When I talk to musicians about Premier Percussion, there is always an emotional response. Emotional! Emotions aren’t displayed unless we care about something. Even the negative responses caused by frustration reveal that there is an underlying attachment beneath.
Maybe it is national pride; maybe the French feel the same way about Bergerault, the Dutch about Adams, the Americans about Musser. I don’t know (I would like to find out). But for me it is a desire to see the resurgence of a great musical instrument manufacturer.
Last week I was asked by Premier to listen to their tubular bells. Of course while I was there, we discussed the timpani which are also made at that site.
As an instrument maker, I understand the difficulties that Premier keep coming up against, and the solutions are often a compromise. This is the very reason for my visit – does the compromised solution still maintain the quality of the musical instrument? And that is what Premier Percussion is known for – high quality musical instruments that sound great.
When you go to the supermarket to do your shopping, for years you will have bought the same things every time – the staples. All of a sudden, they change. The packaging looks the same, but an ingredient has changed and they taste different. This is what happens all the time when you buy materials to make instruments. For every other application the changes are not even noticed, but for musical instruments the difference in sound is massive.
Instrument manufacturers don’t make brass tube, copper sheet, or aluminium ingots. These are made on a mind boggling scale by a few companies that constantly buy each other out until a monopoly is created and all the materials essentially come from one place. That factory changes a machine, or the EU change legislation about the use of an ingredient, or the copper ore is mined in a different country, then the very nature of the material has changed.
Furthermore, discovering what has changed and how the problems can be resolved is a massive task in itself with the solutions being hideously expensive. There is only one supplier now and they hold all the cards.
I fully appreciate that musicians get frustrated when they cannot buy instruments, or there are delays in delivering the goods. Ultimately, it is out of order, unacceptable, especially if money has already changed hands. But sometimes problems are unforseen, however I think that a corner has been turned at Premier.
Premier as a company has changed. They had to change, because the company as it was kept failing. So now there has been a shift in the way things are done and new people have become involved. With new people comes new ideas and things start to change.
To say that I was impressed would be an understatement. It was actually quite nice for me to have a totally geeky conversation with someone else, but besides the results being good and therefore the bells sounding good, it was the positivity and excitement that left its mark.
Now the problems have been all but overcome, let the instruments flow and lets change this ridiculous attitude that balanced action on timpani is a good thing, but that is another story…