The Percussionist's Art

The Percussionist's Art

Same Bed, Different Dreams

Steven Schick


University of Rochester Press



An engaging, practical, sometimes poetic account of the new world of percussion music -- from the 1930s (Varese, Cage) to today -- by one of its leading practitioners.
In the beginning there was noise. Drumming, the world's most ancient instrumental tradition, re-emerged explosively in the concert music of the twentieth century as music for percussion, involving drums and many other kinds of noisemakers. The music that resulted has spanned an expressive and intellectual gamut: from Cage, Varèse, and Cowell came the first ear-splitting sounds of an American percussion revolution that began in the 1930s; from Stockhausen, Ferneyhough, and Xenakis we have music whose intellectual demands are matched by a vibrant physicality; Feldman gave us gently unfolding structures; John Luther Adams finds music within the earth itself. The Percussionist's Art: Same Bed, Different Dreams examines this music through the eyes of a performer. The book is a practical philosophy, looking not just at the big ideas behind these and other pieces, but also at how those ideas find expression in sound. Foreword written by Paul Griffiths.
Contains a Compact Disc of Steven Schick performing eight musical works that he discusses in detail in the book. Composers include John Luther Adams, Brian Ferneyhough, Michael Gordon, David Lang, Edgard Varèse, Charles Wuorinen, and Iannis Xenakis.
Steven Schick is the world's leading exponent of solo percussion music involving multiple instruments. He has commissioned more than one hundred pieces from renowned composers including David Lang, Brian Ferneyhough, and Roger Reynolds. He was a founding member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars (1992-2002) and Artistic Director of the Centre International de Percussion de Genève (Switzerland, 2002-4). He teaches at the University of California, San Diego, where he directs the percussion group "red fish blue fish."


May 2006
79 black and white illustrations
272 pages
8x8 in
ISBN: 9781580462143
Format: Hardback
University of Rochester Press
BISAC MUS023020, MUS020000
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Table of Contents

Foreword by Paul Griffiths
Because the World is Round
Learning Bone Alphabet
The Affliction of memory
Face the Music: A look at Percussion Playing
Selected Discography
This Is Not a Drum: Manipulating the Material of Percussion Music
Same Bed, Different Dreams: A Personal Epilogue


A thoroughly impressive endeavour by master percussionist Steven Schick, The Percussionist's Art: Same Bed, Different Dreams is hugely informative and entertaining. Based entirely on Schick's first-hand experiences as a musician, The Percussionist's Art encompasses great insight into some of the great music written for solo percussion. A "must read" for every breathing musician, The Percussionist's Art will also fascinate those curious to know more about the current explosion of interest in the percussion world. --Dr. Evelyn Glennie, OBE, world-renowned solo percussionist

This is a really well-written, extremely knowledgeable, and thoroughly enjoyable book. . . . Incredible insights into and analysis of a huge array of important percussion music by one of our finest players. Highly recommended! --Steve Reich, composer, and author of Writings on Music (1965-2000)

Life-affirming. . . The "Art" in the title is a massive understatement, it should ideally be "The Percussionist's Philosophy, Psychology, Physiology, Theatricality, Choreography, Memory, Learning Process and Freedom of Choice" . . . Handsomely presented with copious score excerpts throughout and a CD of Schick's performances of seven of the pieces examined. --Paul Sarcich, Music and Vision The full review can be consulted at

This book gives scholars, composers, aficionados of percussion music, and percussion students and teachers an invaluable resource that can be considered the definitive source of information about the major works in the solo repertoire and the art of multiple percussion performance. One can scarcely turn the page without finding observations by the author that will help percussionists develop musically, intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. PERCUSSIVE NOTES, 2006

A magnificent work and indispensable book! (Magnifique ouvrage! Indispensable bouquin!) The production aspects (typography, page layout, readability of music examples) match the high standard of the writing. . . . A study written with rigor, but a rigor that leaves room for poetry." PERCU_INFOS 271 (Michel Faligand)

Steven Schick's recent book The Percussionist's Art: Same Bed, Different Dreams is an extraordinary example of musical writing that comes from inside the action. --Paul Griffiths

Author Bio

Steven Schick teaches at the University of California, San Diego, where he directs the percussion group "red fish blue fish."