Robert Damm's "Improvisation for Six Timpani" was reviewed in the latest Percussive Notes

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

“Improvisation for Six Timpani” was written by Damm to feature interesting sounds, textures, and techniques for the solo timpanist.  The work also promotes the expression of improvised ideas within stylistic parameters since several sections are open for creative interpretation by the performer.  In other words, the beginning, middle, and ending are written out, but four internal episodes indicate only instrumentation, style, tempo, etc. but are not fully notated.  Improvisation is a valuable skill and one of the nine national standards for music education.  The solo was published by HAMAR of Huntington, New York in 2009.  Damm premiered the work under the title “Where’s My Kettles?” on a Faculty Artist Recital at MSU in 2002. Percussive Notes is the journal of the Percussive Arts Society.  The complete review by George frock appeared in the July 2014 issue:Most compositions are written with themes or motives, which are developed into longer segments.  The material is normally organized in musical forms described as sonata, rondo, or binary format.  This piece is a major change in concept, at the composition has no form, but instead is written in a group of one-minute segments, each presenting varying colors of sound, utilizing the materials required in the instrumental score.  To create the various sound ideas, Robert Damm calls for different implements, such as medium vibe mallets, chopsticks, maracas, and a bass drum mallet.  Music of the tone sources are presented by placing different items on the heads of the timpani.  Some include a Chinese cymbal, crotales, four half-dollar-size washers, a triangle with the bottom resting on the head while struck with a metal beater, and a whirly tube.  Many of the segments call for glissandi pedal movements and are fairly freeform and improvised.  One section, letter D, is more rhythmical, and is similar to the patterns found in Latin dance tunes.  This section is played using maracas rather than mallets.  The piece concludes with a whirly tube in one hand and a bass drum mallet in the other.  It is important that the whirly –tube harmonize with the timpani pitches, which as a major chord built on A-flat.  Upon first reading of this work, I felt this was a “gimmick” piece.  However, after spending some time with it, and considering the extensive improvisation by the player, I found it more interesting.     

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