Here’s one I made earlier for Mahler 6

Here’s one I made earlier for Mahler 6


norman lebrecht

November 05, 2015

Graham Johns, principal percussion of the Royal Liverpool Phil has been trying out his new Hammerschlag, the box he whacks in Mahler’s sixth symphony for the ‘Knocks of Fate’, using a huge wooden hammer.

Graham made his box from a log found in Sefton Park. It’s based on speaker technology: the diaphragm moves on springs and makes a more resonant ‘thud’ than by hitting an old orange crate as in the past.

I shall look forward to testing it a week from today when I give the pre-concert talk at the Phil.

Come along, details here.

mahler 6 drum


  • Greg says:

    One of the disadvantages of not being fabulously wealthy is one can’t just on the spur of the moment book a flight for a concert in a far away city – otherwise I would be so there! I assume the conductor will be using the ‘two hammer blow’ score but wouldn’t it be cool if he disregarded Mahler’s superstitious omitting of the third blow and allow the percussionist to have at it three times.

    • JayBuyer says:

      I’m sure Simon Rattle used to do the 3 hammer blows in Birmingham, which I much prefer. I wonder what he does with the BPO.

  • Ravi Narasimhan says:

    This piece needs a vortex cannon. Keep ’em awake in the cheap seats.

  • Max Grimm says:

    I am reminded of this GIF of the Berlin Phil, playing the “Ring without Words” under Maazel.

  • Max Grimm says:

    Any way Mr. Johns could be persuaded to post a clip of his new box in use, for those of us not able to attend the concert? In any case, it’s application is bound to be cleaner than that of the box he used at the Proms some time ago:

  • Dave Billinge says:

    Any chance it will be loud enough for Jon Leifs’ Saga Symphony? (Still in need of performances in this country).

  • David Boxwell says:

    No horror film (or score) is as truly terrifying as this symphony.

  • M_von_Kolinahr says:

    I remember the arrangement the percussionist with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) had when they performed the Mahler 6 four years ago, conducted by Pietari Inkinen – from where we were sitting, we had a perfect view of it. I also remember there was a comparatively detailed description of how the percussionist had to time and control the arc of his hammer strike very carefully, starting the swing of the unwieldy beast maybe a whole second in advance, in order to be sure of hitting the wooden crate at just the right moment, which he managed to pull off each time. (… I don’t know if it was an orange crate, if so it was all very polished and spruced up for the occasion! Just for the record, the performance included all three hammer blows, and the andante followed the scherzo.)

    David Boxwell says above, “No horror film (or score) is as truly terrifying as this symphony.” – yes, what a marvel it truly is!

  • Anne63 says:


    I think there is scope for more experimentation in orchestral percussion generally – from orchestral bells of the correct pitch instead of clanging door chimes (a pet hate of mine) to adding a little more heft at the bass end of things. I think the latter in particular would satisfy the expectations of younger listeners a bit more without detracting from the overall sound.

  • Mr Oakmountain says:

    My old teacher at Hochschule Vienna told me he remembered performances where the percussionist would just whack the wooden platform on which the orchestra in the “Goldener Saal” (GMVS) with a huge wooden hammer causing dust to rise from underneath. He regretted the “modern trend” of using contraptions. He also mentioned his disgust at a touring London orchestra using some woodden box that was not actually hammered on, but triggered by some kind of mechanism. Anybody know about that?