I have always been curious about the timpani. In fact, I have always been intrigued by timpanists themselves. Traditionally, I've been told that timpanists exclusively play timpani in the orchestra, despite timpani being part of the percussion family. Even when the other percussionists are bustling the orchestral stage like ninjas, switching sticks and instruments, all the while flipping through pages of the score, timpanists remain focused solely on their task.
My percussionist friends introduce their timpanist counterparts with a reverence akin to welcoming royalty.
“Just how special is the timpanist?” I wondered. Filled with more suspicion than curiosity.
And I quickly understood when I began collaborating with Joseph Pereira. I sought to understand what makes timpani so special, what Joe prioritizes when he plays. - The tension of the drum skin correlates with the dynamics of the note, its placement within the musical phrase, and the intricate pedal arrangements. Most importantly, I wanted to know when timpanists feel most fulfilled during performances.
I sent Joe scores daily, and in return, he promptly sent me videos of him playing them (it's remarkable how quickly he manages to practice, considering he only received the score four hours prior).
It was a delight to unearth a completely new world of sound for myself. I discovered how to highlight rhythmic, textural, and melodic elements with the timpani, possibilities I never imagined could exist with this instrument.
Now, the timpani holds a special place in my heart.
Dai Fujikura (edited by Joseph Ehrenpreis)