Percussion ensemble

Percussion Ensemble

Percussion ensemble

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A percussion ensemble is a musical ensemble consisting of only percussion instruments. Although the term can be used to describe any such group, it commonly refers to groups of classically-trained percussionists performing primarily classical music. Percussion ensembles are most commonly found at conservatories, though some professional groups, such as Nexus exist. Drumlines and groups who regularly meet for drum circles are both other forms of the percussion ensemble.

Origins of the percussion ensemble: setting the stage

The classical percussion ensemble came into existence as a stand-alone musical establishment through the efforts of experimental composers during the early 20th century. Tonality had been stretched to the limits in the late 19th century, and had been abandoned altogether in the early atonal writings of Arnold Schoenberg. Italian futurist Luigi Russolo’s treatise The Art of Noises of 1913 initiated a new musical aesthetic of energy, noise, and technology. At the same time, composers such as Igor Stravinsky began making more extensive use of percussion instruments in their orchestral writing, as in The Rite of Spring of the same year. These musical developments set the stage for percussion music to emerge as a stand-alone form of art.

Early literature

George Antheil’s Ballet Mécanique (1923) is one of the earliest examples of composition for percussion, written originally as a film score and exemplifying the ideals of the Italian futurist...
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