Mary Ellen Donald has released a 3-volume set of books sold individually which serve as valuable educational resources on Middle Eastern music for both musicians and dancers. These serve as companions to a collection of musical recordings called Gems of the Middle East that Mimi Spencer made with Mary Ellen Donald. The recordings are reviewed elsewhere on this web site and consist of a 3-volume set which can also be individually purchased. Each of the three books in the Rhythmical Analysis series corresponds to the songs that appear on the matching Gems of the Middle East musical albums.
For all the songs that appeared on the Gems of the Middle East music collection, Rhythmical Analysis takes a close look at the rhythms required to play percussion for them. The primary audience for the book would be drumming students learning to play along with classic Middle Eastern songs. A secondary audience would be dancers who would like to better understand the rhythms in these classic songs so they can select appropriate dance moves or finger cymbal accompaniment.
For each song, Mary Ellen provides an analysis of how to play it from a percussionist's perspective. She breaks each song up into its distinct melodic components, identifies how many times each melody is repeated and when on the Gems arrangement of this song, and which rhythm is appropriate to play for each melody. She also provides the English-language translation of the song's title (but not the lyrics).
Although Mary Ellen's analysis is intended for people who want to play percussion instruments (which could include a dancer's finger cymbals), I find it very helpful as a tool in creating choreography. When I create a new piece of choreography, I listen to the song many times, and write down when & how many times each melody section is repeated. Once I understand how the song is structured I can then look at how to correspondingly structure the dance. Knowing the song structure helps me decide how and when to include repetition in my choreography. In this book, Mary Ellen has done this initial analysis for me. I can skip right from selecting a song to working on dance moves to use with it.
Here is an excerpt from one of the analyses:
Whenever Mary Ellen provides musical notation for a break, she includes instructions on technique to use on each of three percussion instruments: tabla (doumbec), tambourine, and finger cymbals. For example, for tambourine players, her instructions for each note indicate whether to use a doum, a tec, a left, a slap, a hit, a shake, a long shake, a rim, or a finger roll.
In addition to the analysis of the songs, Volume 1 also contains:
Are They Right for You?
You Will Probably Enjoy These Books If...
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What I Liked, What I Didn't
What I Liked:
What I Didn't Like:
Excellent tool for learning more about Middle Eastern rhythms and how they are used in Middle Eastern songs, particularly with respect to Arabic music.
I have taken percussion workshops and private lessons from Mary Ellen Donald, and I found them to be very valuable. I use the music from Gems of the Middle East when I teach my classes, and therefore I buy it wholesale from her and resell to my students. I also use her rhythm CD's in my classes.
After our first telephone conversation, Mary Ellen sent me copies of selected books and CD's to review, including this set of books.
To Buy It
Mary Ellen Books
Telephone: (+1) (510) 654-DRUM
Web Site: www.maryellendonald.com
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