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Five Scrolls of Musashi optional download charge

mp3 files

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first scroll: Earth
second scroll: Water
third scroll: Fire
fourth scroll: Air
fifth scroll: Void
performed by Bill Solomon

Five Scrolls of Musashi

for solo timpanist w/ bass drum and tam tam

In 1645, Miyamoto Musashi, arguably the greatest Japanese duelist of his time, wrote his treatise on strategy applicable to one-on-one swordsmanship, one-against-many conflict, and large-scale battle.  The text contained the basics of Musashi’s own “Two Heavens” school of the sword.  Divided into five scrolls (or “rings”) named after the five elements, his text is the inspiration for this set of short pieces for solo timpanist.

The First Scroll (Earth) serves as an introduction within both the Musashi text and this set of pieces.  Influenced by Takemitsu’s percussion writing for the score to Kurosawa’s Ran, this scroll serves to prepare the listener for a solo timpanist’s performance.  Musashi uses the Second Scroll (Water) to comment on the basics of swordsmanship, and so this piece is based on simple iaido forms, with a particular focus on independence of limbs.

The Third and Fourth Scrolls (Fire and Wind) are heavily influenced by two significantly different ensembles from traditional Japanese music: the taiko and gagaku, respectively.  The aggressive qualities of taiko performance combined with the final duel of Hiroshi Inagaki’s Samurai Trilogy to inspire and shape “Fire,” representative of Musashi’s scroll on conflict.  Contrastingly, the gagaku’s ethereal melodies guided the creation of the fourth piece in this set, where the timpani sing a hushed, airy tune.

Finally, the Fifth Scroll (Void) is Musashi’s take on the Zen concept of No Mind.  The timpanist performs an ostinato pattern on the four drums but the focus lies in the tuning of the drums.  Ideally performed without tuning gauges, this piece forces the player into a state of No Mind.


duration: ~15 minutes

premiered by Bill Solomon on March 5, 2005, at the Hartt School of Music