Tag Archives: percussion

Preparing for Performances

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Native American
Age: 12
Occupation: student
Residence: Franklin, Tennessee
Date of Performance/Collection: 4-25-2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

Informant: We played with xylophone for a couple of years before percussion. And once we were able to be in percussion, you got to use it a lot more. So it’s basically for the kids that wanted to have more time playing on it and making music with it and going more into depth with the instrument. That was for those students who wanted to.

Something we did, we would go around the carpet playing different instruments. So we would say like. . . like we had this certain beat that we would do on every single one. And to prepare for all of our performances, we would do a thing called “Rock your mallets to the top.” So we would say “Rock your mallets to the top.” Then you’d go to the bottom and say, “to the bottom do not stop. Hit them in the middle please. Hit them on your long tong C’s.” And then we’d change to D’s and then we’d change to minors.

Interviewer: Do you think you could do the whole thing for me?

Informant: It’s not very long. It’s . .  *laughs,  “Rock your mallets to the top. Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom. To the bottom do not stop. Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom. Tap them in the middle please, doo doo loo doo doo loo. Hit them on your long tong c’s. Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom.

So we basically would do that and then we’d switch instruments. And then she would say, uh, she would just count to 3 and, or we would do certain, different like patterns and she, our music teacher, would do it and we would repeat them back. And sometimes she would say, we’d put it in different, um, you could take certain bars off. We would do C pentatonic a lot, where you take off your F’s and B’s and so there would be groups of 2 and groups of 3 and then she would ask us to do a certain thing on a group of 3 and a certain thing on a group of 2. And that’s kinda how we prepared for every single one of our performances.

Background:

The informant is a twelve-year-old Native American girl from the Choctaw, Blackfoot, and Lakota Nations. She was born and raised in Tennessee and frequently travels out west to visit family and friends. She is in sixth grade.

Context:

During the Covid-19 Pandemic I flew back home to Tennessee to stay with my family. The informant is my younger sister. I was asking her about groups she was a part of at school.

Thoughts:

She emphasized that this was a musical group for those who wanted to dive deeper into the subject, in this case, spend more time learning the instrument. It was fun to hear the rituals and chants the students would use during practice and before a performance. Ritual is a creative process, key in attaining a certain frame of mind and promoting active engagement. It is also a picture of the beauty that can come out of community and teamwork. It is not solely about the individual. Rather, individuals in a group working together as a cohesive unit. 

Orchestra Joke: Percussionist

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Caucasian
Age: 19
Occupation: Student (Oboe Performance, Music Composition)
Residence: Mount Vernon, Washington
Date of Performance/Collection: April 2012
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Q: How can you tell that a percussionist is at your door?

A: The knocking speeds up.

My informant says this joke is so widespread that she’s heard it multiple times, and she thinks she first learned it in elementary school in a children’s orchestra she was in. The stereotype in orchestras is that percussionists can’t keep beat and are constantly speeding up. This joke is an example of blason populaire—the joke relies on the stereotype that brass players have difficulty staying on beat. The joke also promotes group identity within an orchestra, since it would need to be explained to someone who isn’t part of an orchestra. It’s interesting that my informant first learned this joke in a children’s orchestra, where it was probably likely that most players were often off beat. Even though most elementary schoolers have trouble staying on beat, the percussionist stereotype was so widespread in orchestra culture that members repeated the joke to each other even when it wasn’t necessarily true in their own experiences.