Posted in Project 1: Percussion solos

Example 4: Short Ote’a Scene for Bass Drum

Note: Before you look at my final project example, you can read my two-part research. The first part is about the Tahitian dance forms, ote’a and the percussion ensembles, and the second about bass drum.

For the final example of Project 1, initially I wanted to do a theme and variations piece. However, I came across the Tahitian drum dance – Ote’a, accompanied by the percussion band, which to me had a similar quality to my initial idea. The band consists of several drums – large pahu that plays the basic beats, fa’atete that plays the subdivisions of the beat, and the to’ere that plays pehe. Pehe are the basic rhythmic patterns of music, repeated or combined to create larger forms. Contrary to fandango, this time I wanted to use the dance to show military characteristics of the bass drum. Although there is very little information about the origins of the dance, some websites, like tahititourisme, do mention that ote’a may have been “originally a somewhat military dance.

Here is the score:


You can listen to it below:

Analysis and reflection

Similar to the previous Kathak example, I have also titled this a short scene, since the dance performance itself would be a lot longer and use a lot more pehe patterns. I do hope to use these rhythms more in future and perhaps do a full piece with a variety of percussion instruments.

The structure of the piece is the simple ternary ABA1. Section A (bars 1-2) starts with the bass drum in p dynamics, representing the pahu that is playing the basic beats, to which I’ve added some ornaments. Section B (bars 3-8) introduces the Paea pehe, and bass drum now imitates the to’ere drum. For pehe, there weren’t many resources available, except for the site here. The notation used is quite interesting, but I just transposed Paea by ear and added several variations. There were also other pehe I could have used, but this Paea wasn’t too long nor short. Section A1 (bars 9-10) repeats the pahu beats in p dynamics with a few variations.

To conclude, I think despite using three dance forms, all four of the short pieces investigate different qualities of the instruments, and also different structures not found in the Western musical tradition. I was also pleasantly surprised how by using only rhythm, which would seem to limit the process for music-making, a lot of different creative solutions I never thought about emerged. This is something that completely changed my perspective about composing music. Continuing on with this exploration, look at my second project here.


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