Improving the practice and performance of contemporary music

Practical difficulties

Finding the best model of spring drum

The model Billone writes for has an extra layer of plastic glued to the body of the drum, which produces contact noises when the glue starts to let go. Therefore, it is better to take the new model (the body is multi-coloured instead of blue with lightning). Here the colour is printed on the carbon body itself, which makes the finger and hand playing on the body much easier and sound better. Another possibility is to peel off the extra layer of plastic on the old model. This won’t affect the sound of the instrument.

Finding the best metal plate

You will need a metal plate to produce the table effects the score asks for, especially for the “feedback” effect when you drag the spring over the table. I used an aluminum plate of 0.8mm, and sometimes I “reinforced” the edge with another smaller aluminum plate of about 1mm thickness. Don’t take plates under 0.8mm; the spring of the spring drum will stick to the plate when dragging it along the side. A very low and big bronze or aluminum bell plate could work as well.

Writing the score on the metal plate

I copied the whole score by hand on the aluminium plate with a permanent CD marker. This takes a lot of time (about 9 hours of writing), but it looks really good on stage and it appears that you actually play the piece by heart. You could also try to have the score printed or etched on the metal plate; however this might be quite expensive.

Amplification versus acoustic playing

A question to ask yourself when playing this piece in a live situation is whether you are going to amplify the drum and the metal plate or not. Without amplification, the piece works fine for an audience up to 100 people if the acoustics are good. But, the audience must be able to hear all the little details in sound and colour; otherwise the piece easily becomes boring. That is why I usually ask for amplification to be ready and then decide at the dress rehearsal if I am going to use it or not. It also depends of course on the rest of the program: if all the other piece are very loud and energetic for example, it might be nice to have a “cooling down” moment in the program and thus to opt for an acoustical version of the piece. Or, if all the other pieces in the program are amplified, it might be wise to amplify “Mani. Mono” in order to maintain the acoustic picture.

When amplifying, I normally use two condenser microphones: one overhead to amplify the body, and one to amplify the metal plate. I also ask the sound engineer to amplify the pitch range of the spring drum even more so the “notes” you play come out more. Otherwise these notes tend to disappear in the overall acoustic.