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Dramatic Timpani
BUM-BUM-BUM-BUM-BUM!

There's something about those deep-sounding drums tuned to play specific notes that evokes a visceral reaction out of anyone who hears it. Expect any bit of music with timpani in it to be played for maximum drama value. For extra awesome, add an ever louder roll.

Compare Drum Roll Please. For the quiet version, see Heartbeat Soundtrack.

Examples:

Film
  • Parodied in Spaceballs: The dramatic timpani are played by an actual timpanist in the spaceship itself. And in case you thought that was a one-off gag, the timpanist is one of the evacuees when the Self-Destruct Mechanism is activated.
  • In On the Waterfront, the soundtrack by Leonard Bernstein has the quiet title music followed by a pounding fugato for three drummers (though the third is actually on tuned drums rather than timpani).
  • In Make Mine Music, the hunters are represented by timpani.
  • Star Wars features one during the trench run, as the technicians aboard the Death Star prepare to fire the Superlaser the second time.
  • In Galaxy Quest, when Taggart is going back home for the first time and still doesn't realize it's all real, as the bay doors of the Protector 2 open and he sees the space vista, dramatic timpani music plays.
  • The first half of the opening credits of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (the half which has Fun with Subtitles) is accompanied by a piece of stock music called "Ice Floe No.9", dominated by pounding timpani and enigmatic xylophone which combines with the white text on black background to create an atmosphere deliberately at odds with the comedy subtitles and the typical Monty Python absurdism that follows.

Live-Action TV
  • Used during the "Epic Fail" segment of Attack of the Show!.
  • Formerly used at the start of the Bonus Round on Wheel of Fortune...
    • ...and at the start of Jeopardy! when Art Fleming was host.
  • The infamous Viacom "V of Doom", combined with the synth piano and and quickly zooming in Viacom V logo, freaked people out.
  • Used, and called for ("TIMPANI!), in the yearly MDA Telethon when updating the large display showing the amount pledged, at least some years.
  • Get Smart would do a slow version of this during suspenseful moments.

Music
  • Richard Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra" features this in its famous opening, "Sunrise." It never recurs in the remaining half-hour of the work.
  • Gustav Mahler was well-known for writing spectacular timpani flourishes into his symphonies; his Symphonies Nos. 1, 5 and 6 all provide dramatic timpani at one climactic moment. The finale of Symphony No. 7 begins with a bravura flourish played on four timpani. A minimalistic but attention-getting timpani volley opens the third movement of Symphony No. 2.
  • The first measure of Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor features a timpani roll that goes from near silence to near deafening to herald a massive chord from both the pianist and the full orchestra.
  • Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 4 (The Inextinguishable) ends with a duel between two timpanists, placed at opposite sides of the orchestra. Yes, that is as spectacular as it sounds...
  • The fourth movement of Dmitri Shotakovich's Symphony #5 in D Minor starts and finishes with timpani solos.
  • The "Tuba mirum" in Hector Berlioz's Grande Messe des morts (the French title for the Requiem mass) and Benjamin Britten's War Requiem has loud fanfares accompanied by overpowering drum rolls. "Be slowly lifted up" in the War Requiem is accompanied by timpani volleys played on three drums.
  • Havergal Brian's "Gothic" Symphony begins with a short crescendo leading to a loud outburst from two timpanists. The timpani motif recurs at various points, but most impressively near the end of the symphony, "Non confundar in aeternum," which involves six timpanists.
  • In Peter and the Wolf, when the hunters enter, there are intermittent menacing timpani outbursts.
  • Ringo Starr plays a very attention-getting timpani in The Beatles' "Every Little Thing".
  • In Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations, Variation VII (Troyte) begins with a dramatic timpani crescendo played on three drums.
  • The opening chorus of Johann Sebastian Bach's Christmas Oratorio, "Jauchzet, frohlocket, auf, preiset die Tage",note  begins with an emphatic passage for solo timpani, occasionally punctuated by the basso continuo instruments. (The chorus was originally written as the opening chorus of the secular cantata Tönet, ihr Pauken! Erschallet, Trompeten!, or "Resound, ye drums! Ring out, ye trumpets!" - so the drums, and shortly thereafter the trumpets, do as they are told.)
  • In Aaron Copland's Symphony for Organ and Orchestra, the timpani pounding out the work's motto theme in the final movement would be more impressive were they not overshadowed by the organ playing at full power.
  • In the Scherzo of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, the timpani are tuned an octave apart from each other (an unconventional tuning, but also used in the finale of Symphony No. 8). The Scherzo's main theme begins with a descending octave, which the timpanist gets to play loud and unaccompanied several times.

Radio
  • American Top 40: Used before Casey Kasem announced the No. 1 song of the week.
  • American Country Countdown: To a lesser extent than sister program AT40, as host Bob Kingsley would use it only on the year-end countdown programs before naming the No. 1 country song of the year. Kingsley has carried the timpani roll over to year-end Bob Kingsley's Country Top 40 programs.

Real Life

Theatre
  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Miles Gloriosus enters the scene to dramatic timpani flourishes; in most showings, his entourage reflects this by having several drummers.
  • In Der Ring des Nibelungen, the Giants' Leitmotif is accompanied by pounding timpani at their forceful first entrance in Das Rheingold. The timpani motif stays with Fafner after he becomes a dragon, with the interval altered from a perfect fourth to a tritone.

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