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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Evelyn Glennie


Review by Steve Alspach

Never one to adhere to convention, Drumming is Evelyn Glennie in one of her frequent exploratory moods. For those interested in examining the possibilities of drumming and percussion, whether in a world music setting or through contemporary compositions, this CD is a must-have.

Editor's note: For those prog purists out there, this disc has been included in the prog section for two reasons. The first is the exploratory nature of the album that really makes it hard to categorize. The second reason is the fact that Glennie has worked with Steve Hackett.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
Composed by Louis Cauberghs and joined with Philip Smith on piano, the song starts as a cat-and-mouse collaboration with jazzy overtones. Glennie gets an extended solo in the middle of the piece. The drumming patterns add excellent counterpoint to Smith's piano lines.
Sorbet No. 1 - Latin American Interlude
The first of several short musical interludes (sorbets), Glennie performs with several Latin percussion instruments.
Glennie delves into Afro-Caribbean music with this exploration on the bongos. She uses various techniques, such as using drumsticks and scratching with her fingernails, to explore the various sounds of the bongos. She also uses her voice, a la Trilok Gurtu or Collin Walcott, as a quasi-percussive instrument as well.
Sorbet No. 2 - Chinese Cymbals
Evelyn improvises with a pair of Chinese hand cymbals.
There's a composer, Askell Masson, who writes exclusively for the snare drum. (It's a living.) On this piece, Masson (who can write in some rather strange time signatures) uses the first 16 prime numbers as a rhythmic pattern. If you think that the snare drum is something that simply makes a noise when you hit it, think again: Glennie coaxes more noises out of the snare then you might imagine. And the piece is actually scored, though Evelyn claims to take liberty with the tempo from performance to performance.
Sorbet No. 3 - UDU Trail
Using an mbwata (a clay drum with a hole at the top and in the body) and with llama hoves around her wrist, Evelyn explores world rhythm patterns as Mickey Hart might do.
The Anvil Chorus
This piece by David Lang is a bit Phillip Glass like with its repetitive patterns with a dash of Varese's "Ionisations" (using percussive instruments to create melodies) thrown in. Not the Anvil Chorus that most are familiar with, but an intriguing piece nonetheless.
Sorbet No. 4 - Woodblocks and the Fall
This is a very short piece where, after playing the wooden blocks for a couple seconds, Evelyn tosses her sticks in the air where they hit the cymbal tree. Percussion at its, um, most random.
To the Earth
Composed by Frederic Rzewski, this song uses four flower pots. Glennie also recites a poem, To The Earth Mother Of All, perhaps written around the 7th century B.C., during the piece. The lines of the poem and the musical motifs play with each other throughout.
Sorbet No. 5 - Wood and Metal Chimes
This interesting pastiche, combining thin wooden slabs and Japanese cupbells and a Dobachi, is a smart idea. The wooden slabs, sounding like someone playing wooden spokes on a wheel, contrast starkly to the brightness of the bells.
Pezzo Da Concerto No. 1, Op. 15, For Snare Drum
Nobojsa Zivkovic wrote this piece where Glennie explores the potential of the snare drum even further. Most interesting is the opening few minutes, where Evelyn has disengaged the springs under the drum.
Sorbet No. 6 - Simtak Debut
As far as I know, the Simtak was originally a car muffler, but in Evelyn's world, everything is fair game. Using triangle beaters, she is able to get this instrument to sound like a cross between a bell and a ride cymbal.
Matre's Dance
Composed by New Zealander John Psathas, this piece is based on Frank Herbert's "Dune." Glennie prowls the lower end with tom-toms while Smith lays a rather staccato rhythmic line that never repeats. The piece sounds improvised and gives the image of someone dancing frantically, making up each step as it comes along. Kudos go to Philip Smith for his playing on this piece.
Sorbet No. 7 - Hi-Hat Playout
Stewart Copeland liked the hi-hat since it was one percussion instrument that he felt he had most control over. Glennie goes out with a bang - you can't play solo hi-hat and keep a slow rhythm. The track sounds double-tracked though, unless the engineer is doing something tricky, or Evelyn is playing two hi-hats at once. And with Evelyn, you never know!
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