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<<  -- 3 --  Paul Sarcich    LIFE-AFFIRMING


Over the top of everything lies Schick's remarkable ability to bind all these considerations -- technical, musical, compositional, philosophical, social and so on -- into a coherent document which succeeds admirably in what he sets out to do: show us how life can be lived through playing percussion. This is not therefore any kind of mere percussion tutor -- it goes miles beyond that, and any percussionist reading it will be forced to think and think hard about what they do.

Many years ago I heard Schick play Xenakis' Psappha, after having heard Sylvio Gualda's version some time previously. They could not have been more different -- Gualda with his contrabass tomtoms and thunderous approach, Schick with his suitcase collection of tiny instruments and delicacy of performance. If you have any fascination at all about how two frontrunners in their field could end up with such wildly different versions of the same work, this book will show you every facet of how.

As a (now largely ex-) percussionist myself, I enjoyed his cracks about Berio's Circles taking longer to set up than play, or his comments on the lousy food at Darmstadt ('I still feel that only malnutrition could account for some of the concerts I heard in those days'). Schick has humanised an area of music that can to outsiders seem implacable and esoteric, and done it in a way that is immediately applicable to music-making as a whole. One would struggle to find another text concerning percussion to which one could apply the epithet 'life-affirming'. My copy of his book is in for much rereading.

The book itself is handsomely presented on very good quality paper (UK publishers please take note!) with copious score excerpts throughout and a CD of Schick's performances of seven of the pieces examined. The odd typo and piece of twisted grammar does not destroy the pleasure, although the index is alas of only people and pieces.

Copyright © 13 December 2006 Paul Sarcich, London UK


The Percussionist's Art -
Same Bed, Different Dreams

Steven Schick

University of Rochester Press, 2006
ISBN 1-58046-214-6, ISBN13 9 781580 462143
xx+250 pages, hardback

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