Pendragon Press. The World of Music and the Music of the World.

By Topic:

Quick Search:

Shopping Cart: 0 item


The Timpani

A History in Pictures and Documents

Edmund A. Bowles

568 pp.

448 illustrations

ISBN: 978-0945193852

hardback $110.00

Buy This Book


This volume represents a unique iconographical and documentary history of the timpani. Combining a wealth of pictorial material with extensive written sources, it offers a rich and comprehensive survey of the instrument's history from the middle ages to the present. In so doing, it fills a gap of long standing in the published literature of kettledrums by providing for the first time a combination of visual and descriptive evidence. Presented here is a wide-ranging pictorial lode drawn from a variety of sources - for example, astronomical clocks with their instrumental automata; paintings; baroque organ cases topped by angel-musicians; engravings from books describing court festivals; prints and drawings; decorative etched glassware and inlaid tables; wood carvings; photographs. Written references reflect a wide and fascinating panoply of descriptions concerning the construction, musical contexts, and performance techniques of the timpani - for example, eyewitness accounts chronicling the role of instruments at various historical events; archival documents dealing with payments to musicians or the make-up of instrumental ensembles; regulations concerning court musicians; and even patent specifications. In addition, a prefatory chapter presents a detailed, succinct overview of the history, orchestral role, and performance practices of the timpani, including numerous illustrative musical examples. A chart depicting representative milestones in the music for kettledrums highlights such works as the first published opera featuring timpani, the first major composition for two pairs of drums, music with unusual tunings - very high or very low notes demanding unusually small or large instruments, unique playing techniques such as using the fingers, coins, a wire brush, etc., and the key examples of music requiring multiple timpani and two or more players in various configurations. In short The Timpani: A History in Pictures and Documents is a fascinating and most unusual book, of interest not only to performing musicians, teachers, and scholars alike, but one which provides the general reader or music lover with a glimpse into the world of a hitherto neglected musical instrument.


Edmund A. Bowles:

An acknowledged expert in the history and performance of the timpani, about which he has written and lectured extensively. He studied timpani with Lawrence White of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Hermann Ommen of the Hessian State Orchestra in Wiesbaden while serving in the Army in Germany towards the end of WWII, and attended the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood. In addition, he has been an occasional performer of baroque timpani and participated in early music ensemble recordings of Handel's Messiah.

Dr. Bowles has published widely in the areas of musical iconography, late medieval musical instruments and performance practices, musical ensembles in court festivals of state, and the impact of technology on musical instrument-building. In addition to this present series, his books include Musikleben im 15. Jahrhundert (Leipzig, 1977), Musical Performance in the Late Middle Ages (Geneva, 1983), and Musical Ensembles in Festival Books, 1500-1800: An Iconographical and Documentary Survey (Ann Arbor, 1989. In addition to dozens of articles in scholarly journals, he has contributed to the Dictionary of the Middle Ages, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the New Harvard Dictionary of Music, and the several New Grove dictionaries.

Dr. Bowles is a member of the American Musical Instrument Society and served on its board of directors. He received the Society's Nicholas Bessaraboff Prize for promoting the history, design and use of musical instruments, and was a recipient of its Curt Sachs Award in recognition of his distinguished contribution to the study of musical iconography, performance practices, the history of the timpani, and the use of technology in the service of the arts and humanities.