To be a drummer is to live in a world where the most interesting objects ask to be struck, slapped, plucked, pummeled, bashed, brushed or otherwise engaged. It’s to live in world where clang and clatter are wonderful things, the ultimate reassurance that a world where things collide can be a beautiful one. And if there’s anyone who hasn’t wanted to be a drummer in some fleeting moment, the photographs of Rhythm & Beauty: The Art of Percussion ought to stir that desire.

As the noted classical percussionist Evelyn Glennie points out in her introduction, today’s percussionist benefits from the current state of world music and “an explosion of world percussion.” Rocky Maffit’s text and Chris Brown’s photos celebrate that explosion with a round-the-world show-and-tell. The short texts for instruments and instrument families are serviceable and friendly, the photos entrancing. We see the blur of motion when two musicians have at the Ugandan amadinda (sort of an oversized marimba with yard-long bars) and when four musicians play the Indonesian gamelan (a largely percussive orchestra). But more often Brown simply shows us the beauty of the instruments themselves, emphasizing the simplicity of the triangle or a dozen-plus multicolored variations on the African thumb piano.

While Maffit and Brown generally skip Western instruments — from tympanis to the American drum kit — they finish their book with recent inventions, from adaptations of African clay-pot drums to new-style sound sculptures. In other words, the world of percussion instruments, like percussion itself, is open-ended.

This book is good enough to beat.

W. Kim Heron is the managing editor of Metro Times. E-mail

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.