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About this Piece

Composed: 1953    
Length: c. 5 minutes

Áskell Másson started his musical studies on clarinet, and later studied percussion at the Reykjavík College of Music and privately in London with James Blades. From 1973 to 1975 he worked as a composer and percussionist at the Ballet of the National Theater in Iceland, and from 1978 to 1983 he was a producer at the Music Department of the Iceland State Radio, after which he has devoted himself to composition. The self-taught composer’s principal works include the grand opera The Ice Palace, three symphonies, numerous concertos and other orchestral pieces, and many solo and chamber works, including a number of virtuosic and inventive pieces that have become standards for percussionists. (This is the fourth time Prím has appeared on programs presented by the LA Phil, for example.) He has also composed for theater, film, and television.

“With Prím (Prime) I continued my attention to the possibilities of the snare drum as a solo instrument, having earlier written a Concert Piece (Konzertstück) for snare drum and orchestra,” the composer writes. “Prím is based on a rhythmic pattern which the first 15 prime numbers (1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43) give, when one uses 32nd-part notes as a basic unit.

“Evelyn Glennie has now played this piece in most parts of the world, but it was commissioned by the Danish percussionist Gert Mortensen, and written in 1984.” (Glennie and Mortensen have both recorded the work.)