Last spring (February, 2016) I spent several days in Meductic, NB working on some projects for the Sabian Cymbal Company. My main job was to select and mate 60 pairs of 18 inch Artisan Traditional Medium Light Crash orchestral cymbals. It was some of the most physically demanding work I’ve done in my life, and took all of two days to complete. The experience was aurally very interesting, and a bonus for me was I would be playing the cymbal part to Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony one week later. My cymbal chops, not to mention my calluses, were in great shape for the performance.
I was also slated to film a video demo for my special bowing cymbal, developed for Sabian around 15 years ago. The idea for this model came about partly in response to an experience I had as a jury member for a percussion competition in Geneva, Switzerland. One of the required pieces was a complex multi-percussion work that had several passages scored for bowed suspended cymbal. Every one of the competitors had difficulty making a consistent and convincing sound on their cymbals, and the usual approach to performance – that is, mounting the cymbal on an upright floor stand, and then stabilizing it with one hand while drawing the bow with the other – looked awkward and insecure, especially in places where the bowed sound was part of a rapid complex phrase involving other percussion instruments. The cymbal I designed, when mounted as suggested in the video, is playable using only one hand if necessary. It’s also possible to use the other hand to create a variety of harmonics by pinching the cymbal at various points along its radius. A player can even hold a bow in each hand and create continuous sounds – a technique I have used a number of times in performance. The cymbal itself (pictured above) is thick and heavy, with no polishing applied to the edge. The plate is octagonal, having four straight sides and four curved ones. You can see and hear the instrument in the following video: Bob Becker Bow Cymbal