Composers Forum________Music

Program Notes: Percussion Excursion





By Timothy Rosser



This composition is named so because, like an excursion, it is short and returns to the theme presented at the beginning of the piece. The form of the piece is A-A-B-A with an introduction. The highlights of this composition are rhythm and harmony. This is evident in the fact that when part A appears a second time, it is the rhythm (Snare/Bass drums) and harmony (Chord outline in tubular bells) that mimic the original theme, not the melody. The gong, snare drum, and bass drum were selected to be used in piece for rhythmic drive, the Tubular bells function primarily for harmony, and the xylophone and timpani are present for both their harmonic and rhythmic capacities.


The style period this piece displays is early 20th century for the following reasons: this piece doesn't have as strict a form as earlier periods, but, at the same time, the form is not as liberal as later periods; early 20th century composers still made much use of traditional metric units as this composer does; the combination of metric units in this piece is irregular when compared to most earlier music; dissonant harmonies are used; and this composition makes use of the the smaller ensemble that was becoming more popular by the early 20th century.


The genre of this piece is early 20th century chamber music because the untraditional combination of instruments in this composition is common to this genre. Also, the chamber music of this time made use of percussion instruments of all kinds, especially those with tuned bars, like my composition does. Another characteristic of early 20th century chamber music was the use of two to fifteen performers, and the presence of some rarely used instruments (gong).


In the composer's opinion, the strongest feature of this piece is the combination of instruments: timpani provides foundation, the snare and bass drums provide mood, the gong provides accent, and the xylophone and tubular bells provide character. However, using the xylophone alone to hold important parts of the piece my prove to be undesirable. If I rewrote this piece, I would definitely keep the form and the tubular bells, xylophone, and timpani. If I had to change anything about this piece, I would add more instruments to those already being used to produce a stronger, richer sound. I enjoyed writing this piece, and I learned a lot about the percussion instruments I selected.