by Mark Berry
Instrumentation: 4 timpani (32", 29", 26", 23")
Mehterân, for solo timpani, explores the history of the Janissary Corps. The “Janissaries” were infantry soldiers of the Ottoman Empire. Their music is considered to be the oldest form of marching military music in the world. Their bands were known as mehterân.
This piece draws influence from both the music of the Janissaries and their life experience in a historical context. The ominous sounds of their percussion—the kös, the nakkares, the davul, and the çevgen—are all evoked from the timpanist. Loosely programmatic, the seven movements of this work portray musically the historic military conflicts fought by the Janissaries, exploring both victory and defeat.
The music of the mehterân influenced European composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven, Josef Haydn, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The modern timpani used in Western music today are descended from instruments used by the Janissary Corps’ mehterân.