Building a Mahler Hammer

The Duke University Wind Symphony recently performed Steven Bryant’sEcstatic Waters“. The score calls for a Mahler Box to be struck at the climax of the piece. I won’t go into the details of the Mahler Box other than to say that it’s origin is Mahler’s Symphony No. 6, the so called “Tragic” symphony which calls on percussionists to produce a loud, thudding sound “like the fall of an axe”. Various methods have been used over the years but a wooden box struck with a large wooden hammer has seemed to prevail.

I took on the task of building a large wooden hammer while members of the percussion, horn, and bassoon section took on the the construction of a large wooden box. Below you’ll find links to pages that detail the construction of a hammer that provides a large striking surface and looks quite dramatic while in use.

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