Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (Performing Arts)


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

First Advisor

Helen Rusak

Second Advisor

Philip Everall

Third Advisor

Tim White


The twentieth century belonged to percussion. In previous centuries, percussion performed a supporting function with its primary role being to accentuate chordal changes and reinforce the beat. By the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries orchestras expanded in size and instrumentation with percussion taking on a more prominent role, particularly in the works of composers such as Debussy, Stravinsky, and Mahler. It was at this moment in time that percussion assumed a new and unique role to express changes in colour and timbre, alongside its rhythmic function. The percussion repertoire of the twentieth century reflected the Zeitgeist, and composers exploited the creative potential of this sonic and textural pallete. This led to the development of various settings of multi-percussion; orchestral, chamber, percussion ensembles, and solo multi-percussion works. This thesis will examine this development throughout the twentieth century focusing on, and clearly defining, the impetus of each setting of multi-percussion composition. It questions the assumption that L’histoire du soldat was the flashpoint in the development of multi-percussion and finds that there were a myriad of factors that contributed to the rapid expansion of the art form.

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