REVIEW: (HT Percussion Ensemble) Program included fun piece mimicking radio sounds

HeraldTimesOnline.com

PERCUSSION ENSEMBLE CONCERT

MUSIC REVIEW: Program included fun piece mimicking radio sounds

By Peter JacobiH-T Reviewer | pjacobi@heraldt.com
November 14, 2012

Kevin Bobo was the gentleman in charge on Monday evening as the Indiana University Percussion Ensemble gathered for an often scintillating program in Auer Hall. Not only did he conduct most of the pieces, but he wrote one.

The one he wrote, ironically, he did not conduct. Written for four players, it was performed, as music written for string quartets and such usually is, conductor-less. But the four musicians involved — Michael Ahearn, Cy Miessler, Julia Ross and Marco Schirripa — certainly knew what they were about, most likely having been coached by composer Bobo.

The work, called “Radio,” written just this year, brought forth chuckles from the audience. It was meant, says Bobo, to recall childhood memories of “listening to the radio on long car rides where stations would come in clearly at times, only to be lost or mixed up with others as the trip would progress.” Sure enough, the four musicians, using a battery of percussion instruments, approximated such an experience. One heard jumbles of music shifting in styles and rhythms, fading in and out. There was occasional static. There was talk made mumbling and close to indistinguishable by one of the musicians speaking into a plastic cup.

The musical journey was clever, fun to listen to, and a well-met challenge for the performing quartet.

Monday’s concert held three other compositions. Most interesting and unusual was “Six Invocations to the Svara Mandala,” composed in 1973 by Walter Mays, a celebration of a deified harp used in the classical music of India, a harp comprised of a resonator box across which metal strings are stretched. Using 13 players, Mays created soundscapes that reflected instrumental derivatives, labeling his invocations “Brass and Steel,” “Bowed Bronze,” “Bowed Glass,” “Bowed Aluminum,” “Wood and Membranes” and “Apotheosis.” In each, the titled materials were employed to make arcane sounds, as if in ceremonial fashion.

A wonderfully nimble marimba player, Josh Bowman, was soloist in “Uneven Souls,” a 1992 composition by Nebojsa Zivkovic, meant to suggest the Slavic populations in the Balkans, “souls” that, according to the composer, “are free from any ‘strict rules,’ any ‘ultimatums,’ or any ‘square, even’ way of behaving.” Bowman, three terrific fellow instrumentalists, and four colleagues chanting “Ahs” delivered a smashing performance, overflowing in virtuosity.

The program began with Adam Silverman’s “Gasoline Rainbow,” a tonal painting for eight instrumental “painters.” Composed in 2010, the score piled drums upon mallet instruments and mallet instruments upon those of bowed metal, a prescription for sonic overload. Not surprisingly, however, since this was the IU Percussion Ensemble and director Bobo was in charge, the sounds were as orderly as they were noisy.

Copyright: HeraldTimesOnline.com 2012

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