Janissary Band is imagined music for percussion patterned after the music and rhythms played by a Turkish Mehter Band.
Genre: Percussion Ensemble | # of Players: 14
Level: Medium | Duration: 8:00
Player 1 (Crescent I, Bells, Triangle, Tambourine)
Player 2 (Crescent II, Xylophone, Triangle, Tambourine)
Player 3 (Crescent III, Vibraphone, Triangle, Tambourine)
Player 4 (Crescent IV, Chimes, Triangle, Tambourine)
Player 5 (Nakarre I [2 high tom-toms], 4 Temple Blocks, Triangle)
Player 6 (Nakarre II, 4 Temple Blocks, Triangle)
Player 7 (Nakarre III, 4 Temple Blocks, Triangle)
Player 8 (Duval I [2 low tom-toms], 3 Brake Drums, Triangle)
Player 9 (Duval II, 3 Brake Drums, Triangle)
Player 10 (Duval III, 3 Brake Drums, Triangle)
Player 11 (Zil I [crash cymbals], Triangle)
Player 12 (Zil II, Triangle)
Player 13 (Large Tam-Tam, Large Bass Drum)
Player 14 (Kos [4 kettledrums])
Janissary Band is imagined music for percussion patterned after the music and rhythms played by a Turkish Mehter Band. The Mehter Band was established in 1299 during the reign of the Ottoman Empire in Turkey; it was part of the standing corps of soldiers, originally archers, called Janissaries. In its earliest days the Mehter Band was designed to unnerve the enemy with the sound of its drums, cymbals and horns. It also provided ceremonial grandeur for military leaders. The bands have been disbanded and reformed throughout history; the most recent reformation occurred in 1952. The traditions of the music proclaim the unity, power and majesty of the state. A Mehter Band performs at the Military Museum in Istanbul keeping this musical tradition alive today.
The sounds of percussion instruments in the Janissary band have had a unique influence on Western music, particularly music of Viennese composers. Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn were fascinated by Turkish percussion and utilized their exotic military sounds in theatrical and symphonic works. Although the fascination was a passing fancy, it affected the makeup of the Western orchestra by establishing percussion instruments of Turkish origin (bass drum, triangle, cymbals, bells) as permanent members of the ensemble. It is hard to imagine an orchestra today without them. Mehter Bands also have wind instruments. In Janissary Band the keyboard percussion assume the melodic responsibility of the wind instruments.
Janissary Band begins with the solemn beat of the Kos or kettledrums and the jingling bells of Crescents. The Crescent, a pole with a variety of small bells attached, is one of the unique percussion instruments of the Mehter Band. The player shakes the Crescent in rhythm to the music. Nakkare and Duval (high sounding and low sounding drums) players assemble along with the cymbals and bass drum and the performance begins. All of the rhythms and melodies of this first section are taken from authentic Mehter Band music. The second section is a fast variation introduced by the kettledrums or timpani, now released from the two-note pattern of the opening bars. Brake drums and temple blocks, producing sounds of the modern world and the orient, play hints of the melody. The tambourines, also Turkish percussion, join the group. The music stops and there is a short recitative by the timpani imitating the chanting that often occurs in traditional Mehter Band performance. The music of the opening section is then stated in slow 7/8 time and rushes to the end. You may hear the firing of some rifles at the close.
Janissary Band was written for the 2009 Percussion Summit at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Naples, Florida. It requires fourteen percussionists.