Bradford and Dorothea Endicott commissioned the ten-minute work DNA for Frank Epstein and the NEC Percussion Ensemble.
The premiere performance took place on April 13, 2003 in Jordon Hall, at the New England Conservatory. Frank Epstein subsequently took the piece for performances to the Tanglewood Festival in July/August of 2003.
DNA is written for percussion quintet as a way of capitalizing on the notion of DNA, and its role as the building block of all biological life. Deoxyribonucleic acid, as we know it chemically, is an elegant form, made up of double helixes and double strands in an endless spiraling ribbon. Using this feature as a starting point - the piece is built around pairs of instruments which are featured prominently throughout: high-hats, castanets, timbales, and snares appear in duos — and like the base pairs of DNA — conspire to make a whole work.
The fifth percussionist is primarily a soloist, an outsider to the pairs — playing on temple blocks, tambourine and congas — until he joins them in passages of trios, quartets and quintets.
Joan uses the basic concept of DNA in teaching all the time, when she is urging her students to find the "DNA," or building blocks of an idea for themselves.
DNA is dedicated to Frank Epstein, who is a percussionist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Opening the disc in a wave of vibrant energy, Joan Tower’s DNA is high on impact
David Denton, David's Review Corner,01/06/2011
Joan Tower’s DNA begins with silence, progresses to rhythms on bells and the symbol, and then adds wood blocks for timbre. The wood blocks present what could almost be called a theme, with a pentatonic-sounding pattern. Tower certainly has a good sense of timbre in her orchestration for percussion, perhaps the result of her having lived in South America as a child. This is a visceral piece, one in which the listener can truly feel the rhythms.
V. Vasan, Allmusic.com,01/06/2011
...a tightly choreographed, texturally engaging work for percussion quintet
Allan Kozinn, The New York Times,09/05/2011
Tower's love for sheer sound is further evident in DNA, in which five percussionists share delicate and thunderous patterns by brushing, tapping and striking an assortment of instruments. What results is no bangfest but a varied unfolding of glistening sonorities and rhythmic complexities.
Donald Rosenberg, Cleveland Plain Dealer,01/01/0001
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Works for Percussion by this Composer
DNA – Percussion Quintet
Percussion Quartet (Tower) – Percussion Quartet
Small (for percussion solo) - Multiple Percussion
Small Plus - Percussion Quartet
Strike Zones – Solo Percussion; Multiple Percussion; Orchestra