Capture of the U-505 by John Willmarth

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Capture of the U-505 by John Willmarth

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Timpani Solo




“Capture of the U-505” is a programmatic piece influenced by Wagner’s use of Leitmotif: a musical device in which a character, place, or idea is depicted through a musical theme. Throughout the work the top two drums represent the American Naval forces and the bottom drums the German U-boat, the U-505. The piece is comprised of four sections: The U-boat, The Chase, The Battle, and The Capture. The opening reveals the U-boat theme including the characteristic sound of the sonar ping. The one-handed roll technique depicts the rumble of the U-boat engines. The Chase is written in a canonic style in which one hand ‘chases’ the other. The left hand plays the bottom drums in the key of Bb while the right hand plays the top drums in the key of F. Eventually an ostinato is unveiled which rhythmically spells out the distress signal ‘S.O.S.’ in Morse code. In The Battle, small cloth bags filled with coins are placed in the center of the drumhead producing an explosion sound when the head is struck. At ‘agitato’ the performer should improvise for 10-20 seconds using, but not limited to, the given motives in a fragmented rhythmic style (devoid of an easily discernable pulse center). The texture of the improvisation should become increasingly dense throughout. The drums can be tuned to any pitch throughout this section (based on where the performer chooses to end the glissando effects) but should end with the drums in mid-range. A 4-line staff is also used to represent the four drums rather that delineate a specific pitch set. This section should depict the chaos, aggression, and ferocity of battle. An elongated glissando up the drums is used to portray the U-boat surfacing thus ending the battle (this phrase should be performed on the 32” and 29” drums). The Capture brings some of the beginning themes full circle. This time, however, the rumble of the engines is on the high drums representing the American convoy. The drums are tuned to a major tonality depicting a resolution of the conflict throughout. The sonar ping is no longer present but the motive carries on as the sub is towed away.

Special thanks to Jim Campbell, Robert Parks, Brett Paschal, and Brian Zator for their encouragement and guidance on this composition.    -John Willmarth

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