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Bushido: The Way of the Warrior

timpani solo
Composer: John Willmarth
Publisher: Innovative Percussion, Inc.
Instrumentation: Timpani

Program Notes:

The samurai of Japan were not merely trained assasins but lived by a strict ethical code known as Bushido (literally meaning "the way of the warrior"). This code influenced all aspects of life and is comparable to the Western concept of chivalry. The samurai were, of course, fierce warriors but also strongly believed in honor, kindness, frugal living, and above all, loyalty to their lord. The ultimate honor was to die in service to one's master. In fact, the samurai considered suicide, called seppuku, a brave and admirable alternative to being defeated in battle. As the samurai began their decline and eventual abolishment in 1871, Bushido became the moral standard of the Japanese culture. There are seven principals that embody the spirit of Bushido including: Gi (recitude), Rei (respect), Makoto (honesty), and Chugi (loyalty).

The three movements of this piece represent the Bushido principals of Jin (benevolance), Meiyo (honor and glory) and Yu (courage). Each movement is intended to emphasize a different facet of the timpani and aspect of Japanese music. Jin is a soundscape and therefore deals primarily with color and timbre. It should convey a meditative and reflective mood as well as the kind and wise nature of the samurai. Meiyo focuses on the melodic potential of the timpani and utilizes pedaling to create an "eastern" tonality. It is song-like in character and should exemplify the proud tradition and history of the samurai. Yu explores the rhythmic potential of the timpani and is strongly influenced by the Taiko drumming tradition. It is intended to depict the fierce nature of the samurai in battle.



Review:
"This nine-minute, four-drum composition represents the final three principles in its three movements. Each movement is intended to emphasize a different facet of the timpani and a different aspect of Japanese music. Movement 1 (“Jin”) is a soundscape and therefore deals primarily with color and timbre. It conveys a meditative and reflective mood with its many caesuras, fermatas, and graphic and spatial notation. Numerous special effects are employed in this movement, such as use of fingers as well as mallets, finger trills, finger grace notes, playing in the center of the heads, glissandi, and pitch bends (achieved by depressing the head in the center with the heel of the hand). Movement 2 (“Meiyo”) focuses on the melodic potential of the timpani and utilizes pedaling to create an “eastern” scale of six tones (F, G-flat, B-flat, C, D-flat, F) among the four drums. The movement is song-like in character and reflects the proud tradition and history of the Samurai. Although the movement begins rubato, it soon becomes dance-like and stays primarily in duple meter thereafter. Numerous special percussive effects are employed, such as stick clicks, rim clicks, striking the timpani struts, and rimshots (stick on stick). Movement 3 (“Yu”) uses the same four starting pitches and basic tonality as both previous movements. It explores the rhythmic potential of the timpani and is strongly influenced by the Taiko drumming tradition. It is intended to depict the fierce nature of the Samurai in battle. The movement is aggressive, rhythmic, accented, and has many changes of meter. Mutes are eventually added to the drums for rhythmic clarity as the music turns “ferocious” and highly technical. The timpanist is often required to play passages of fast double stops and in the center of the heads." - Mario Gaetano Percussive Notes, October 2006

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John Willmarth John Willmarth
Summerville High School
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