The Williams Percussion Ensemble will give a one-hour concert on Saturday, Dec. 1, at 8 p.m. in the Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall in the Bernhard Music Center on the Williams College campus. This free event is open to the public.
Percussion music exists at the periphery of the Western art music tradition, and as such has long been a kind of terra incognita. In searching for new sounds and new ways of constructing music, composers have turned to percussion as a path into this unknown, a starting point for exploring diverse worlds. At the same time, percussion instruments are integral to the music of many different world cultures, and composers have for centuries introduced these instruments, sounds, and approaches to music through percussionists who, being fundamentally non-specialists, are always eager to adopt them. All of the music on this program seems to be in some fundamental way engaged in the process of mapping, or re-mapping the world. In these pieces new worlds are explored, sounds from far-flung places are either meticulously or casually thrown together, and composers seek to create a new but coherent order from chaos. They create novel and geographically implausible boundaries or simply set out into the unknown. They construct musical logic while inverting conventional priorities, and invent new systems of notation to chart it. Percussion is not revolution as some have claimed (that term is reserved for electric guitars and blue jeans in the last century, and who knows what in the new one), but it is often a precursor. Percussion instruments seem to resonate with those very low and distant vibrations before the culture at large perceives them, incorporating sounds and ideas that are still only at the margins of consciousness.
The Williams Percussion Ensemble explores the nearly limitless universe of music that can be performed on percussion instruments including masterworks of the twentieth century, experimental music, music of many of the worlds traditions, and the most up-to-date works by contemporary composers. Members of the ensemble rehearse and perform on the entire range of percussion instruments including marimba, xylophone, vibraphone, drums, timpani, cymbals, and gongs. As percussion instruments are defined only by the fact that they are played by percussionists, the ensemble also makes use of homemade and found instruments. In order to have access to the widest possible body of music, the ensemble collaborates with other performing groups in the Williams College Community. The Williams Percussion Ensemble has a regular weekly rehearsal and performs at least one major concert each semester.
Directed by Matthew Gold, the ensemble will perform works by Mark Mothersbaugh, John Cage, Dave Hollinden, William Duckworth, Henry Cowell, Evan Hause, Wolfgang Rihm, Claude Debussy and George Crumb. Student soloists: Christina Lee ’08, percussion; Meghan Ramsey ’08, flute; Brian Simalchik ’10, string piano.