for Percussion Quartet


Decoding the composition
Back to Music Search

4BY4 brings together four multi-percussionists, playing different pods of instruments, into one tribally energetic jam session that pushes the players to the edge of musical and physical possibility. Everybody has a kick drum, which solidifies the underlying pulse and cements the parts of each player as they're playing their own polyrhythmic grooves.


See below for available products
No items found.

Watch and Listen

A curation of Performances, interviews and reviews of my work

In Focus:


Performance Notes, Articles, Reviews, John's Messages

Project Details


for Percussion Quartet

Commissioner: Omar Carmenates

Instrumentation: 4 Kick Drums, 8 Toms, 3 Hi Hats, 2 Snare Drums, 2 Congas, Splash Cymbal, Crash Cymbal, China Cymbal, Tambourine

Premiered by Omar Carmenates, Tommy Dobbs, Matt Filosa, and Luis Rivera on January 24, 2013 at the Daniel Recital Hall, Furman University, South Carolina, USA

Difficulty Level:
Instrument Tags:
Kick Drum
Tom Toms
China Cymbal
Snare Drum
Crash Cymbal
Splash Cymbal
Mixed Percussion

Programme Notes - Omar

I’ve admired John Psathas’ music for years, for its incredible sense of energy, its ability to defy categorization, and its cultural pluralism. With 4BY4 (his first non-pitched percussion piece), John delivers on all counts … and then some. If David Weckl, Christopher Lamb, Steven Schick and Giovanni Hidalgo - all percussion virtuosi from widely different genres - were to have a jam session, I can’t help but think that it would sound something like 4BY4.

Each of the four players plays a drumset-like set-up; one player has two snare drums a hi-hat, a tambourine, and a cymbal, another has two congas and a hihat, and the remaining two have tom-based set-ups. However, what binds these four seemingly disparate voices is the kick drum, which all four drumsets have. At times, these four drums pound a relentless beat in unison, and at others they’re split into complex rhythmic counterpoint.

It is this, in part, that makes 4BY4 such a great piece and a perfect fit for this album. John manages to take culturally different instruments, each with different playing techniques, and link them together with a common element - the kick drum. It is cultural pluralism at its best, with each voice maintaining its unique sound and identity, but seamlessly integrated into a common whole.

-Omar Carmenates


Although each player's pod is configured similar to a standard drum kit, the arrangement of the material differs significantly from traditional "drum set" writing and playing. Rock playing relies on pairing the kick and snare, with the snare propelling the beat, whilst Jazz playing relies on using the ride cymbal to groove and the snare to punctuate. In 4BY4 each pod of instruments has a unique identity but are unified by the kick drum which is crucial in solidifying the underlying pulse. The kick drums shift from the regularity of "four on the floor" a staple of modern rock and pop, to complex interlocking patterns.

Player 1: Kick Drum, Toms (4), China Cymbal

Player 2: Kick Drum, Congas (2), Hi Hat

Player 3: Kick Drum, Snare Drums (2), Hi Hat, Tambourine, Crash Cymbal

Player 4: Kick Drum, Toms (4), Hi Hat, Splash Cymbal


Score available here - 4BY4 SCORE

Check it out on iTunes - 4BY4 on Gaia Theory

And on Spotify - The Gaia Theory Album

Researchers: Explore 4BY4 Percussion Quartet at the Alexander Turnbull Library

Preview: 4BY4 ON YUMPU