Percussion Ensemble Music by Howard J. Buss

Compositions and Arrangements
Grading Scale:
I-II: Easy
III-IV: Intermediate
V-VI: Advanced
                               Search by Instrumentation

Percussion ensemble music  Listed in alphabetical order, durations in parenthesis:

AMERICAN PHOENIX (2001) for solo bass trombone (or tuba) and 4 percussion was commissioned for the 30th Anniversary of the International Trombone Association following the important world events of September 11, 2001 It was premiered by Stefan Sanders and the University of North Texas Percussion Ensemble at the 2002 International Trombone Festival. It is in 3 movements: In Remembrance 9/11/01, Repercussions, and Renewal. Percussion: Perc. 1: Xylophone, tubular bells (chimes), suspended cymbal, snare drum, police whistle & Chinese bell tree; Perc. 2: Vibes, suspended cymbals, tom toms, bongos & wood block; Perc. 3: Marimba, tam-tam, lion roar, ratchet, slapstick, wind chimes & suspended cymbal; Perc. 4: Marimba (to low A), timpani (4), tambourine, cowbells & suspended cymbal. "Buss’ melodies vary. They are mystic, poignant, heroic, often modal, and at times reminiscent of folk songs. He writes for the percussion ensemble with mastery and features a wide range of instruments. The sound landscape is rich with many moods and timbres. American Phoenix is an attractive addition to a solo program or as a feature piece for a percussion recital. It is rewarding for both performer and audience.” - The ITA Journal, January 2005   Video on YouTube
(15’) Grade V.
Score Samples: Mvt. 1 “In Remembrance” 9/11/01.pdf; Mvt. 2 “Repercussions”.pdf;

Mvt. 3 “Renewal”.pdf

Sound Samples: Movement 1 (In Remembrance 9/11/01), Excerpt A.mp3; Excerpt B.mp3;

Movement 2 (Repercussions), Excerpt A.mp3; Excerpt B.mp3;

Movement 3 (Renewal), Excerpt A.mp3; Excerpt B.mp3

Music available from Cimarron Music Press

THE BIG BANG (1992) for 6 percussion & piano. This work in 2 movements is a musical representation of the “Big Bang” theory of the creation of the universe which contends that our expanding universe began as a colossal explosion at a single point in space. During the first movement, The Creation, all musical development grows out of an initial blast of sound. Waves of sound mass gradually crystallize into definite pitches leading to the formation of the natural harmonic series. 12-tone fragments intertwine and gradually coalesce into perceptible melodies. Midway the “spark of life" is introduced in an abrupt shift of musical activity. The animated second movement, Dance of Life, is a joyous celebration of life. Percussion distribution: Perc. 1: suspended cymbals, brake drums, cowbells, temple blocks, tam-tam & sand blocks; Perc. 2: Orchestra bells, roto toms & triangle; Perc.3: Flexitone, timpani, wind chimes, bongos & a thunder sheet (or a large tam-tam); Perc. 4: Xylophone, suspended cymbal, bass drum & chimes (tubular bells); Perc. 5: Marimba, anvils (metal pipes may be substituted), tambourine, finger cymbals & triangle; Perc. 6: Vibes, chimes (tubular bells) which are shared with player 4, snare drum, suspended &tam-tam. (18’)  Grade V-VI.
Sound Samples from the First Movement:
Sample 1A.mp3; Sample 1B.mp3; Sample 1C.mp3;

Sound Samples from the Second Movement:
Sample 2A.mp3; Sample 2B.mp3; Sample 2C.mp3

View on YouTube at The Big Bang: I. “The Creation” and The Big Bang: II. The Dance of Life

Music available from Cimarron Music Press

COEXISTENCE (1979) for clarinet and 4 percussion. Dramatic tension permeates this work as the solitary clarinet is pitted against the potentially explosive and overpowering might of the percussion ensemble. Timbral modulations figure prominently throughout the work. Percussion distribution: Perc. 1: Xylophone, chimes (tubular bells), orchestra bells, om toms, sizzle cymbal, tam-tam, triangle & wind chimes; Perc. 2: Vibes, celesta (muted orchestra bells may by substituted), triangle, tambourine, temple blocks, maracas, & snare drum; Perc. 3: suspended cymbals, triangle, cow bell, snare drum, bass drum & tam tam; Perc. 4: Marimba, timpani, cow bell, large tam-tam (may be shared with players 1 and 3), ratchet, whip, hi-hat & wind chimes. “An exquisite concert piece that will keep listeners on the edges of their seats! “ - The Clarinet.”This is recommended literature.” - Percussive Notes (9’) Grade V.
Sound Samples: Excerpt 1.mp3; Excerpt 2.mp3; Excerpt 3.mp3 - View on YouTube

Music available from Cimarron Music Press

Concerto for Marimba and Percussion Ensemble_Buss_coverCONCERTO FOR MARIMBA AND PERCUSSION ENSEMBLE (2017). The percussion ensemble uses 4 players. It was premiered at the 2018 McCormick Marimba Festival in Tampa. Its 3 continuous, unnamed movements follow a haunting and somewhat mysterious introduction. References to the opening phrases of the introduction are made throughout the composition. The first movement is in two main parts: The first resembles a chain of joyous episodes, each flowing into the next as the musical narrative unfolds. This gives way to a series of passages that become increasingly developmental. The second movement is in a lively 6/8. It is in ternary form features a substantial marimba cadenza in the central section. The finale movement revives the joyful character of the first and includes a short intense passage before building to a rousing finish.
(15’) Solo part: Grade V-VI., ensemble parts: Grade IV.
Samples: Percussion setup.pdf; Score.pdf; Solo Part.pdf

Music available from Cimarron Music Press

CROSSROADS (2011) for 4-part trombone choir and 8 percussion is dedicated to Tom Brantley and Robert McCormick. The University of South Florida Trombone Choir and Percussion Ensemble premiered it in Tampa in 2012. The trombone parts may be performed with a quartet; however, it is desirable to have multiple players used on each part except in those areas where the score specifically specifies one player on a part for a particular passage. (15’40”) Grade V. "Somewhat contemporary sounding, with jazz and Latin influences, one's interest is held for the entirety. The two instrument families are well integrated throughout. Some sections are extremely lyrical in the percussion ensemble and rhythmic in the trombones, vice versa in others. This compositional technique allows for great clarity throughout the work. An enjoyable work for the performers and audience." -Susan Martin Tariq, Percussive Notes Magazine. YouTube Video

Additional Information:  Percussion setup page.pdf   General notes and instructions.pdf

Sound Samples: Excerpt_1.mp3, Excerpt_2.mp3, Excerpt_3.mp3, Excerpt_4.mp3

Music available from Cimarron Music Press

CURRENTS (1976) for 4 percussion is divided into 4 main sections that explore various perspectives of the principles of timbral and metric modulation. Timbral and metric “currents” in the music interact and blend in a manner analogous to currents in physical mediums. In addition, there is an element of implied theater. As the work begins, 3 percussionists are conducted in the traditional manner by the fourth. Next to the conductor, clearly visible in front of the main percussion battery, is a wooden board bridging 2 saw horses and a carpenter’s hand saw. These sit idly through much of the work, long enough to arouse curiosity in the audience. Midway through the work the conductor lifts the saw overhead and strikes it. This serves as a cutoff gesture and also establishes that the saw is an “extension” of the conductor’s baton. The saw remains idle until the beginning of the fourth division of the work where it is used simultaneously as a “baton” and a percussion instrument by the director, who saws through wood, scrapes the saw’s teeth, slaps it on the board, strikes it with a mallet, and waves it in the air. At the very end of the work the conductor sets down the saw and walks behind the players to play the tam-tam. In doing so, he continues to direct the ensemble through the explosive conclusion. Percussion distribution: Perc. 1: anvils (metal pipes may be substituted), cow bells, snare drum, suspended cymbals, tambourine, timpani, xylophone & wind chimes; Perc. 2: hi-hat, maracas, suspended cymbals, triangle, large tam-tam, tom toms, and vibes; Perc. 3: Bass drum, guiro, marimba, suspended cymbals, temple blocks & triangle; Perc. 4 (conductor): Carpenter’s saw, a 2x2” wooden board & saw horses. “A memorable combination of percussive artistry and theatrical class “ - The Washington Post. (14’) Grade V-VI.
Howard J. Buss: Modern Times available from the composer. View on YouTube

Sound Samples: # 1.mp3, # 2.mp3, # 3.mp3, # 4.mp3

Music available from Cimarron Music Press

DREAM SEQUENCE (1987) for trombone (or euphonium) and 4 percussion was inspired by Carl Sagan’s poetic observation about dreams: “Late at night, when it is very still and the obligatory dreams have been dreamt, the gazelles and dragons begin to stir.” Subdued, mystical sections contrast with energetic and rhythmic episodes in a manner resembling a progression of dreams. Percussion distribution: Perc. 1: Marimba, celesta (muted orchestra bells may be substituted), suspended cymbal, claves, & cow bells; Perc. 2: Vibes, maracas, bass drum & temple blocks; Perc. 3: Orchestra bells, guiro & suspended cymbals; Perc. 4: Chimes (tubular bells), bongos, wind chimes, tam-tam, triangle & lion roar. “Worth programming and highly recommended.” - Percussive Notes.
(10’) Grade V.
View on YouTube  Sound Samples: Excerpt 1.mp3; Excerpt 2.mp3; Excerpt 3.mp3

Music available from Cimarron Music Press

ECLIPSE for flute, oboe, clarinet, trumpet, horn, trombone, and three percussion was composed in 1974. There is a feeling of suspense throughout during this musical representation of a solar eclipse.
Sound Samples: Excerpt 1.mp3; Excerpt 2.mp3  - Video on YouTube                 

Order from  Subito Music.

ESCAPADE (1991) for alto sax and 4 percussionexplores a sequence of emotional states which develop over a talea, a fixed pattern of time values. Except during the extended sax cadenza, this repeating rhythmic pattern can be heard throughout the work in varying degrees of intensity. At times it is forcibly presented by the musicians moving in rhythmic unison. On other occasions the talea is fragmented and distributed among the players. Frequently this rhythmic pattern is embedded in the presentation of melodic material similar to the technique of isorhythm as it was employed by 14th-century masters such as Machaut and de Vitry. The continuous variation of the unifying talea coupled with the work’s intriguing melodies and exotic timbral contrasts, make this an accessible and enjoyable concert work. Percussion distribution: Perc. 1: Timpani, temple blocks, snare drum and suspended cymbals; Perc. 2: Orchestra bells, xylophone, maracas, triangle, cow bells, suspended cymbal & chime tree; Perc. 3: Vibes, tam-tam, roto toms & claves; Perc. 4: Marimba, guiro & suspended cymbals. “By far the night’s most memorable piece.” - The Los Angeles (11’30”) Grade IV-V.
Sound Samples: Excerpt 1.mp3; Excerpt 2.mp3; Excerpt 3.mp3 - View on YouTube

Music available from Cimarron Music Press

MODERN TIMES (1995) for narrator, flute, and 4 percussion (words and music by Howard J. Buss). Provocative, at times mystical, and occasionally humorous, this work addresses an eclectic range of subjects such as taxes, neglected children, team mascots, and the information glut. “The tenor of Buss’ social commentary is somewhere between the witty jeering of Mark Twain and the pithy insights of Sinclair Lewis. In his free verse one finds provocation without violence and intense anger without profanity.” - The Tampa Tribune.
The sophisticated music of Modern Times transports the poetry into the dramatic and colorful sound world of the flute and percussion ensemble. The result is a unique and fresh view of the culture(s) in which we live. “The writing is mature and fresh, yet is within reach of a solid college ensemble.” - George Frock, Percussive Notes Magazine. “This work is well-paced, colorful and accessible to audiences not familiar with complex percussion literature.This is truly one of the finest works in our idiom.” Robert McCormick, Florida Percussive News.
The 8 movements may be performed individually or in smaller Howard J. Buss: Modern Timesavailable from the composer.
I. Info Glut (3:34) Sound Sample.mp3

II. Night Tide (2:49) Sound Sample.

III. The Hunt (4:14) Sound Sample.

IV. Five Question Interlude (3:01) Sound Sample

V. The Asphalt Blanket (3:11) Sound Sample

VI. To a Neglected Child (5:25) Sound Sample

VII. Giggles!?! (1:57) Sound Sample.

VIII. Modern Times (5:26) Sound Sample#1
.mp3; Sound Sample#2.mp3

Video on YouTube

Percussion distribution: Perc. 1: Xylophone, lion roar, tam-tam, vibraslap, suspended cymbals, Chinese bell tree & bongos; Perc. 2: Marimba, snare drum, bass drum, anvils (metal pipes may be substituted), glass jug or jars (to be broken for the sonic effect), conga drum, wind chimes & triangle; Perc. 3: Vibes, roto toms, tambourine, tam-tam, police whistle, shaker, duck call; Perc. 4: Orchestra bells, timpani, agogo bells, suspended cymbals, hi-hat, wind chimes, wood block, frog croak (may be imitated vocally), boing box effect (a flexitone may be substituted), triangle & guiro. (30’) Grade V.

Music available from Cimarron Music Press

MYSTERIOUS EXIT (1993) for flute and 4 percussion. The title refers to the inexplicable disappearance of the 14th Century Sinagua Indians who inhabited an area in what is now the State of Arizona. This work was inspired by the composer’s visit to the Sinagua pueblo ruins and is a musical representation of how the Sinaguan culture graced the austere and forbidding landscape of the region. The central section of the piece exhibits some of the intriguing rhythmic asymmetry found in Hopi dance songs. Recorded on the CD “Premiers Vol. I”, available from the composer.

Sound Sample#1.mp3; Sound Sample#2.mp3 - Percussion distribution: Perc. 1: Orchestra bells, temple blocks, suspended cymbals, rattle & wind chimes; Perc. 2: Marimba & suspended cymbal; Perc. 3: Xylophone & suspended cymbal; Perc. 4: Vibes, tom tom, sleigh bells, rattle, suspended cymbals & a bell tree. (11’30”) Grade IV-V. - View on

Music available fromCimarron Music Press

OVERTURE FOR PERCUSSION (2003) for percussion quartet was composed for Juan Ponsoda and the OSA Quartet de Percussio’ of Spain. It is an exciting romp through vigorous, yet intricate passages. Each percussionist performs on several different instruments and all have significant solo passages. Percussion distribution: Perc. 1: Xylophone, suspended cymbals & bongos; Perc. 2: Vibes, tambourine & tom toms (5); Perc. 3: Marimba, chimes (tubular bells), suspended cymbals, tam-tam & temple blocks; Perc. 4: Marimba, timpani & suspended cymbals. This is a great concert opener. “A traditionally oriented quartet with a lively Polynesian/Oriental flavor, its contrapuntal melodies overlap and dovetail beautifully, as gracious cymbal swells connect each phrase and change of instrument.”- Percussive Notes. (6’) Grade V.
Recorded on the Capstone Records CD Howard J. Buss: Modern Times, available from the composer. View on YouTube

Score Sample.pdf;   Percussion Set-up Chart.pdf

Sound Sample#1.mp3; Sound Sample#2.mp3;   Sound Sample#3.mp3

Music available from Cimarron Music Press

Reflective Journey_Buss coverREFLECTIVE JOURNEY for horn and percussion quartet is dedicated to hornist Andrew Pelletier and percussionist Roger Schupp. The musical thrust of this work is analogous to a spiritual voyage one may experience while dealing with a major crisis. The sections of the composition exude much contrast and transverse a wide range of moods - from the hauntingly pensive, to tender lyricism, to jubilation. (14’40”)  Grade V.
Sound samples: Excerpt 1.mp3; Excerpt 2.mp3; Excerpt 3.mp3; Excerpt 4.mp3

Percussion Set-up.pdf;   Score Sample.pdf; Solo part sample.pdf

Music available from Cimarron Music Press

SCI-FI PERCUSSIVES for twelve percussion is a riveting fantasy in 3 movements: Prelude to Contact, Alien Probes and Aggressions. Buss states, “I have always been fascinated by the human ability to disregard the tangible in order to embrace the intangible. Whether the intangibility involves the belief in a Deity, the enthusiastic acceptance of a conspiracy theory, or being engrossed in a movie about something as implausible as a Martian invasion, a leap of faith is required to enter the magical realm of the imagination.”
Percussion distribution: Perc. 1: Orchestra bells, conga drum & suspended cymbals; Perc. 2: Xylophone & wood block; Perc. 3: Marimba; Perc. 4: bongos, suspended cymbals, slapstick, air raid siren; Perc. 5: Vibes; Perc. 6: Marimba; Perc. 7: Timpani, cowbell & crotales (one octave); Perc. 8: Roto toms, tam-tam, lion roar, bass drum, maracas, suspended cymbals, triangle, bell tree, snare drum & hi-hat; Perc. 9: Orchestra bells, tubular bells (chimes), sleigh bells, guiro, temple blocks & maracas, Perc. 10: xylophone & snare drum; Perc. 11: Marimba; Perc. 12: Bongos, suspended cymbals & ratchet. Percussion Set-up Chart.pdf

Score samples: Mvt.1 “Prelude to Contact.pdf,, Mvt.2 “Alien Probes”.pdf, Mvt.3 “Aggressions”.pdf,
Sound samples: Mvt.#1.mp3, Mvt.#2.mp3, Sample A, Mvt.#3.mp3, Sample B, Mvt.#3.mp3                     
On stage the percussionists are arranged into 3 quartets. Each group consists of a set of pitched and non-pitched instruments. For the most part, the positioning of the players is for the sake of balance; however, there are sections in the music where the parts are choreographed for special sonic and visual effects.
(18’) Grade V.
YouTube videos: I. Prelude to Contact, II. Alien Probes; III. Aggressions

Music available from Cimarron Music Press

Spanish memoirs_BussSPANISH MEMOIRS (2004) for solo trumpet & percussion quartet is characterized by spicy, zesty Latin rhythms juxtaposed with soaring lyrical melodies influenced by jazz. The music is both accessible and sophisticated, audiences love it! Percussion distribution: Perc. 1: vibes, snare drum, conga drum, tambourine & wood block; Perc. 2: marimba, sand blocks & claves; Perc. 3: marimba & guiro; Perc. 4: marimba, bass drum, suspended cymbals, bongos, maracas & tam-tam.
(10’) Grade V.
"...sure to be applauded by soloist, ensemble and audience alike. A melodious trumpet part, an animated accompaniment featuring toe-tapping rhythms, some flashy mallet playing, and the influences of the jazz and Latin idioms will go a long way to ensure the success of this piece." - John R. Raush, Percussive Notes - June 2005. Recorded on the CD Spanish Memoirs by Diego Arias and Yu-Jung Chung et al (available from IBS Classical).
score sample.pdf, performance notes.pdf

Sound samples: Excerpt 1.mp3, Excerpt 2.mp3, Excerpt 3.mp3, Excerpt 4.mp3

Music available from Cimarron Music Press

Spectrum_Buss cover artSPECTRUM (2015) for bass clarinet and percussion quartet was written for clarinetist Dr. Keith Koons and the University of Central Florida Percussion Ensemble. The structure of this work is suggestive of a journey through a sequence of colorful sonic landscapes. It is a showcase for the bass clarinet as well as the percussion ensemble. The music uses the entire practical range of the bass clarinet, exploring its impressive array of expressive capabilities. From the haunting beauty its low register to the agile brilliance of its upper range, this work reveals the great diversity of moods that can be created with the instrument as well the salient technical characteristics that distinguish it from the other woodwinds. The percussion ensemble, even when used as an accompaniment for the soloist, uses a wide array of timbres and textures. An undercurrent of energy and suspense is added to the musical tapestry as a result of the inherent tension between the soloist and the potentially overpowering might of the percussion battery. (13’50”) Grade V.
Sound samples: Excerpt 1.mp3, Excerpt 2.mp3,

Excerpt 3.mp3; Excerpt 4.mp3; Excerpt 5.mp3

Video on YouTube

Music available from Cimarron Music Press

WHERE NOW RUSTS THE IRON? (1994) Version for high voice, flute, cello and 6 percussion is a dramatic tribute to the composer’s grandfather who, like many ironworkers in his day, worked under brutal conditions with the dream of making life better for future generations. “A moving work touching our communal soul.” (8’) Grade IV-V.
Voice and piano version score sample: Excerpt.pdf
Voice, flute, cello, & 6 percussion version score sample: Excerpt.pdf
Percussion distribution: Perc. 1: Timpani (4), orchestra bells, tubular bells (shared with perc. 2) & finger cymbals; Perc. 2: anvils (metal pipes may be substituted) & tubular bells (shared with perc. 1: Perc.3: Xylophone & suspended cymbal; Perc. 4: Vibes & suspended cymbal; Perc. 5: marimba; Perc. 6: suspended cymbals, tam-tam, wind chimes & bell tree. Perc. Set-up Chart .pdf

Music available from Cimarron Music Press

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Percussion Music Index:                                                                   
Click on an instrumentation link, works are listed in alphabetical order within each category.

Solo percussion - unaccompanied

One percussion with one other instrument
or voice

Two percussion with one other instrument

Three or more percussion with piano

Percussion ensembles

Percussion in chamber music

Howard J. Buss, Composer       

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Percussion Music, graded catalog.
Product description: Percussion: Solos, Duos, Ensembles, Chamber Music, and Recordings