Ok everyone, I know that I have been neglecting the blog lately but I have been really busy with work and all. I need ideas on a new topic to start and really want to get this thing going for discussion. Feel free to add any thoughts you have!
Percussion Axiom TV: Episode #61 “The modern American regional orchesra…”
Today’s Axiom: “The modern regional American orchestra”… I saw a few very interesting things during my time in Wichita Fall, TX. What is the future of the smaller regional orchestra? I need your thoughts about how to build new audiences!
Sorry for the technical difficulties.. my mac book pro is not making me happy lately.
I want to hear from you about the Question of the Episode and thank you for watching!
I have been asking this question to myself lately. As a percussionist what can I expect in the next 5, 10, 50 years? If you look back at our history the evolution of our craft has grown exponentially over the past 80 years. We may play the “oldest” type of instrument in existence, but the art of percussion performance is still in its infancy. While it is true that percussion instruments have been included in some of the most famous works of classical literature in the history of the world the players of that time were mostly relegated to mirroring the low strings or stuck having to play one or two notes for the duration of the piece to add a different color than the norm. Now it is not uncommon to see a symphonic percussion section with drumsets, multiple “pod” setups, hundreds of toys and sound effects, trash cans, brake drums, whistles, whips, sirens, etc. What was once considered to be “junk” is now included in some of the most serious music written. How did it come to be that way? And what can we expect in the future?
Beginning with Edgard Varese’s masterpiece Ionisation (1929-1931) the percussion ensemble begin its rapid ascent to the upper echelons of serious musical performance. Ionisation was unique in being one of the first pieces to be written specifically for percussion ensemble (with Amadeo Roldan’s Ritmica no. 5 and no. 6 coming around the same time), no arrangements or drum set solos here. It is an explosion of sound and color from instruments that were mainly relegated to supporting and reinforcing the accents that were already present in the exchanges between the other instruments, but with Ionisation the percussion section was given center stage. The setup is large: 3 bass drums, 2 side drums, 2 snare drums, tarole, 2 bongos, tambourine, tambour militaire, crash cymbals, suspended cymbals, 3 tam-tams, gong, 2 anvils, 2 triangles, sleigh bells, chimes, celesta, piano, chinese blocks, claves, maracas, castanets, whip, guiro, high and low sirens, and lion’s roar. The performance of this piece is a tremendous undertaking even now (though with computers and programs like Virtual Drumline and iTunes the sirens are a little easier to come by).
The next few years offered more development of the concept of the percussion ensemble with the introduction of pieces such as Henry Cowell’s Ostinato Pianissimo(1934) and Pulse (1939), and Bela Bartok’s work Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. John Cage decided to add his genius to this new idiom with his First Construction in Metal and Imaginary Landscape (both 1939). This evolving landscape of sounds finally came to the forefront of the orchestra with Paul Creston’s Concertino for Marimba and Orchestra (1940) launching percussion instruments into the realm of serious concerto instruments. The amount of growth in acceptance and serious literature in just the first ten years is amazing, and these are only a selection of pieces written during this time. I am not even taking into account the multitude of books and solos written during this time.
The next seventy years have been profound in the acceptance of percussion instruments as true forms of artistic expression. The music of Takemitsu, Harrison, Rouse, and Schwantner expanded the literature available to percussionists greatly in these years, with Schwantner adding the “name” value of having a well-known classical composer write a piece just for percussion (Velocities for solo marimba in 1989). Probably the most momentous piece during these years was Steve Reich’s Drumming(1971). This piece, over an hour long, is one of the most well known and respected pieces in the percussion literature. Reich wrote many pieces for percussion, but this is his magnum opus, his masterpiece that will stand the test of time.
"But Jeremy," you say, "I though this article was about where percussion literature is going, what to expect from the future, not what has happened in the past?" And you would be right person that I probably don’t know, this article is about what to expect from the future of percussion, but to know what to expect in the future we need to understand what happened in the past. Patterns emerge in everything from music to physics, psychology to astrology, everything happens in cycles. To prepare and look towards what could be coming in the future we must first understand what has happened in the past. Percussion music started as loud, arhythmic "noise" (good, beautiful noise, but listen to Ionisation or Pulse as a non-percussionist and tell me that doesn’t sound like a cacophony of sound for the sake of sound), moved towards the softer, more delicate and melodic forms with pieces like Six Marimbas and Rain Tree,then kind of started to go back to the loud area (Drumming, Bonham, Marimba Spiritual). Now what we are starting to see is a mix of the “loud drumming” with the “delicate melodics” (sometimes those can be interchanged though). We are even moving back towards smaller setups individually (Clapping Music takes the cake on this one). So what can we expect in the future? More use of electronics? Theatrical percussion in the way of ?Corporal or Living Room Music? Maybe a use of film and visual representation (check out Ohio State University’s “Drums Downtown” for some cool examples of this at http://percussion.osu.edu/Drums_Downtown.html).
What do you think?
The new web address is http://percussiveevolution.tumblr.com
Welcome Twitterverse! I promise the new entry is coming soon!
As this blog is intended to be about the evolution of the percussive arts over the past and what we can expect in the future I figured it best to start out with something looking ahead.
Anything stated in this post is my opinion and my opinion alone. I do not speak for any institutions or groups that I may be affiliated with. You may not agree with everything that I put here and I cannot guarantee that ALL of my information will be correct (I will do my best to research as much as possible before posting though). If you notice errata please inform me of it so I can change it as quickly as possible.
This is so very true. Don’t let anyone tell you that music classes aren’t “real.”
Ok everyone, I’m taking suggestions on the first topic to cover for this blog. As the title says it can pretty much be anything in the world of contemporary percussion practice/performance. I’m not as learned as some of the people on tumblr (*looks over at thomasburritt.tumblr.com*) but I’ll do the best I can with the knowledge that I have. This blog/podcast/whatever will be an open forum so I encourage discussion as long as we keep it civil. Thanks guys, let’s rock and roll!
(sorry about stealing your Theme Dr. Burritt, it was the best looking one!)
Percussion Axiom TV: Episode #56: “My 6 M’s rule…) Part I (Articulation….)
Today’s Axiom: “Make A Musical Motion that Matches the Musical Moment” Subtitled: “Articulation for percussionists..”
How as percussionists… do we deal with the challenge that is Articulation in performance? I want to hear your thoughts!
Thanks for watching…