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The Percussion Work Book

The Percussion Work Book by Maggie Cotton

Maggie Cotton’s work, The Percussion Work Book isn’t a prose work in the sense of it having a narrative.

It is a book which is a guide book available for players, orchestra managers, orchestral porters particularly, conductors and arrangers. In fact, anybody involved in the administrative side of working with percussion sections in orchestras.

The book is laid out alphabetically and lists all the major repertoire works by major composers which form the core of the standard orchestra repertoire.

Under each entry, Maggie gives us the number of players required, both for timpani and percussion, the number of timpani required (which is a serious omission in other works of this kind) and also, for instance, in the case of three timpani (25,28 & 30, or 28,30 & 32), she tells you whether the third timpani has to be at the lower end of the spectrum, or the higher end, which is a very useful piece of information to have to hand.

It also lists the amount of equipment and what exactly is required for each piece and also tells you the number of players required.

If there is a criticism of this book that one can fairly make, it is that from time to time, within the text of the book, Maggie is prone to make the odd acerbic remark and this might be wrongly interpreted in certain quarters. Also, another slight criticism might be that she undervalues the contribution of players in so far as that she says that a given note might be played by a helpful timpanist, or that the celeste player can be replaced by one of the percussionists and whilst I respect the fact that this may well be the way that she worked in the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, when she was a member there, I am inclined to think that she has lost sight of the fact that not all percussion players play keyboard instruments and therefore are not in a position to double on celeste and I think that this, by and large, is suggesting the wrong thing to orchestral managers and fixers. So, with that one reservation in mind, I think I can wholeheartedly recommend the book for its information content alone, but as I say, I do have my reservations about other aspects of the book.

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