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Current time:0:00Total duration:8:35

Timpani: Interview and demonstration with principal Jauvon Gilliam

Video transcript

the instruments that I'm playing are called timpani or kettle drums they are used basically as in the position of sort of driving the bus or driving the rhythm with the orchestra that's generally my main job within the ensemble is to lead from the back if you will I am placed at the back in the center and on risers and that's so that I can sort of have a unique vantage point like that of the conductor all timpani do not look alike depends on the age and the type of copper for example the timpani that I have are not lacquered it gives it sort of a special quality that somehow for me it's very it's very present but some tile can be intangible sometimes but it definitely depends on the bowl shape actual type of Bowl the drum head that you put on and obviously the types of sticks you use I brought with me three different types of sticks to show you some of the many types of sticks that I do own sticks can be any number of shapes sizes thicknesses the type of core you use can be different the length and everything so here we have a Hickory stick that has a tapered shaft that has a felt core with billiard fill on it so it's very articulate type of sound next we have a sort of a general mallet this is actually a graphite stick that has a wood core and has a felt liner on it as well more of a general sound this one here is a bamboo stick that same thing has a German felt lined around it but this core is a fill core and so between the different weights the different links as you can see in the different head sizes you can see you can get a variety of sounds and this is a one of very many types of sticks that I own and do use there's generally one place where you want to strike the drum and that's generally four to six inches off the lip of the bowl or maybe six or seven inches from the very rim you and that creates the most resonant most desirable sounds of the ear new music sometimes dictates and asks us to play all over some composers do specify what they want as far as sticks hector berlioz was the first composer who actually was a tempest himself who specified whether he wanted wood sticks or with the way he called it which was sponge covered sticks which in our vernacular is fail coverage sticks and so he was the first composer to sort of specify Mahler specifies and some other composers specify but generally it's my call as to what sticks are being used or I choose what stick that I feel is appropriate for the repertoire or in some cases appropriate for the particular note that I'm playing in the repertoire I have a myriad of sticks and I change throughout the pieces to find the best sound tympani are tuned in two ways one is by my feet and the other is by my hands when I'm not playing I can use my feet to push on a pedal that's located near the floor and that changes the pitch basically it stretches the head across the rim which stretches the rim across the actual kettle and for some tinier smaller increments I can use what we call a fine tuner where you can take it and you can tweak it and make different sort of adjustments that way as well so sometimes you will see me put my head really close to the drum and tap-tap-tap basically what I am doing is I am checking to make sure that the pitch that I'm about to play is in tune with the instruments that are playing already because I use a natural skin or calf skin head the weather the type of day the the strength of the lights on stage a lot of things can affect the actual fluctuation of the pitch and so and that happens in seconds at time so you have to be sure and you have to have a sort of a process that you go through to check to make sure that when you actually play you're into there's a lot of great repertoire that we're doing but one of the parts that really sticks out for me there's actually two one of them is in modeler second symphony there's a part that comes right back to the recapitulation where it comes back at the very beginning and you hear it again maybe 15 or so minutes later there's two timpanist in that piece and we're both playing away and it's there's this huge climax that the entire orchestra is putting their heart and soul into it and that's one of those moments where I get goosebumps and I feel very very fortunate to be doing what I'm doing and when the other moments is actually one of the end of the fiber by Stravinsky it's such a gorgeous in lyric melody that comes up before that and then there's this sort of explosion of sound that I sort of punctuate the the end of this fantastic piece and those are the moments they're really uncool I actually started my musical career on piano I went to university on a full piano scholarship and long story short ended up switching to percussion and once I decided it I wanted to become a timpanist I pretty much put all of my energy into that started my masters and a conservatory specifically for timpani and then I was offered a job shortly thereafter I was actually a pretty good piano player what the change that happened for me was actually when I met my teacher when I was in school in Indianapolis he basically lit the fire for me and once I realized the possibilities of timpani it did it made more of a comfortable fit for me to sort of enjoy the music play less notes and be able to watch and sit around verses of a piano where you play lots and lots of notes it's sort of a different genre in a different way of expressing yourself and when you put all the pieces together it really does create some spectacular illness you