Eight Pieces for Four Timpani by Elliott Carter are the most famous works ever written for this historic instrument. Each work in the set of eight was written for a specific performer and contains techniques and styles that were unheard on timpani before their creation.
I. Saeta (1949/1966) Al Howard: An Andalusian song of improvisatory character sung during an outdoor religious procession, usually at Easter; said to be the descendent of a rain ceremony during which an arrow (saeta) was shot into the clouds to release the rain.
II. Moto Perpetuo (1949/1966) Paul Price: A rapid patter of notes of equal length, broken up into phrases of constantly changing accentuation, played with special, small, light drum sticks.
III. Adagio (1966) Jan Williams: Uses pedal tuned timpani to produce vibratos, harmonics and glissandos in dramatic outburst.
IV. Recitative (1949/1966) Morris Lang: Short contrasting phrases, one of which is condensed into the irregularly repeated major third in the latter part and punctuated by another phrase that disintegrates.
V. Improvisation (1949/1966) Paul Price: The opening phrase furnishes materials for numerous variations with constant changes of speed.
VI. Canto (1966) Jan Williams: Uses pedal tuned timpani played by snare drum sticks in a line that slides from one pitch to another.
VII. Canaries (1949/1966) Raymond DesRoches: A dance of the XVI and XVII centuries, ancestor of the gigue, supposedly imported from the wild men of the Canary Islands; in 6/8 time with dotted rhythms-here fragmented and developed.
VIII. March (1949/1966) Saul Goodman: Two march rhythms of different speeds are superimposed, one played with the butts, the other with the heads of the drum sticks. These produce musical ideas expanded in the middle section.
Number of players: 1
Difficulty: Medium-Advanced to Advanced
Instrumentation: Timpani (4)
Born in New York City on 11 December 1908, Elliott Carter began to be seriously interested in music in high school and was encouraged at that time by Charles Ives. He attended Harvard University where he studied with Walter Piston, and later went to Paris where for three years he studied with Nadia Boulanger. He then returned to New York to devote his time to composing and teaching.