Review (Percussive Notes, May (59) 2012)
This is my new favorite snare drum solo. As any composer or percussionist can attest to, the snare drum offers many compositional challenges. In lieu of traditional devices used with other instruments, such as melody and harmony, composers must venture into nontraditional techniques in order to establish a musical language for the instrument.
This often includes complex rhythms, spectacles of technical mastery, and the use of various sticking implements and surfaces on the snare drum. While many composers have tried their hand at such techniques, relatively few have been successful in fusing them into music that can be appreciated and respected by both performers and audience members.
“Asventuras” is the exception. Each section of the piece features a unique combination of sounds that is achieved through various playing implements, playing surfaces, and rhythmic language. The piece opens with driving eighth and sixteenth rhythms performed with stick clicks, rim, and shell sounds. By the time the drumhead is actually struck (toward the end of the first page), the sound is refreshing and new. The next two pages consist of “groove-like” syncopations, juxtaposed with rudimentalstyle sextuplet rolls and precise dynamic contrasts that aid in bringing clarity to the phrases.
The following page would constitute the “mixed mallet” section of the piece. Here, with snares turned off, the performer begins with fingernail, palm, and knuckle sounds. This quickly expands into the simultaneous use of a timpani mallet, drumstick, and wire brush. After a brief opportunity for improvisation, the snares are turned back on and the piece ends with a tour de force of rudimental-style rolls.
While many snare drum solos incorporate similar techniques, few do so with such intuitiveness and seamlessness. It is technical without seeming aloof, and uses a variety of sounds without being gimmicky. All of the elements the composer uses are put in place for one reason: to serve the music. —Jason Baker
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