Yesterday, I celebrated daylight savings time with a solo recital at the University of Kansas, my home base. I took a break from my typical diet of “all new music all the time” to share some slightly older music.
David Crowell’s Celestial Sphere was commissioned by a consortium of percussionists led by the amazing Ian Rosenbaum. The piece is for many, many marimbas: some pre-recorded, and one live. Celestial Sphere got me back in touch with David, which led to our current cello/percussion collaboration (more about that soon). I first played Elliot Cole’s Bloom Suite when working with Elliot and his Living Room Music cohorts on a concert for the Percussive Arts Society International Convention. It’s a real shred fest!
To those, I added two classics—Iannis Xenakis’ Psappha and Georges Aperghis’ Le Corps à Corps. Both of these pieces are really special to me. In my ears, Psappha is still an outlier more than 40 years after its composition: a coalescence of ancient Greek scansion, layered counterpoint, and modernist brutality, alternately jagged and suave. Le Corps à Corps is a grim motorcycle crash alternately reacted to, acted out, and narrated. Aperghis toes the line between theater and concert hall, a boundary more transparent in percussion than any other instrument. Both are collaborations between composers and performers which have deeply inspired my own work as a musician, and I was excited to share both again.
Lastly: the world premiere of Hannah Lash’s Start. Hannah wrote this piece as part of my Unsnared Drum project. Our mission is to reinvent the snare drum through commissioning, sharing, and recording new works from four really interesting composers, and I think Hannah’s piece is a stupendous first completion.
Next, I’ll be heading to Indianapolis for a performance with my new ensemble, the Percussion Collective. We’ll be presenting a show at the Percussive Arts Society’s International Convention, premiering a new work by Alejandro Viñao alongside Steve Reich’s Sextet and Garth Neustadter's Seaborne. For those of you who don’t know PASIC, just think mash together the Modern Language Association Conference, a giant drum store, and the country’s biggest high school marching band competition. Lots of lanyards and earplugs, and you always leave with more stuff than you anticipated. It’s a joy to play with this group, and a real honor to play for so many percussionists.
The next day, New Morse Code is teaming up with Roberta Gumbel for the premiere of *dwb*: Driving While Black. This opera, with music by Susan Kander and libretto by Roberta, tackles issues of race through the lens of a mother teaching her child to drive in a country where DWB can be fatal. We presented part of piece last year at KU, and are excited to bring the piece to a larger audience at the Lawrence Arts Center.
Next up is a trip to Queens for the premiere of George Lam’s The Emigrants. We made a video talking about the project, for which George interviewed immigrant musicians living and working in Queens:
I love where this piece is going. George used the voices of his interviewees and to create a piece where spoken word and music intermingle, and the result is a powerful way of highlighting these musicians’ stories. We’ll be presenting the piece at the Queens Museum, with performances from some of the musicians featured in the piece. More info is available at our project website.
The Emigrants and *dwb* are projects which tackle complex issues by presenting people’s experiences. Stay tuned for more info about these and other projects NMC is undertaking, and how you can be a part of them!