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Encyclopedia of Percussion.

John Beck's Encyclopedia of Percussion is a welcome addition to the meager shelf of percussion reference books. With contributions from twenty - nine individuals, this informative volume is divided into three major sections: "Alphabetical Listing of Percussion Instruments and Terms," "Illustrations of Percussion Instruments," and "Articles." The last section contains twenty-eight articles covering a diverse range of topics. In addition to the main body of the book, there are three appendixes and an extensive index. Appendix A contains "Selections from Morris Arnold Lang and Larry Spivak, The Dictionary of Percussion Terms," a brief listing of symbols found in percussion music and ranges of the marimba, xylophone, vibraphone, and orchestra bells. Appendix B is a thorough and helpful "Table of Percussion Instruments and Terms in English, French, German, and Italian," by Amy White. Finally, Appendix C is an impressive listing of "Published Writings on Methods for Percussion," dating from 1588 to 1960, compiled by James Strain. There are no discographies present, except for one found at the end of Jeffrey Thomas's article "Steel Band/Pan."

The opening section of terms includes all the performance instructions and playing techniques a percussionist is likely to encounter. There is information about unusual as well as standard techniques, abbreviations of terms commonly (and not so commonly) found, mallets and beaters and the material of which they are made, instruments - including many from around the world, and some general musical terms as well. There are terms in Italian, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, Hungarian, Swedish, Arabic, and Polish. There are references to percussion instruments of China, Japan, India, Vietnam, Africa, Brazil, Indonesia, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. In spite of the vast scope, there are some obvious omissions, such as the Indian kanjira and the Irish bodhran. Some definitions are incomplete, notably that of the penny whistle, defined as a "small whistle often played by percussionists," (p. 71) although it is better known as an Irish recorder-type instrument.

Despite the attention paid to playing techniques, the common terms, "roll," "buzz roll," and "crush roll" are not included in this first section, but some very unusual listings can be found, such as, "knitting needles," "snake charmer's horn," "cheese grater," "dust pan gong," and "hand," causing the reviewer to question the criteria for the inclusion of terms in this section. Among several inconsistencies is cross-referencing of numerous African marimbas and xylophones. While the terms "African marimba" and "African xylophone" are generically defined, there are no "see also" references to the over fifteen African names for these instruments found scattered throughout the first section. In other words, the reader would have to know the African name to find the instrument listing. The reader is directed to the article "The Xylophone," located in the third section of the book, in which almost 170 African names for xylophone are listed with their distinguishing features clearly stated. Better editing could have alleviated this confusion. In spite of these flaws, the first section contains an abundance of helpful material, particularly if one wishes to perform percussion music laden with foreign terms and obscure techniques.

Section 2 is a gallery of forty-seven photographs portraying well over one hundred percussion instruments, all of which are clearly identified. Of particular interest. are the photos of rope-tensioned drums; drums from Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean; as well as American Indian drums. Also helpful in this section are some of the small, more obscure instruments such as the clock chime, sistrum, and rute, which some students of percussion may have read about but not encountered due to their relative rarity.

Section 3 of the encyclopedia, "Articles," comprises the greatest portion of the book. The editor has selected authors who address their particular specialties competently, although there is a wide variance in style, bibliographic materials, and thoroughness with which the topics are explored, which Beck readily concedes in his preface. Admittedly, there is much more to say about the kettledrum and its history compared to that of the triangle, so variety can be expected. Nonetheless, there are several articles, notably, "Cymbals" and "The Snare Drum," which could have benefitted from more detailed scholarship and exploration. On the other hand, there are numerous examples of outstanding articles, reflective of excellent scholarship, including "The Kettledrum," by Edmund A. Bowles, a thorough look at the development of this instrument, including numerous photographs and a list of landmarks in its music. Other outstanding articles include "Steel Band/Pan," by Thomas, which addresses the history and development of pan, as well as contemporary practice, including some tuning illustrations; "The Xylophone," by William L. Cahn, which includes history, construction details, performance techniques, and extensive listings of names and distinguishing features of xylophones from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Central America and Europe, North America, and Modern Japan; "Janissary Music," by Harrison Powley, a documentation of Turkish music in the fourteenth through eighteenth centuries; and "The Marimba in Mexico and Related Areas," by Laurence D. Kaptain, which explores the origins, performance practice and repertory of the marimba in Chiapas and other parts of Mexico.

In many respects, this volume does not have a counterpart in the percussion reference category. Certainly, James Blades's exhaustive text Percussion Instruments and Their History (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1970) serves as the most thorough history of percussion in one volume, but one cannot as easily find needed information in it. Also, we are twenty-five years beyond Blades's outstanding contribution and much has changed and evolved, particularly with regard to percussion instruments in world music. Other texts, such as Karl Peinkofer and Fritz Tannigel's Handbook of Percussion Instruments (London: Schott, 1976) or Gordon Peters's The Drummer: Man, rev. ed. (Wilmette, Ill.: Kemper-Peters Publications, 1975) are equally dated.

The articles in Beck's volume compare favorably with those on the same topics in The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments (London: Macmillan Press, 1984). While the researcher interested in topics such as cymbals, snare drum, bass drum, and tambourine would do well to stick with New Grove entries, there are some articles in the Encyclopedia (multiple percussion, plastic drumheads, and calfskin heads, to name a few) that cannot be found in The New Grove.

As Beck states in the preface, the Encyclopedia of Percussion is "an extensive guide to percussion, organized for research as well as general knowledge" and he hopes that it is "the most definitive source of percussion information available" (p. vii). Beck has certainly achieved that goal, for this reference book provides an invaluable contribution to the professional and the student, as well as to the scholar and the performer, along with anyone interested in pursuing a greater knowledge of percussion in general.

KATHLEEN KASTNER Wheaton College, Wheaton, Ill.
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Author:Kastner, Kathleen
Publication:Notes
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1996
Words:1112
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