Bass Drum, Cymbal, and Triangle

Mar 21, 2019

Credit SC Public Radio/Mary Noble Ours

It was a fad that brought the bass drum, cymbals, and triangle to Europe. The fad was for a kind of Turkish military music known as Janissary music. The Janissaries were the personal guard of the Turkish Sultans, and they were famous for their bands, which featured the bass drum, cymbals, triangle, and an instrument of bells and jingles called the Turkish crescent.


During the 1700's, military bands all over Europe copied the style—and imported the instruments—of the Janissaries, and by the end of the century composers were including the instruments in orchestral compositions in order to provide exotic flavor. Mozart used bass drum, cymbals, and triangle to establish a “Turkish” atmosphere in his opera The Abduction from the Seraglio, and Beethoven used bass drum, cymbals, and triangle in the finale of his Ninth Symphony to evoke the sound of a military band on the march.

A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.