The Vignellis Suite
For three Uchiwa Daiko and one bass drum
Duration: approximately 5’
About the instrument
Uchiwa Daiko is one of the main percussion instruments of Japanese Buddhist instrumental tradition; it was originally used by the Nichiren Buddhist sect. Now performers from all over the world have embraced this instrument, combining this Japanese drum with sounds from other cultures. Uchiwa Daiko is a fan drum and is most commonly played by holding the fan with one hand and using the other hand to strike the fan with a stick (or bachi). This offers great mobility to the performer. Percussionists also mount a set of many Uchiwa Daikos on stands to be able to perform with both hands.
About the composition
Stream is a piece for three Uchiwa Daikos and one bass drum. This composition is focused on sound itself and navigates through the parameters of density and timbre. I wanted to create a sound mass that would change texture as the piece progressed. In order to create this sonic stream, the piece keeps an ostinato of sixteenth notes in a suggested tempo of 80 BPM. This piece is performed with both hands, with the fans mounted on stands.
By experimenting, I found a wide range of timbres and dynamics. This versatile instrument produces a whole variety of sounds and effects: rim, pitched tones, high and low percussion sounds. A unique timbre is produced when it is played pianissimo and another completely different timbre is heard when it is played triple forte. It is an instrument capable of expressing many temperaments. In Stream, all these sounds were dissected in order to control their performance. The diameter of the fan is divided into sections and the trajectory of where the mallets should strike the drumhead is indicated in the graphic score. The mapping of the drum's surface and the notation allows control of the iteration of specific pitches and textures.
Uchiwa Daiko has a beautiful singing quality. When playing a constant ostinato of sixteenth notes, a fundamental frequency arises, accompanied then by its partials. The pitch of these long tones will depend on the specific section of the leather’s surface that is being played and the space’s level of humidity and temperature. Fast and consistent performance produces a new layer of complex harmonic relations. The pitched use of the drum requires great virtuosity to keep stable control of a sixteenth note ostinato throughout the extreme dynamic range of ppp to fff.
An important factor in the production of harmonics is the space where the performance is taking place. The amplitude of partials will increase or decrease depending on the acoustics of the space. The resulting sound would seem like a drum processed by a computer, but the reality is that this sound is produced by the interaction of three basic elements: the drums, the space, and the performer. The simplicity and rawness of the approach addresses the composition’s focus on sound’s physicality.