Bang-bang

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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 wkheron@metrotimes.com.

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