Percussion Ensemble

Williams Percussion Ensemble

 The Williams College Department of Music presents Williams College Percussion Ensemble on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. in the CenterStage of the ‘62 Center for Theatre and Dance in a program titled, never odd or even. This free event is open to the public.

The Williams Percussion Ensemble’s program features works that push at conventional musical boundaries, extending the range of sound, performance, gesture, and sometimes musical meaning to arrive at new ways of presenting and hearing music.  At the center of the program is Mark Applebaum’s Straitjacket, secretly subtitled, “four restraint systems for solo percussion and percussion quartet,” featuring rising star solo percussionist Alex Lipowski. This extraordinary and curious work confronts the challenge presented by percussion music’s infinite possibilities by imposing rigorous constraints, creating, “a kind of super-disciplined absurdity—as if invoking a parallel world whose eccentric culture is governed by elaborate rules perceived but not understood.”  In four movements, each borrowing a formal technique from the French literary group Oulipo, the percussionists play five drum sets in strict unison, perform a series of 118 detailed hand gestures, enact a process of removing notes (as opposed to the more expected one of adding them), and scrawl shapes on amplified boards in rhythmic synchronization.

Applebaum’s work sets the tone for an evening of ecstatic rhythms, sonic exploration, and hidden relationships. Christopher Adler’s Signals Intelligence refers to an electronic transmission in which order is clearly audible but the information density is too high for the human ear and brain to process.  The composer explores this idea through unrelenting rhythms across a sonic canvass of wood, metal, and skin instruments. Keeril Makan’s 2 for violin and percussion starts within a high density package of closely packed sounds that first erupts then gradually dissolves into melodic noise. And David Lang’s meditative Little Eye for cello and percussion evokes memories of childhood, and long drives spent playing “I spy with my little eye.”

The Williams Percussion Ensemble rounds out the program with works by two of the great composers of the second half of the twentieth century.  Mauricio Kagel’s Rrrrrrr… is a set of six percussion duos, each beginning with the letter “R,” taken from a set of 41 autonomous pieces that together constitute the Radio Phantasy “Rrrrrrr…”.  Its six movements are “Railroad Drama,” “Ranz des vaches,” “Rigaudon,” “Rim Shots & Co.,” “Ruf,” and “Rutscher.” In anticipation of the John Cage centennial in 2012, WiPE is presenting his 1956 work Radio Music, for eight radios, a landmark piece in which the actions of the performers are fully notated, but the resulting sounds are unpredictable and ephemeral.  Each performance is wholly unique and of its moment as the radios capture whatever sounds happen to be floating in the ether at that given moment, outside of the composer’s control, and unaware that they have been re-appropriated for any other use than entertaining or informing the listener.

Williams Percussion Ensemble

In programs featuring cutting edge new and experimental music, and important works of the twentieth-century, WiPE surveys a vast terrain of sound and rhythm.  The ensemble employs all manner of percussion instruments, found sounds, and electronics to create music that resonates across boundaries of genre and discipline. In addition to music for percussion alone, the group presents works for mixed ensembles and new and experimental music for other instruments, and has often worked directly with composers.  The ensemble also collaborates with artists in other media in order to explore the connections between different types of sound, form, image, and movement.

Matthew Gold

Matthew Gold is a New York based percussionist with a deep commitment to new music.  A member of the Talujon percussion group and Talea Ensemble, and a former co-director of TimeTable Percussion, he performs regularly with Sequitur, the Argento Chamber Ensemble, Da Capo Chamber Players, SEM Ensemble, and many others.  Mr. Gold is an instructor of percussion at Williams College where he directs the Williams Percussion Ensemble and co-directs I/O New Music. Recent solo appearances include concerto performances with Sequitur, the Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival, and the Williams Symphonic Wind Ensemble.  He performs frequently with the Mark Morris Dance Group and the New York City Ballet, and  serves as an artist-faculty member for the Institute and Festival for Contemporary Performance at Mannes College.

Alex Lipowski

An advocate of contemporary music, Alex Lipowski is the Executive Director of the Talea Ensemble and has performed in ensembles such as the Second Instrumental Unit, Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, ICE, and Wet Ink Ensemble. He has been seen on concert stages throughout North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. As a soloist and chamber musician he has collaborated with composers including Pierre Boulez, Helmut Lachenmann, Unsuk Chin, Pierluigi Billone, and John Zorn to name a few. Lipowski  has presented guest lectures at the University of Virginia Commonwealth, Denver State College, and UNICAMP, São Paulo, Brazil and holds a Bachelors and Masters degree from the Juilliard School.  He has performed at festivals including the Lucerne Festival, Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt, Jerusalem Chamber Music Festival, and the Great Mountains Music Festival.  A career highlight is a tour with Pierre Boulez through Europe and then to Japan performing Boulez’s work, sur Incises. He has recorded for Mode Records, Gravina Musica, Naxos, and the Living Artists Label.