It begins as an accented sixteenth note figure in the shaker, changes to a dotted rhythm on muffled toms, briefly becomes a triplet pattern played by players 1, 2 and 3, and then an up-tempo eighth note figure written for maracas. This is followed by a triplet sixteenth note pattern on hi-hat, and a section where several patterns are layered and then played alternately, as solos. The piece begins with players 1, 2 and 3 joining together to play an oddly disjointed off-beat rhythm in tentative fashion, sounding much like an engine trying to start. At the conclusion of the work, the "engine" runs down, bringing the piece to an interesting close. The climax of the quintet features five popgun "shots," perhaps suggestive of a backfiring engine. The interesting rhythms and rhythmic juxtapositions in this work make it an ideal vehicle for teaching purposes. (For example, eighth-, quarter-, and half-note triplets are juxtaposed, and patterns using sixteenth rests are set against a sixteenth note ostinato.) Rack's composition makes a case for the claim that rhythm alone, if manipulated in an imaginative fashion, can result in music that not only successfully maintains the interest of the listener, but proves very entertaining as well. - John R. Raush[1]



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Works for Percussion by this Composer

Internal Combustion - Percussion Quintet
Tango for Timpani - Timpani

Additional Resources