The Origins Of The Percussion Family

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Examining the Origins of the Percussion Family

To get a clear view of the origins of the percussion family, one should first have to the ability to classify the plethora of instruments. For the sake of this document we will use the broad classification of Janissary instruments and non-Janissary instruments. The Janissary instruments find their roots in the Turkish military bands of the Ottoman Empire. The term Janissary refers to the Turkish Yeñi-çeri, or “new troops”. Sultan Orkhan I, of the Ottoman Empire, created The Janissaries, but his successor, Murad I, officially established the corps circa 1360’s CE. They were originally an elite corps of troops made up of the Sultan’s loyal slaves. The corps eventually picked up the use of
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This is most likely the influence of the Crusades that would have brought Arabic culture, albeit in a violent way, to Europe.
Timpani, as aforementioned, hold an intrinsically military tradition. Because of its use in the Turkish armies, the Europe borrowed the instrument in its armies. These influences can be seen in the earliest uses of timpani. The timpani that were taken from the Arabs were made into an essential element of prestige for the nobility. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries both trumpeters and kettle drummer were restricted to only those of high rank or nobility. This lead to the creation of an exclusive guild to train the instrumentalists. This lead to a surplus of players, especially after the last failed Siege of Vienna in 1683 CE. Due to this surplus, the Classical period, when timpani were used on a regular basis, began to use timpani in a limited fashion. In combination with the trumpets, the timpani mostly played rhythmically driving music. This is best observed in Handel’s Messiah. During the Hallelujah Chorus the trumpets and timpani can be easily heard playing the same material. This pairing is not coincidental, both instruments had a high amount of military background during the time of Handel. So, the pairing would have observed that military tradition, but this military tradition followed the Eastern custom of pairing trumpet with timpani. It is important to note that this trend among the Classical composers to use timpani

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