Non Sequitur Music


Play the first minute of Totem, as performed by Bruce Hamilton, Andy Ditzler, Stephen Belans, P. Edwin Surowiak, Jamey Reid, and Brian Mount on percussion, with David Heuser conducting.






















Composer: David Heuser
Instrumentation: Percussion Sextet (two xylophones, two marimbas, two log drums, five timple blocks, and two wood blocks)
Year Composed: 1989
Duration: 4 minutes
Pages (score): 18

Cost: Purchase: $15.00
($30.00 for set of three pieces: Totem, Secrets, and The Way of the Animal Powers

Representative Performances:

  • Georgia State University School of Music Percussion Ensemble, Stuart Gerber, artistic director (November 2008)
  • St. Olaf Percussion Ensemble, Carl Holmquist, conductor (November 2004)
  • St. Cloud State University Percussion Ensemble, Dr. Terry Vermillion, director (March 2002)
  • USF Percussion Ensemble, Robert McCormick, conductor (November 1996)
  • Glassboro State College Percussion Ensemble, Dean Witten, conductor (November 1989)


Excerpts from the February 1997 issue of Percussive Notes (the newsletter of the Percussive Arts Society). Review by Lisa Rogers.

On Totem:
"The keyboard players must have adequate four-mallet skills in order to employ double vertical strokes. Difficulties within this ensemble include: dovetailing of rhythms between voices, lining up triplets and sextuplets against 16th notes, and rhythmical precision of unison sections."

On the whole set (also includes Secrets and The Way of the Animal Powers):
"All three of Heuser's works would be appropriate for college-level or professional players. Heuser is tireless in his experimentation with sounds and timbres; therefore Totem, Secrets, and The Way of the Animal Powers are worthwhile for performers and audiences alike."

Program Notes:

Totem was written in April and June of 1989. It is for six percussionists, all playing wooden instruments. I wanted to create a unified percussion ensemble where the kinds of instruments played by the group would be made of the same material. Totem is part of a trio of percussion sextets which operate under this principle.

Musically the piece deals with issues of mythology and ritual, which have been influencing my music from time to time for a while. I find these influences difficult to portray in strictly instrumental works, particularly since I wish also to remain true to other artistic instincts which I think are important (and perhaps necessary) for my music. That being said, writing for percussion gives one probably the easiest ensemble with which to evoke feelings of ritual, mythology and all their correlating concepts.

Note: Totem can be performed separately or as part of the above mentioned trio of percussion sextets. If all three are played, the order of the pieces is Totem, Secrets, and The Way of the Animal Powers.

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