Theory: Music Composition Assignments for 4.12.2019

This week we focused on percussion techniques, with quite a lot centered around jazz styles. Thanks for your help moving stuff and being a good class for Mr. Pellegrino.
Your assignment following this week will be a piece at least one minute long with some sort of percussion instrument as the foremost instrument. That means you can have other instruments, including voices, but percussion needs to be the star.
“Percussion” encompasses any instrument that is primarily played by striking it in some fashion. You can have pitched or unpitched instruments, and the way you strike an instrument can have an effect on the tone created. Percussion is interesting in a historical context, because every civilization has some sort of percussion as a part of their musical culture. With the exception of the human voice, it is probably the most prolific and oldest of all instruments. For that reason, the examples included here are incredibly varied.
We’ll start with jazz and some of the names mentioned by Mr. Pellegrino in class. Notice how the drums interact with other players, particularly at transition points. I find jazz drumming personally interesting because you can almost hear a melody in some of it, and definitely can hear phrasing. It’s more nuanced and highly creative.
Steve Smith and Vital Information “Rhythm-a-Ning
Steve Smith with The Airmen of Note “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy
Three drummers trading solos with a transcription!
The full performance from a Buddy Rich memorial concert (bonus: amazing hair)
Buddy Rich at the Concert for the Americas
Rock drumming, as was mentioned, is much different, concentrating on different rhythms and different types of drums as the forefront of the sound.
Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers
Phil Collins “In The Air Tonight,” which has one of the most iconic drum solos in pop history (3:25), highlights how rhythm doesn’t have to be complicated, just well-placed, to really make an impact (as a note to be cautious with your own hearing health, Phil Collins is not performing much anymore due to serious and permanent hearing damage from his earlier career)
Ringo Starr of the Beatles compilation
Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones (notice how simple his kit is compared to others, same with Ringo Starr)
Queen “We Will Rock You
Blue Oyster Cult “Don’t Fear the Reaper” includes cowbell in the background
One aspect of many styles of African music is the use of poly-rhythm. Essentially, this is layering multiple rhythms on top of one another. To our ears it can sound like a cacophony, but if you listen carefully and pick out the various lines, you can see how complex and really fun it is. Notice the interaction between the players, and also how some rhythms are very similar to jazz riffs.
Pitched percussion instruments include marimba, xylophone, chimes, and others. They are the easiest for you to write for, perhaps, because you can create a melody.
Dame Evelyn Glennie is a Scottish percussionist who happens to be deaf. Her whole TED talk is worth watching. Other performances include Concerto in C MajorRhythmic Caprice, and the 2012 London Opening Ceremonies.
Super Mario Bros. theme for marimba by Aaron Grooves (his channel is pretty fun)
Six Marimbas by minimalist composer Steve Reich
Dans Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens
Latin percussion (because I don’t speak Spanish or Portuguese very well, I’m not sure I’m getting titles correct) seems to have a lot of call and response, and many of the examples I found were of street performers. Many Latin dances have a particular rhythm attached to them:
Latin Percussion ensemble from the University of Delaware
Asian and East Asian drums are a vast and varied category. You can spend hours exploring the different kinds of drumming ensembles, instruments, and techniques:
Senzoku Gakuen College of Music
Kodo “O Daiko
An American phenomenon is marching and indoor percussion ensembles. These are suggestions from a friend who teaches indoor percussion. It’s part music, part performance art. Notice how there are elements of electronic clips, dance, blocking, and advanced playing all rolled into one performance. Note: drum corps performances also include brass and other traditional marching band instruments.
Santa Clara Vanguard Babylon
Canton Blueboats Metropolis
Denver Blue Knights Fall and Rise Rehearsal
Tapspace Chopstakovich
Some random favorite performances that are outside of a category:
Short Ride on a Fast Machine (I LOVE this one!)
There is so, so, so much more that I could include, but this is more than enough to at least show you where the rabbit trails are. You can follow any kind of lead that you choose. Have fun!
My musical happy moment this week is a hilarious “drum-off” between Chad Smith and Will Ferrell. See you all next week!

Heather R. Nelson, PhD

Singing Voice Specialist

Voice Teacher