Danetkas – Music Stories

Remi: “Wake up! Your moment is coming.”

Dominick: “huh? What? Where?“


Remi: “How did nobody notice that?”


Episode 8 - The Explosion - A percussionist's dream

Short Summary

In this episode of Danetkas, titled “The Explosion,” the story revolves around two percussionists named Remi and Dominick. During a performance of Bruckner’s seventh symphony, Dominick, responsible for playing the cymbals, falls asleep while waiting for his cue. As his moment to play approaches, Remi tries to wake him, but Dominick startles awake and accidentally claps the cymbals, creating a loud noise at precisely the right moment in the symphony. The host shares personal anecdotes about the limited role of percussionists in classical music and challenges listeners to identify the moment the cymbals are played in the symphony’s second movement, which lasts up to 30 minutes. Despite the practical challenges faced by percussionists, the beauty and emotional impact of the music remain paramount to the audience’s experience.

Hello and welcome to another Danetkas episode.


This episode is called The Explosion. We have two characters in this story, two people. One of them is called Remi and the other is called Dominick. Remi says:

“Wake up! Your moment is coming.”

Dominick replies: “huh? What? Where?“


Remi then says: “How did nobody notice that?”

Accompanying each Danetka, as you already know, we have an image. In the image, we see someone with their eyes closed. Maybe the person is sleeping.

Who is Dominick and why was he sleeping? Why did nobody notice the loud noise? To help you solve this Danetka, we have three Rigolettos.

Three secret hints;

The first secret hint says, My job is to clap only once.

In the second Rigoletto:  I average one note per hour. Wow, so this musician plays one note each hour. One note per hour. Seems like a boring job, I would say—

Third Rigoletto: Not a second too early and not a second too late.

So something happened precisely at the exact moment. Feel free to pause the audio and try to solve this Danetka. I will now read the answer.

The explosion.

Dominick and Remi were percussionists playing in an orchestra. Dominick was in charge of playing the cymbals and he had to play only one note in the middle of the symphony which was one hour long. He got bored waiting so he closed his eyes and fell asleep while holding the cymbals in his hands. His colleague Remi noticed that the moment where he needed to play was coming and tried to wake him up. Dominick got scared and suddenly clapped the cymbals out of surprise making a huge noise. Luckily exactly at the moment where he needed to play.


They still cannot believe how lucky he was. They were playing the seventh symphony of Austrian composer Anton Bruckner. This story is based on a number of personal anecdotes that I have experienced with my percussionist colleagues. It is very often that percussion in classical music has very little notes to play and they usually get bored. I’ve heard many stories of people going out to meet concerts, taking a break, sometimes smoking, and having a snack while the symphony is being performed. Then they come back to play their notes. Like I said this is not very usual to happen.

This is a rather rare occasion but I’ve listened to a number of personal anecdotes where these things do happen, even though percussion has been used since prehistoric times, in the history of classical music, the use of percussion instruments before the 20th century was very limited, especially in orchestral settings.

In general, the composers write very few notes for the percussion. It was only for the most climatic and dramatic moments. It is not uncommon for percussionists to play less than a dozen notes in symphonies that last more than one hour. Because of this many editions cut out the percussion parts or leave it up to each orchestra to decide to employ percussionists or not. An exception to this is the timpani. This instrument is very important in classical symphonies and requires a specialized percussionist whose role cannot be omitted. The timpani is usually the leader of the percussion section. He plays a lot of notes. Let’s listen to an example of timpani. Bruckner’s seventh symphony was dedicated to Ludwig II of Bavaria and brought Bruckner the greatest success he had known in his life. Unfortunately one of the percussionists only gets to play one note in the cymbals.

This note comes in the second movement of the symphony. The second movement lasts 20 minutes. In some versions, it can even last half an hour. Just one movement.

I have now a challenge for you. We will listen not to the whole symphony but the whole second movement. And let’s see if you find out at which moment the cymbals play. I remember that it’s the only note that the percussionists will play in this symphony, which in total lasts around one hour. If we just put this fact aside I find the music incredibly beautiful, incredibly moving. There is this practical aspect of classical music which sometimes is very funny, and interesting to hear. But usually, when concertgoers go to hear this particular symphony they don’t think so much about what the percussionist has to do or not. So these practical aspects are a bit put to the side. And I think when one listens to classical music that’s actually what usually happens.

I still find this story very interesting and fascinating. Like I said it’s a common joke among percussionists and among musicians that their dream job is to be able to play the Bruckner 7th Symphony.

And do the percussionists get paid for doing this? Of course, nowadays they get paid. At the time of Bruckner, I would assume that he would find someone to play this note, which would be a non-professional musician, an acquaintance, or someone who would voluntarily do this for no money or for very little money.

Nowadays this is not possible. A professional orchestra will have a professionally trained musician just to play this one note. Of course, these percussionists will also play more notes on other occasions. So it does get paid to play more notes. It’s just that specifically if a concert only has the symphony he will only play one note. Nowadays due to budget deficits, many orchestras just omit this part or find someone to play it for free. We will now finish the episode by listening to the second movement of Bruckner’s 7th Symphony called Adagio, which means slow. So it’s a slow movement. The conductor is Maris Janssens and the orchestra is the Concertgebouw orchestra in the Netherlands.