One of the unique aspects of being a percussionist is getting to play unorthodox instruments. Oftentimes, these are the miscellaneous bits that don’t get covered by other members of an ensemble—think slide whistles, hammers, and other special effects.
When the Friendswood (Texas) Junior High Symphonic Band hit the stage at the Middle School National Music Festival in Indianapolis on Saturday, its percussionists took on the challenge of emulating a sound from halfway around the world.
The ensemble played “Archipelagos” by Dave Hall. This piece is designed to emulate the sounds of the gamelan music of Indonesia, a traditional form of ensemble percussion hailing from Java and Bali. Gamelan is predominately percussion-based and tends to focus on mellophones made of bronze. Since actual gamelan instruments can be hard to come by, the piece calls for the use of ceramic flower pots and tuned pipes to recreate those sounds.
When playing instruments that are not the norm, it is easy for students to not take the work or the music seriously. However, the students of Friendswood were able to handle this task with grace.
In addition to “Archipelagos,” the students were also challenged with other works including “Suite Provençale" by Jan Van der Roost, “Twittering Machine” by Brian Balmages, and “Armory” by Randall D. Standridge. Each work had a different musical focus and tone and gave the repertoire a diverse range of styles while not being overwhelming.
Congratulations to Friendswood on an excellent showing at the 2018 Music for All Middle School National Music Festival.