Third Coast Percussion and Danny Elfman are a match made in heaven. The American composer's scintillating approach to rhythm and orchestral colour is showcased in a dazzling Percussion Quartet." BBC Music Magazine


(1): mar/high & lo tam-t; (2): vib/glsp/mar/chimes/crot/metal pipes/metal bowls/metal flat bars/metal trash/shaker/piccolo wdbl; (3): mar/vib/crot/anvil/bongos/3 wooden planks/trash metal/piccolo wdbl/clave; (4): piccolo wdbl/wdbl/high toms (ethnic)/SD/2 floor tom-t/kick drum


Score and parts on special sale from the Hire Library (

Programme Notes

When I first got the call from Philip Glass inquiring about my interest in writing a new percussion quartet to play alongside his own Perpetulum (in the Days and Nights Festival in Big Sur, California) I had to ponder over it for about 1.3 seconds before agreeing.

Thus began the exciting process of writing my first percussion quartet. One initial challenge was trying to write for a collective group of instruments with as much compatibility with Perpetulum as possible to make the live performance simpler.

Third Coast Percussion were to be performing the piece and we got in touch before I started writing to help work out the logistical side, which can get extremely complicated when you have four musicians constantly switching between many instruments. It becomes, by its very nature, a tightly choreographed performance.

As I wrote I was happy to tap into my many early percussion influences. As I had quite a bit of experience with both West African balafons (similar to a marimba) and Indonesian gamelan. (the metal orchestras of that region) you may notice a lot of those inspirations. The thing that both West African and Indonesian have in common is the five-note pentatonic scale which I use quite a bit. And the interlocking rhythms of the gamelan are also referred to throughout the movements.

When I was young and just getting interested in music in the 70’s I was exposed to quite of bit of Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Lou Harrison and, of course, Mr. Glass, as well as the extremely inventive and eccentric Harry Partch. Echoes of their influences surface from time to time throughout the course of the work.

When it comes down to it I am, at heart, attached to melody, or the idea of melody, so I did try and find motifs and melodies to use throughout each movement as well. This was always in the back of my mind while I wrote. And of course, as with my earlier Piano Quartet, I constantly wished I had just one or two more players... but that’s the beauty of quartets, and the challenge of working with set limitations.

However, in the end I tried to keep it fun and lively and to also find some balance with softer moments. It was a wonderful experience and I hope this is only the first of several attempts at writing a percussion quartet.




"Third Coast Percussion and Danny Elfman are a match made in heaven. The American composer's scintillating approach to rhythm and orchestral colour is showcased in a dazzling Percussion Quartet…"
BBC Music Magazine (Michael Beek), August 2022
"Onetime rockstar, now full-time film composer Danny Elfman has been making inroads into the concert hall with variable success, and his rather pleasing new Percussion Quartet marks the first time that he has written for this configuration. He goes about it in the timeworn format that Haydn and Beethoven would have recognized — a four-movement (fast, slow, scherzo, finale) structure lasting 20 minutes.
The movements launch with what sound like homages to Philip Glass or Steve Reich — repeated minimalist patterns in their styles — yet they all find their way out of the initial repetition machine with a firm grip upon tonality. Among the eclectic details that come and go quickly, look out for a brief riff from the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” near the start of the second movement, a Latin element surfacing late in the scherzo, and some lightly applied Balinese scales in the finale."
San Francisco Classical Voice (RIchard S Ginell), 27 June 2022
"In Danny Elfman’s entertaining, finely structured Percussion Quartet there are moments of poetry and, in the last movement, a spectral haunting with chimes."
Gramophone (Laurence Vittes), August 2022

Percussion Quartet

Recital Studio, Esplanade Theatres on the Bay, University of Singapore (Singapore, Singapore)

Members of Singapore Armed Forces Band

Percussion Quartet

Figge Art Museum (Davenport, IA, USA)

Members of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra

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