Tank Masters Series

Joseph Tompkins

Marc Damoulakis, Percussion
Jeremy Epp, Percussion
Joseph Tompkins, Percussion
Kevin Watkins, Percussion

Recorded by Jamey Lamar
Commissioned by Strings Music Festival

In 2018, four percussionists came to the Tank to perform this masterful work “4Round,” which was created specifically for the Tank and deeply explores the reverberations of its unique space.

One challenge that Joseph Tompkins faced in composing the work was including the Tank as a performer in its own right.  “It’s a quartet, but you could almost think of as a quintet because the actual Tank has its own part,” notes Tompkins.  “There are moments, particularly at the end of the piece, where the four percussionists don’t play at all and the Tank finishes the piece.”

The result is a meditative, ethereal piece that evokes explorations of space and time in layers of sound.

Tanksounds · Joe Tompkins feat 4Round

For the performance, the quartet gathered around a 36-inch orchestral bass drum and used brooms, paper, even their fingers to produce the sounds, also playing piano, bells, chimes and other instruments.  Tompkins recorded his six year-old niece laughing at a family reunion and used that sound in the work’s conclusion.

“4Round” was featured in a 2020 podcast by Strings Music Festival, with the episode title “Soundscapes of Beyond.”  “It’s the kind of piece that I would suggest listening to either in the dark, or outside and in the dark,” says Tompkins. “It’s about the environment around the performers as much as it is about the actual music.”

Joseph Tompkins is head of the percussion program at Rutgers University. He has performed with the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the New York City Ballet Orchestra, and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, among many others. Tompkins wrote the composition to be performed by himself and three colleagues: Marc Damoulakis (Principal Percussion of the Cleveland Orchestra), Jeremy Epp (Principal Timpani of the Detroit Symphony), and Minnesota Orchestra Percussionist Kevin Watkins.

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