100 Seconds from Midnight


for Percussion Quartet and Audio


Decoding the composition
Back to Music Search

100 Seconds from Midnight (2020) is percussion quartet commissioned by Architek Percussion and dedicated to its members at the time; Ben Reimer, Noam Bierstone, Ben Duinker, and Alessandro Valiante. Comprised of three movements - Genesis, Anthems, and 100 Seconds from Midnight - the work describes a journey through time, mirroring the evolution and looming downfall of our civilisation. Beginning with Genesis, and providing a musical exploration of the birth and development of our world, this movement lays the groundwork, painting a picture of the world's creation through percussion effects. In the second movement, Anthems, the power of martial rhythmic patterns (created with transformed audio excerpts from the Russian, American, and Chinese national anthems) evoke an ironic sense of power, and glory. The triumphant echoes are imbued with a subtle sense of foreboding. 

The final movement, 100 Seconds from Midnight, symbolises a turning point, embodying the urgency and looming dread encapsulated in the metaphor of the Doomsday Clock, the symbol of global catastrophe. The rapid, propulsive grooves and the haunting resonance of the vibraphone evoke the sense of being on a runaway train, the path humanity currently treads. It offers a reflection on the societal and environmental challenges we face, delivering a thought-provoking message about our collective responsibility. The piece requires a diverse range of percussive instruments, including the drum set, snare drum, Scots snare, dohl, bass drum, pulli, triangle, metal objects, finger cymbal, vibraphone, and marimba. Each player's role is integral to the piece, creating a polyrhythmic weave that resonates with the urgency and complexity of the themes conveyed in the music. 

Underscoring the impending 'civilizational crisis' referenced by Noam Chomsky and the vital need for change, the percussive elements and emotive rhythmic patterns encourage us to consider the kind of world we want to live in. In its entirety, 100 Seconds from Midnight offers an intense exploration of humanity's current journey.


See below for available products
No items found.

Watch and Listen

A curation of Performances, interviews and reviews of my work

In Focus:

100 Seconds from Midnight

Performance Notes, Articles, Reviews, John's Messages

Project Details

100 Seconds from Midnight

for Percussion Quartet and Audio

Commissioner Architek Percussion

Instrumentation: drum set / SD, scots snare, dohl, BD tri, metal objects / pulli, BD, f cymb, junk perc, vib, marimba / claves, SD,  roto-tom, piatti, vib, keyboard bass

Premiered by Architek Percussion on April 21, 2022 at the Bourgie Hall, Montreal, Canada

Difficulty Level:
Instrument Tags:
Drum Set
Snare Drum
Scots Snare
Bass Drum
Junk Percussion
Finger Cymbal
Roto Toms
Keyboard Bass
Mixed Percussion
Mallet Percussion
Digital Audio

Programme Notes

The idea that the world is in these hands...

Perfectly, consciously, to maximise the pain.

And there is a civilizational crisis,

If we don’t deal with this, we’re finished.

There isn’t a lot of time.

Once we’ve gotten to that stage,

it’s over.


from which there is no recovery.

What kind of world do we want?

There is the possibility

to bring about a much better world.

We need the mentality to try to overcome.

The doomsday clock is set,

a hundred seconds to midnight

– Noam Chomsky


Player 1: drum set
Player 2: snare drum, scots snare, dohl, bass drum, triangle, metal objects
Player 3: pulli, bass drum, finger cymbal, 5 metal objects, vibraphone, marimba
Player 4: claves, snare drum, high roto-tom, piatti, vibraphone, keyboard bass

All players require in-ear monitors for click track


Extended Techniques for Concert Bass Drum

There are a huge variety of sounds that you can get out of a concert bass drum.

The most straightforward way to change the sound, is to change where on the drum you are hitting: either the centre or the edge, which I have notated using the A space of bass clef to signal for the performer to strike the centre of the drum and the C space of bass clef to signal for them to strike the edge of the drum.

Another way to open up the sonic pallet of the drum is by specifying what the player is using to hit it, traditionally soft or hard bass drum mallets. Soft mallets generally have a warmer and rounder tone which is less focussed, whereas hard mallets will have have a brighter, punchier and offer a more defined attack. I have indicated which mallets are required for the sound that I am after by using diagrams as you will see in the image below.

You can further extend the pallet of a bass drum by using the membrane of the drum head as a resonant body that will respond to contact from other objects.

By rubbing a superball across the drum head, you can can achieve a whole variety of sounds from rattles, to screeches and moans. Placing a cymbal on top of the drum head allows you to access even greater variety of sounds by using a bow or superball to produce different partials which will be amplified and sustained by the drum.