“Ionisation” – First Ever Percussion Ensemble Piece

Here is an EXCELLENT performance of “Ionisation” by Edgar Varése – the first ever percussion ensemble piece.  It was written from 1929 to 1931.  Fascinating stuff …


Here’s some cool facts from its Wikipedia entry:

Ionisation (1929 – 1931) is a musical composition by Edgard Varèse written for thirteen percussionists, the first concert hall composition for percussion ensemble alone. The premiere was at Steinway Hall, on March 6, 1933, conducted by Nicolas Slonimsky, to whom the piece was later dedicated. One critic described the performance as “a sock in the jaw.”

The instrumentarium is the following: 3 bass drums, 2 Side drums, 2 Snare drums, tarole, 2 bongos, tambourine, tambour militaire, crash cymbal, suspended cymbals, 3 tam-tams, gong, 2 anvils, 2 triangles, sleigh bells, chimes, celesta, piano, Chinese blocks, claves, maracas, castanets, whip (instrument), guiro, high & low sirens, and a lion’s roar.

Ionisation features the expansion and variation of rhythmic cells, and the title refers to the ionization of molecules. As the composer later described, “I was not influenced by composers as much as by natural objects and physical phenomena.” (Schuller 1965, p.34) Varèse also acknowledged the influence of the Italian Futurist artists Luigi Russolo and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in the composition of this work.


Interesting Release From The Percussion Marketing Council

This book looks interesting. It’s a history of rhythm from the Middle East, specifically Iraq. Looks well researched. I think it’s it’s an interesting take on the whole thing. With all the stuff going on over there, it’s easy to forget that this is a country that has rich musical heritage. Definitely worth a gander.

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Tube Chimes that Play Credit Card Numbers

Check out the “Brockenspiel” – a set of tube chimes rigged up to play a sequence of notes based upon the information stored on the magnetic strip on a credit card.


The project uses the Arduino prototyping board to send a trigger to a ULN2003A darlington array. This allows the proper current to be activated to several solenoids which strike the set of chimes. The data source will be a magentic swipe card reader which sends regular ascii keystrokes via RS-232 to the Arduino

You can read much more (including the making of) at