Thom Hasenpflug’s “Smoke and Mirrors”

I still remember the first time I performed Bicksa during my undergrad. At that point in my career, it was largest piece I had ever set up and at first, I hated it. But, after many rehearsals and late nights, I realized what a great piece it was! Bicksa was written by Thom Hasenpflug. I have been fortunate to get to know Thom and his music over the years and I happy to finally spread the news about his new piece, Smoke and Mirrors. The piece was premiered on last week by the Ensemble Schlagwerk Wien, directed by Nebojsa J Zivkovic. Below is the video of the dress rehearsal. If you don’t know Thom’s music, please go to his website (yes, it is a little outdated) and check out his pieces.


Pius Cheung plays Oblivion

It has been a while since we last featured Pius Cheung. Since then, he has become the Director of Percussion at the University of Oregon and continued producing high quality videos of amazing works for marimba. Today’s video is no exception. Enjoy!

Oblivion by Astor Piazzolla


Recorded by Aaron Jester at the University of Oregon’s Beall Hall.
Mallets: Innovative Percussion Pius Cheung Series #1, 3, 3, 4

Archway: Eli Keszler & So Percussion

As part of the free summer concert series Make Music New York, NPR Music commissioned installation artist Eli Keszler and So Percussion for a collaboration called “Archway” which was premiered on June 21, 2013. As an instrumental partner, they brought a New York landmark: the Manhattan Bridge.

Keszler’s installation featured piano wires, motors and processors, fastened to lampposts and the bridge itself. For the evening performance, once the installation was completed, Keszler joined So Percussion to complete the work. Be sure to listen with some good cans or speakers. The video does a really nice job of trying to capture the aura and mood of the performance. What are your reactions to this kind of collaboration? Leave those, or any other thoughts below the post.

NPR is making some interesting, high quality content on their NPR Music channel on YouTube. Follow the link above to subscribe.


Anything and Everything

How you do anything is how you do everything.

This is so true for percussionists and musicians everywhere. As we all know, being a great percussionist requires control over a multitude of instruments. Maybe you’re not as great of a vibe player as you are a snare drummer. If you’re asked to play vibes at a gig at some point, it doesn’t matter if the shiny instrument is your thing or not. People are going to form their opinion of your playing over that part.

This quote runs so much deeper than just percussion playing. Teachers, do you approach every one of your students and ensembles with the same intensity? If you’re composing marching music for high schools, do you put as much energy into that lower class group as you do a world class ensemble? Do you respond to everyone that emails you?

I grew up playing hockey, and we would call this approach “taking a shift off.” An example would be a really good player who just refuses to play hard every time he’s on the ice. (On a side note, the Russians are famous for this. This is part of the reason that they haven’t won a gold medal since beginning their participation in the Olympics in ’94.)

How you do anything is how you do everything.


One of the hardest things to do as a student is realize that you’re a student.

Nobody wants to take things slow. Nobody wants to put in the difficult hours of practicing what seems like basic technique over and over and over again. But, as anybody who has taught before knows, that’s exactly what almost every student in the world needs to do. It’s actually what the vast majority of teachers need to do.

It’s far too easy to watch professionals perform, and then immediately want to do exactly what they’re doing. What you don’t see when you’re watching a professional performance is the years of fundamental training that they’ve done and continue to do. All that stuff is hidden away and locked in their practice room.

Unfortunately, nobody can skip over those hours or speed the process up. Take Harry’s advice from below and make sure you put first things first.

Baljinder Sekhon’s “Sun”

Over the past three years, we have tried to spotlight some “hidden gems” that we want to share with our readers (Jolivet’s Rhapsody for Seven or Satie’s Parade). I can’t believe we have never featured Baljinder Sekhon on DrumChattr so today I would like to correct this wrong and introduce his piece Sun. I was introduced to this piece by Scott Ney at PASIC a couple of years ago. I finally got around to programming it last year and not only did the students like performing the piece, it was also an audience favorite. The colors and textures are beautiful! I would highly recommend checking this out for your next percussion ensemble program.


From the video listing on YouTube:

“Scores for three percussionists, SUN explores a variety of musical energies. From tired phrases to extended climactic passages to short-lived bursts of sound, many segments of music are intertwined and overlaid in a way that creates a singular event (the piece) with various “flares” of sound on its surface. These segments are often separated by silent moments that, because of their context, each express a different type of energy.

The instrumentation of the individual percussion parts are very similar; that is, each percussionist has one keyboard instrument, “skin” (containing a drum head), wood, and metal. In addition, all of the percussionists share one large cymbal that is central to the staging. At times the three percussion parts are treated as one large instrument with three performers working towards one musical character. This orchestration and interaction alternates with each performer executing their own layers of sound to create a heterophonic texture. The percussionists use a multitude of techniques to create a palette of nuanced sounds. In addition to common performance practices, they use their hands, fingers, knuckles, and fingernails to muffle, modify, and create a large spectrum of characteristics.

This work was made possible through a commission from the Volta Trio. I would like to offer a special thanks to Paul Coleman for his recording expertise, the Eastman Composition and Percussion departments, Eastman Concert Office, and Christopher Clarino, Sean Connors, and Erik Lutters of the Volta Trio for their extreme dedication and hard work.”

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