Bushido: the Way of the Warrior by John Willmarth

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Bushido: the Way of the Warrior by John Willmarth

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Timpani Solo.

Bushido was the second prize winner in the 2006 Percussive Arts Society Composition Contest.




The samurai were not merely trained assassins, but lived by a strict ethical code know as Bushido (literally meaning “the way of the warrior”). The code influenced all aspects of life and is comparable to the Western concept of chivalry. The samurai were, of course, fierce warriors, but also strongly believed in honor, kindness, frugal living and above all, loyalty to their lord. The ultimate honor was to die in service to one’s master. In fact the samurai considered suicide, called seppuku, a brave and admirable alternative to being defeated in battle. As the samurai began their decline and eventual abolishment in 1871, Bushido became the moral standard of the Japanese culture. There are seven principals that embody the spirit of Bushido including: Gi (recitude), Rei (respect), Makoto (honesty) and Chugi (loyalty).

The three movements of this piece represent the Bushido principals of Jin (benevolence), Meiyo (honor and glory) and Yu (courage). Each movement is intended to emphasize a different facet of the timpani and aspect of Japanese music. Jin is a soundscape and therefore deals primarily with color and timbre. It should convey a meditative and reflective mood as well as the kind and wise nature of the samurai. Meiyo focuses on the melodic potential of the timpani and utilizes pedaling to create an “eastern” tonality. It is song-like in character and should exemplify the proud tradition and history of the samurai. Yu explores the rhythmic potential of the timpani and is strongly influenced by the Taiko drumming tradition. It is intended to depict the fierce nature of the samurai in battle.

John Willmarth – April 9, 2006

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