Instruments | Additional Percussion | Modern Era | Classical
Composers of the early twentieth century sought out further percussion instruments to add to their sound palette. Berg’s Three Pieces for Orchestra (1913) requires a xylorimba: a composite instrument, with a top end sounding like a xylophone, the bass end like a marimba. Walton’s Façade (1926) requires wood blocks: stemming from Africa, these are a series of resonant wooden blocks stuck by drumsticks. Wood blocks are also to be found in Gershwin’s two piano concertos, while Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G demands the slapstick, an instrument also known as a ‘whip’, in which two hinged, flat-sided pieces of wood are brought together sharply to make a ‘crack’ sound when the slapstick is flicked abruptly. Debussy often requires a large orchestra and the percussion section in his music may contain timpani, drums both large and small, cymbals, tam tams, glockenspiel and xylophone. Cowell introduced bullroarers (also known as thundersticks) into the score of his Ensemble (1924). His Ostinato (1951) was written entirely for percussion ensemble and his Percussion Concerto (1958–59), though not the first in the genre, is a notable landmark.
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