Oct. 22, 2014

This Week's SFR Picks

Newsletters

Choose your newsletter(s):
* indicates required
September 23, 2014 by Joey Peters  
October 7, 2014 by Joey Peters  
September 23, 2014 by Justin Horwath  
September 24, 2014 by Enrique Limón  
September 23, 2014 by Robert Basler  

SFR Events

Special Issues

 

 
Home / Articles / Arts / Theater & Stage Reviews /  See It: Drum Circle

See It: Drum Circle

August 15, 2007, 12:00 am
By
The voice of Indra interrupts percussion perfection.

***image4***
If you couldn�t hit on it, it just wasn�t there, there being the Lensic�s stage, crammed back to front with exotic hittable gadgets from just about everywhere, lying in readiness for the Friday, Aug. 10 opening concert of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival�s two-part World Music Percussion Festival. And I mean crammed: a generous assortment of those elegant red-and-gold hammer-it-out contraptions for the gamelan, a few gongs waiting for their J Arthur Rank movie moment, a cymbalom, a Gene Krupa-style drum set, a toy piano and a marimba and a vibraphone and temple bells and a bewildering array of deeply unfamiliar low-slung beatables.

The houselights dim. And then marches in from the back of the auditorium�clashing and banging and gonging happily away on Balinese instruments�five guys who look like the with-it philosophy department of a ***image2***small liberal arts college, geezers included. But they�re not philosophers. They�re tonight�s performing ensemble, the Dallas-based percussion group, D�Drum. You were expecting sarongs and dreadlocks?

Move over, Herr Hegel. Tonight�s lesson plan includes a half-dozen traditional percussive sets, mostly Balinese occasional music for processionals, dances, shadow plays, cremation ceremonies and the like, performed on a battery of Javanese instruments. For a Western concert hall, it�s music rich and strange, but you can readily hear the relevance for many so-called minimalist works by Glass, Reich, Adams and their ilk.

Alternating with traditional material, D�Drum cuts loose with another half-dozen of their own jazz-rock-pop-Latin riffs, including an esoteric, off-the-wall arrangement of George Harrison�s �Within You Without You,� a shifty mingling of Middle Eastern and African and Hungarian and Balinese tones intended to make your ears feel real good. Then came more kaleidoscopic sonics in a bone-rattling �Village Beside Time� invention that opened with a jungle-toned ironic tribute to Martin Denny�s (remember him?) super-schlocky �Quiet Village,� and then went nuts.

After the interval, a playful set of variations on Chick Corea�s �La Fiesta�
�that somehow got mixed up with the Bach D minor Chaconne�featured Ed Smith on vibraphone and Ron Snider on caj�n (a wooden box drum). It was almost like being way, way back at San Francisco�s long-ago Black Hawk jazz club with the D�Drum boys channeling Cal Tjader and Mongo Santamaria.

Part 2 of the Festival arrived on Saturday, Aug. 11, this program centering on and dedicated to the memory of John Wyre, the renowned Canadian percussionist who died last fall. Angela Gabriel and Jeffrey Cornelius plus three artists from the Santa Fe Opera, Gregg Koyle, Jeffrey Milarsky and David Tolen, took the stage for the first half, performing three works by Wyre and another by his fellow Canadian, Bill Brennan. The latter contributed �Belo Horizonte,� a mood piece for marimba and vibes, evoking a multi-layered day in that Brazilian city as it awakens, comes to samba-inspired life and puts itself to sleep.

Wyre�s glistening �Moon Dance Two,� also for vibes and marimba, opened the program with a smooth and sexy, easy-listenin� lounge-Latin beat. Then one of his final compositions and a SFCMF commission, �Quartet: Music for 16 Gongs� (2006) received its world premiere and radically, deliberately darkened the mood. It�s a transfixing work, often repetitive and hypnotic, gamelan-like at times, ultimately mysterious, that often feels like an extended, richly-textured temple dance. The persuasive performance may have helped provoke one of those typically City Different moments. A violent storm lashed the Lensic with rain, punctuated by thundery outbursts accompanying the serene gong music and it felt oddly right. We might have been at the finish of �The Waste Land,� hearing what the thunder said: Datta  Dayadhvam  Damyata.

�Marubatoo,� Wyre�s 1988 work for marimbas, vibes and crotales, changed the mood yet again, this time in a compelling bluesy-ragtime, feel-good number that banished all that stormy weather. D�Drum joined the ensemble for Wyre�s witty Musica de la Rana, for four gankogui (a double-belled instrument from Ghana) and hand drums. The eight percussionists, all smiles, created a hyper-hoppin� frog pond that knew all about the birth of the boogie.

To finish, D�Drum paid tribute to Wyre via �Bronze Blossoms,� a serious solo work for bells that the composer recorded in 1994, never intending it for the concert hall. Using Wyre�s CD performance as a sort of ground bass, D�Drum superimposed a complex percussive obbligato composed by Ed Smith that touchingly complemented the original work. Successfully? Perhaps not, if you value the extensive sounds of silence that, John Cage-ily, Wyre employs to enhance the rich timbre of his bells. But as homage to the composer, it clicked.

 

comments powered by Disqus
 
Close
Close
Close