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The Patricia and Emmett Robinson Prize

Michael Hugh Lythgoe

 

The Alchemist

Fed his fire base metal, pouring

Molten alloys in Constantinople.

Seeking pure gold through alchemy,

Zildjian discovered acoustics—

A crack-resistant bronze, in 1623.

Cymbals now shimmy to brushes,

Tapping brilliant hi-hats,

Bronze mini-bells balanced

By three rivets on a stand;

The Alchemist's descendants keep

Too much tin from copper, tone

Brassy China Splashes, keep bronze

Sounds and Duo Rides from cracking.


The Turkish Alchemist's secrets

Survive in the "melt rooms"

Where red-hot cymbals

Are pulled from ovens, flattened,

Rolled like old laundry,

Hammered into flying-saucers,

Shaved smooth and shiny on lathes.

When the hand-dimpled disks

Are whacked- they crash like bolts

From Zeus and ripple like snakes

In a bag. Thanks to the Alchemist's


Acoustics, audiences now stay awake

At operas by Wagner. Composers

Called on the Alchemist's alloy sparingly ...

Until Max Roach, Louis Belson,

And Buddy Rich pulled acoustic

Pieces out of the forge, setting loose

Syncopating tremors with Gene Krupa's

Big Band sticks on skins; Midas touch

To concave disks glanced brass

Tones to brilliance: "Clashing brothers"

Of the Turkish Alchemist. Percussionists.