Why four lead pans?
My first takes on this concept (Quartet No. 1 & 2) involved the SATB voices of the steel band so that a member of each section could showcase their pan abilities during a chamber performance. Having bass and cello pans in the ensemble allowed me to create chords properly voiced over the ranges and then have percussion ensemble happen all around. My third go at this genre involves 4 lead pans because as I've learned, more players are familiar with the melodic lead pan than any other pan. Performances of the first two quartets involved lead players learning seconds, cellos or bass in order to have a full ensemble, so this is my homage to them.
How do you pick the instruments that surround the pans?
There are limitations to what any composer can ask their performers to have. The more exotic the instrumentation, the smaller percentage of musicians that possess the ability to program it on a concert. Colleges are ideal for new music because they have some of the largest collections instruments in any given state. When I write the score, I list instruments like snares, toms, cymbals and classic auxiliary percussion because I'm confident that any studio would possess these things. It's my personal opinion that any of those instruments could be swapped out for a different sound in the same range. For instance, replacing a snare drum with a sharp metallic sound or quick-attack wood plank. As for the low toms and bass drums, it gets more difficult to get the same effect with a found object. Those low tones are hard to replace when it comes to the type of punch we love to hear.