Interviews & Reviews

Click on the links to read feature interviews with Michael Bettine:

Fever Pitch Magazine, 2005

Gongs Unlimited, 2005

WMSE Radio, Milwaukee, 2005

Pro Artist - Cleveland, 2006

WBEZ Radio, Chicago, 2009

Brown Rice, Chicago, 2008

@percussion podcast, May 2018

ABC Classic FM, Melbourne, Australia, January 21, 2016.

Sound Journeys Radio Show January 25, 2015


Real Time, Australia’s critical guide to international contemporary arts

27 January 2016

Percussion: the beating heart of art

by Delia Bartle: MOFO 2016

Michael Bettine

Waves of metallic wash reverberate through Mona’s Barrel Room, a cold, dimly lit cement bunker lined with looming shelves of wooden barrels. It’s a non-traditional performance space that percussionist Michael Bettine filled with ebbing soundwaves from a small orchestra of gongs and bells. Explaining that we all vibrate with energy and that the gongs can affect our bodies on a deep, internal level with their resonating vibrations, he began slowly, stroking two gongs with felted mallets to produce a soft, airy tone. He then began to strike more frequently, moving between several gongs to create a wash of thrumming pulses. Expansive, metallic roars filled the air as Bettine used rubber-headed mallets to slowly ‘paint’ circles on the gongs. The striking of multiple gongs in succession created a rocking wave of harmonic dissonance. The sound was continuous in this mostly improvised performance, with no route or destination, no tension or release. The barrels were left behind as the room evolved into a space of meditative percussive textures, inviting the audience to listen, absorb and reflect without processing any pre-determined melodic structure. Bettine also used the mallets themselves as instruments, sometimes resting the end of a mallet on a gong face before striking the gong with another mallet, creating a buzzing rattle. The largest dark silver gong shuddered ominously when struck, emitting a series of thrumming pulses. Bettine played the room as much as the instruments, exploring the beating tones of vibrations that when combined sounded like a train rumbling underground. Creating a shifting wall of sound that washed over the audience, Bettine offered us a distinctive exploration into the craft of percussion. 

NUVO - Indianapolis MUSIC REVIEWS - April 5, 2006

A captivating double bill - Show Review

By Nikki Cormaci

Matthias Ziegler explored the nexus between audible and inaudible sounds.

Matthias Ziegler, Michael Bettine

Indianapolis Art Center, Wednesday, March 29

A meager but enthusiastic audience at the Indianapolis Art Center received an aural education during a captivating double bill of avant-garde instrumentalists: Swiss flutist Matthias Zeigler and American gong player Michael Bettine.

Throughout the event, organized by Mythopiec, Bettine and Ziegler performed separate sets filled primarily with original works before meeting, literally for the first time, on stage for an improvisation birthed from genuine curiosity.

Bettine began the concert with a "different perspective on the gong than is found in orchestral or rock use." While juggling three or four mallets in his hands, teeth and pockets, the shoeless Bettine transformed a beautiful sculptural backdrop of 28 gongs varying in texture and circumference into an ambient moodscape deep enough to score a tidal wave.

Bettine's gong soundscapes reward sensitive listeners with layers of ambient sounds into which their own environment can assert a type of melodic or rhythmic authority. The pieces were sparse yet enveloping, and offered to dialogue with sounds in the room - a breath, a shuffle, a child beginning to cry. The most haunting and beautiful moments of the evening were found in this nexus between breath and tone, between sound and music.

CD - Stars Show The Way

Drum! magazine, Waldo the Squid, 12/2002

For some reason, after reviewing his materials, I envisioned this resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin sitting in his living room surrounded by stacks of music magazines that have published his writing as well as piles of exotic percussion that steered his creativity in unusual directions. Ample experience playing with progressive bands helped inform Bettine's years of percussion experimentation, which culminated in the release of his solo CD Stars Show The Way . A word to the wise - don't expect to hear burning riffage if you pick up a copy of this CD. Bettine is an experimentalist who is less concerned with chops than creating colors and textures - particularly metallic ones, which form the foundation of Stars . These sounds run the gamut, from smoky gongs to grating screeches that are the musical equivalent of fingernails scraping on a chalkboard. The first half of the 25 tracks focus on metal percussion, with cuts split between compositions and improvisations. Even when Bettine moves to the kit, such as on the title track, he continues to play slowly and deliberately, spinning out lines that emulate melodies and harmonies. Okay, Stars isn't for everybody, but Bettine has a unique vision that sets him apart from the hoards.

CDs - Stars Show The Way/Labyrinth

Modern Drummer, Martin Patmos - RATING: 8 (of 10)

MICHAEL BETTINE is a percussionist specializing in metal, and these CDs focus on his art through two different solo performances. Labyrinth , subtitled Music For Gongs, consists of nine beautifully hypnotic tracks. The music was composed with his particular gongs in mind, a collection thirty years in the making. From the opening majestic washes of "Ritual-Ascension" to the high-pitched melodies of "Medicine Wheel," the entire sound spectrum is covered. On Stars Show the Way , drums and other percussion also make appearances. The variety of instruments used here is staggering. Whether it's melodic tom patterns or Asian metal percussion figures, these twenty-five pieces possess an undeniable immediacy and intensity. Both recordings are excellently recorded, with a clear sound that shows off the instruments quite well. Sinking into Bettine's sound world is fascinating and inspiring.

CD - Stars Show The Way

The Improvisor, Richard Grooms

Here are compositions and improvisations for solo percussion that bear favorable comparison with Evelyn Glennie's work. "Spiritual Resonance," dedicated to Pierre Favre, has a title that's not a surprise as Bettine's trancelike cymbal work here (and throughout the cd) owes more than a little to the great percussionist. More importantly, he shares a strong grasp of narrative that that master has. He doesn't so much sound like Favre as he has his sense of command and grace.

The whole of this outing is extremely well-recorded which is vital to this kind of thing. It's easily one of the best solo percussion records I've ever heard.

Bettine is essential listening for percussionists and anyone interested in solo free-oriented music.

CD - Stars Show The Way

World Percussion and Rhythm, Terry Reimer, Winter 2003

This solo CD is a "percussion tour de force". It's the sound of one musician with over 100 instruments, moving beyond rhythm to explore the realms of texture and color, in a language of vibrations that can affect one deeply. All the tracks are first takes. Two ideas are explored: the healing aspect of the vibrating metals like gongs, singing bowls, cymbals, and bells along with Shamanic trance drumming. The second idea is that of "chaos theory" and how it affects us, involving random interaction where patterns of beauty emerge.

CDs - Stars Show The Way/Labyrinth, Kenneth Egbert

Mr. Bettine is a percussionist of flair and ability to work with the "colors" suggested by certain drum sounds; Labyrinth is music for gongs while Stars... concerns a more full drum kit and beaten gamelan-like tuned bits as well. What doesn't satisfy me about these releases is the simple rhythmic cadences, the lack of melody and the inability of the music to transcend the instrumentation. Great drummers, especially ones who are experts on the cymbals, nearly make a pianist unnecessary in the band they're in. Mr. Bettine does get up a hair-raising drone on Labyrinth' s opening cut "Ritual-Ascension," but little else is as stirring on either CD. It may be the seeming "emptiness" of the tracks; one problem I used to have with former Cream/Blind Faith drummer Ginger Baker's soloing was his tendency to introduce a motif, then a minor variation or two and then dump it and start over again with a different pattern. Baker early on just didn't seem to know how to play space against movement or develop his themes (he has since greatly improved), but Mr. Bettine shows similar tendencies at this particular point in his career. Stars Show the Way and Labyrinth function nicely as ambient music, but other than that, better play of silence versus sound would have been preferred.

Book - Percussion Profiles


Focusing on the great drummers who inhabit the nether regions of contemporary music, PROFILES does much to humanize musicians and players often thought of as willfully artsy, intellectual, or obscure. But honestly, how could anyone look at the drumkits of avant-garde maestros like Alex Cline, Pierre Favre, and Marilyn Mazur and not see the childlike sense of discovery and the deep emotional release just waiting to be unleashed? The authors wisely include selected discographies, contact information, and an accompanying CD featuring more than a dozen tracks. And did we mention all those great photos?

Downtown Music Gallery, NYC

Outstanding almost 400 page book with interviews, articles, pictures and discographies of 25 of the world's most creative percussionists. Also includes a fascinating 21 track CD of the different percussion greats mentioned inside .

Jazz Live (Austria)

The two authors - Percussionists on both sides the Atlantic (Bettine is American, Taylor is British), present interviews, articles, and discographies to 25 of the "most creative Percussionists of the world"....A chapter is dedicated to everyone with a short biography, personal ideas on the creative processes, thoughts about Percussion, and a technical background to their instruments. Many of the musicians play on exotic equipment, many of which are custom designed. In addition, one gets a 79 minute CD, featuring 13 of the musicians on 21 TRACKS. The spectrum of these pieces is wide and runs from the "traditional" solo at the Jazz drum kit, to exotic-mirror-image-ritual world sounds (inspired by Balinese Gamelan sounds, various gongs, Tibetan sound bowls etc..), up to nature sounds, noise and electronic Percussion....The presented musicians are all innovative, sensitive individualists

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