How much detail do you expect, want, and ultimately get from composers in the percussion scores that you perform? Joseph Gramley

Joseph Gramley
Photo by Stephen Z. Cook
Courtesy Phillip Truckenbrod Concert Artists

Percussionists and composers have developed a strong bond over the past few decades. Percussionists have sought out composers and vice versa. There has, as such, been a great ‘blossoming’ of percussion music in the last 30 years. The amount of great new repertoire for percussion solo and in chamber settings is really remarkable.

I’m always excited, of course, when I get a new score. I do have to admit, that I am little nervous as well. Notation systems for multi-percussion set-ups are not uniform and are rarely consistent from one set-up to another. By the very nature of percussion instruments, no two multi-percussion set-ups are going to have the same sounds. Each performer will have different instruments. This is all leading up to say that for me, the more details the better in my new scores. Be it in the notation, instrument selection, and mallet choice. If any of these areas are neglected, the final performance and the overall vision of the composer will both suffer.

An open dialogue between a composer and percussionist will foster solutions to these hurdles, so to this end, I try to remain in contact with the composer throughout the learning of the new work. When in doubt, give some more detail in the score!