1974, 1997, Music

Percussion Music: Works by Varese, Colgrass, Saperstein, Cowell, Wuorinen (1974, 1997, Nonesuch) by the New Jersey Percussion Ensemble

This is a fine selection of modern “art music” attempts to break out of western traditions by making percussive music. Not really knowing a ton about any of the composers, save Varese, that’s tough for me to say, but it seems a fair sample.

Colgrass’s piece in particular is a highlight.

It’s nice to see that there was an orchestra dedicated to this kind of music back in the ’70s, a time when one would thing there would be a least some empathy between rock musicians trying to expand their horizons and “art” composers and ensembles trying to expand theirs.

Not having the ears I’d like to have, I can’t tell you exactly why this is so neat, just that it is.


“The New Jersey Percussion Ensemble, directed by Peter Jarvis, was founded in 1968 by Raymond DesRoches. Because of the ensemble‚Äôs ongoing commitment to the proliferation of percussion repertoire, numerous pieces have been written for, premiered and recorded by the ensemble. The NJPE has appeared in numerous venues in the United States and Europe as guests of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Radio Group for Contemporary Music, the Composers Guild of New Jersey, the San Francisco Symphony, the Gaudeamus Foundation Denmark, and countless others.

The New Jersey Percussion Ensemble has been in residence at William Paterson University since 1972.” – from Nonesuch

The New Jersey Percussion Ensemble:

  • Raymond DesRoches, director, conductor (1-3)
  • Joseph Brice,
  • Gary Van Dyke,
  • Edmund Fay,
  • Vincent Graziano,
  • Richard Hass,
  • Doreen Holmes,
  • Kenneth Hosley,
  • Martin Martini,
  • Eugene McBride,
  • Louis Odd,
  • Angelo Olivieri,
  • Joseph Passaro,
  • Matthew Patuto,
  • Vincent Potutu, Jr.,
  • Dean Poulsen,
  • James Pugliese,
  • Mark Schipper, percussion (1-3)

For Wuorinen’s Percussion Symphony:

  • James Hurst, glockenspiel
  • Doreen Holmes, chimes
  • Bruce Tatti, xylophone
  • Kenneth Hosley, vibraphone
  • Richard Sacks, marimba
  • Dean Poulsen, celesta
  • Aleck Karis, piano I
  • Diane Battersby, piano II
  • Dale Diesel, inside piano
  • Gary Van Dyke, Mark Schipper, Anthony Cinardo, timpani
  • Ernest Buongiorno, antique cymbals
  • Vincent Varcadipane, triangles, bell plates
  • James Pugliese, brake drums, almglocken
  • Jeffrey Pinnas, low cymbals
  • Robert Paddock, Ted Sturm, Michael Holmes, gongs
  • Peter Jarvis, gongs, woodblock
  • Peter Alexander, temple blocks, tambourine
  • Louis Oddo, roto toms
  • Charles Descarfino, Anthony De Falco, drums
  • Charles Wuorinen, conductor


  • Recorded March 1978 at the John Harms Englewood Plaza for the Performing Arts, Englewood, New Jersey
  • Engineering and musical supervision: Marc J. Aubort and Joanna Nickrenz
  • Mastering: Robert C. Ludwig
  • Coordinator: Teresa Sterne

Cover Art: Don Brautigam


  1. Under Ray’s splendid direction-we were auditioning and performing many new works, as well as older percussion compositions by composers such as Cowell. Several of these works, notably the percussion symphony, were written specifically for us in the ensemble, a pretty big honor. Ray had also performed for Pierre Boulez. watching Ray DesRoches perform as a soloist and in ensemble in NYC was a lesson in inspiration-he was gifted performer in his own right. Pushed as all to bring out our best efforts-was a perfectionist/purist when it came to all things musical. i was privileged to be part of this, some of the most difficult and fascinating music I’d ever heard, before and to the present in 2020. I changed my major at WPU, just to get into this performing ensemble after watching only one of the ensemble’s performances on campus, in 1972 just as they were formally becoming the New jersey Percussion Ensemble.

    1. Well this is a surprise and an honour. Thank you!

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