Percussive Arts Society

the official blog of the Percussive Arts Society

Donated by Michael Udow, 2008-08-01


The Timbrack is a unique instrument designed and built in 1977 by Michael Udow in collaboration with the Premier Drum Company’s chief of research and development, Peter Spenlove. The instrument, constructed on a basic Premier marimba frame, is a keyboardconfigured, multiple-percussion instrument with thirteen different timbres. This arrangement of the idiophones allows for the use of a standard Western, chromatic notational system. However, the corresponding sounds are not chromatic pitches. Instead, the notation represents specific idiophones that produce different timbres. The rack is also organized so that timbres are duplicated at the octave on the “accidental” locations. 


Built specifically for Udow’s third realization of Herbert Brün’s “Stalk and Trees and Drops and Clouds,” the 48 individual idiophones, all of which include proper mounting for maximum resonance and correctly tuned resonator pipes, can be categorized into wooden and metal elements. 

Wooden Elements: 2 marimba bars (pitched), 2 nabimba bars (pitched), 2 xylophone bars (pitched), 2 claves, 2 woodblocks, 2 temple blocks, 2 wood cylinders (semi-pitched). 

Metallic Elements: 8 vibraphone bars (pitched), 4 glockenspiel bars (pitched), 8 angklung tubes (pitched), 6 tubaphone cylinders (pitched), 4 cowbells (semi-pitched), 4 clock gongs. 


The instrument measures 69 inches in length and 39 inches in width, and has a height of 36 1/2 inches at its tallest point. Though specifically designed for Brün’s piece, other compositions for the Timbrack include “Miniatures for Timbrack” (1977) by the Dutch composer Jan Dhont, and “Tacit,” “Oh My Ears and Whiskers,” “Figures,” and “Nightcrawler,” all composed by Udow for his percussion and dance duo, Equilibrium. 


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