A father sacrifices his daughter to win a war.
His wife kills him to avenge her daughter.
Her son kills her to avenge the death of his father,
and three terrible Furies torment him for his deed.

James M. Galvic's The Three Furies tells this over
two-thousand-year-old tale with a musical palette of
traditional and unorthodox percussion instruments.

Musical excerpts

Dance of the First Fury: menacingly cacaphonous, with players
trading a terrifying "wood-splitting" motif between themselves
above a driving rhythm.

Dance of the Third Fury: Metal sounds (including car brake drums)
along with the shrieking of metal bowls scraped by brass rods
illustrate Orestes' dreadful confrontation with this Fury.

Orestes Pursued by the Furies, Adolphe-William Bouguereau, Chrysler Museum of Art
Mask of Agamemnon, National Archaeological Museum, Athens
Additional notes on The Three Furies

The story is heady stuff, before and after Aeschylus penned the tale in his classic Oresteia over two thousand years ago. The music begins after Orestes' father Agamemnon has been slain, in the court now overseen by his widow Clytemnestra and her new lover.

The first movement (Curse of the House of Atreus) begins almost inaudibly soft, as the lights slowly come up to reveal the body of the former king. In this movement, court dancers with rhythm sticks swirl onstage, amidst the sound of such percussion "instruments" as terracotta flower pots, copper pots, wind gongs and trash can lids, that lend an exoticism - and decadence - to the proceedings. Orestes discovers the truth about his father, and vows to kill his mother.

The second movement (Dance of Death) is a stately yet ominous pas de deux between Orestes and his mother, which culminates in his stabbing her. The music climaxes at this point and then dies down gradually, as an emotionally spent Orestes sags onstage, stricken by the enormity of his deed. It is here where he becomes aware that something truly terrible is about to happen to him (Entrance of the Furies).

Dance of the Second Fury begins with a thunderous roar of kettledrums, before continuing with an ominously-tinged seductiveness, very different from the assertiveness of the other Furies.

The ballet ends with a Judgement scene leading to the final movement, where the Furies are transformed into the Three Benevolent Spirits (The Eumenides) through Orestes' taking personal responsibility for his act. It's a powerful story with many psychological - and philosophical - overtones, and one that can be portrayed with even more power, in my opinion, through the medium of Dance. - James M. Galvic

"The following list of percussion ensembles is an overview of significant contributions to the percussion ensemble literature from its inception until the early twenty-first century.
  • 1924-1925 George Antheil Ballet Mecanique
  • 1931 Edgard Varese Ionisation
  • 1939 John Cage Imaginary Landscape
  • 1941 Lou Harrison The Song of Quetzalcoatl
  • 1963 George Crumb Night Music
  • 1965 Darius Milhaud Elegy for Pierre
  • 1990 James M. Galvic The Three Furies"
-Encyclopedia of Percussion, 2nd Ed.(2007) by John Beck, Routledge Publishing
The Three Furies - Complete Recording