Altered Gates

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Jim Casella

General Info

Year of Publication: 2019
Publisher: Tapspace Publication
Level: Advanced
Duration: 5:30
Cost: $45.00

Premiere Info

Performer: Berkner High School Percussion Ensemble
Event: PASIC showcase concert


Altered Gates by Jim Casella is a quintet for unpitched percussion instruments. It features a large array of concert and marching drums and auxiliary percussion instruments. The piece is set up in such a way that the performers face inward towards each other, adding a compelling element of spectacle and choreography to the piece. With nuanced cooperation, ten hands interweave to create multiple rhythmic layers, split melodies, and an energetic, groove-based current of perpetual motion.





  • 2 cowbells (low, med-high)
  • 4 jam blocks (low, medium, high, piccolo)
  • resonant metal (I.e. ice bell)


This energetic piece includes a wide variety of sounds and requires a high level of dexterity and musical cooperation from all five players. Throughout its nearly six-minute runtime, it maintains a rhythmic drive that keeps listeners captivated and performers focused.

The driving factor of the work is a diddle-based drone that is constant throughout the work. While other rhythmic and melodic material is presented, one or more of the performers are playing sixteenth-note double strokes at a low dynamic. These are sometimes played on the rims of any of the drums with bundle-sticks. This element alone can make this piece a challenge, since all of the performers will need to be capable of maintaining rhythmic and technical consistency under these circumstances. How- ever, when performed properly it provides the forward motion that supports the grooves and melodies that develop.

The motivic material makes significant use of rhythmic interplay between the players. Several of the melodic ideas are a team effort, requiring all performers to know what the entirety of a particular line sounds like in order to properly place the notes they are responsible for. The brisk tempo and the plethora of instruments that are in the setup makes for both a challenging exercise and an impressive performance. Jim Casella also utilizes several four-against-three rhythms to add to the complexity of the work, which lends well to the energetic character and instrumentation.

“Altered Gates” is a lively work, best suited for mature players with strong double-stroke and dynamic control. Its energetic character and impressive writing would be ideal as an opener for any percussion ensemble concert.

Written by Kyle Cherwinski [1]

Works for Percussion by this Composer

Altered Gates - Percussion Quintet
Compound Autonomy - Percussion Ensemble (15)
Cop Drama - Percussion Ensemble (16)
Cyclone - Percussion Ensemble (12)
Dystopia - Percussion Ensemble (15)
Joaquin on Sunshine - Percussion Ensemble (15-17)
Katraterra - Percussion Nonet
Meanwhile in a Parallel Universe - Marimba, Percussion Nonet
Prime Ordinals - Multiple Percussion, Djembe
Stormbreak - Percussion Ensemble, Wind Ensemble (optional)
Technology (Casella) - Percussion Ensemble
Truth or Consequence - Percussion Ensemble (19)
Windows of the Maloca - Percussion Ensemble(14)


  1. Percussive Notes Volume 58, No. 1, February 2020