Percussion Ensemble

Williams Percussion Ensemble
"Invisible Systems"

Matthew Gold, director

The Williams College Department of Music presents the Percussion Ensemble under the direction of Matthew Gold on Friday, April 23, at 7:30 p.m. in Chapin Hall on the Williams College campus. This free event is open to the public and does not require tickets.

From the opening hum of John Cage’s Imaginary Landscape No. 1, the listener is immersed in a new and unpredictable terrain of wails, moans, and bends. While it is clear that the old rules no longer apply, it may not be readily apparent that they have been replaced by new ways of organizing music. Invisible Systems is a program of works that follow their own internal logic, relating to each other in surprising ways and combining to form a network of meaning. These works explore the musical potential in buzzers and phonographs on equal footing with conventional instruments, and of course find an infinite variety of sounds in percussion instruments. These often volatile materials function within systems derived from nature, rock and roll, Baganda court music, and the stars.

The program features Lukas Ligeti’s Pattern Transformation in which four players on two marimbas negotiate an extremely tricky polymetric interplay in music inspired by the metric structures of Baganda court music (a region in modern Uganda). Ligeti, whose work as a composer and improviser on drums and electronics is informed by his deep immersion in African music as well as rock and jazz, and mathematics and architecture, describes this fast piece with its shifting sense of pulse as having, “a three dimensional quality, akin to looking at a sculpture from different sides.” N. Cameron Britt’s Aybabtu is built around the chirping of the composer’s homemade buzzers, and makes reference in its title to an Internet meme from ten years ago. In his …and bells remembered… John Luther Adams creates a slow moving and inexorable progression of ringing and shimmering bells that seems to operate like the natural surroundings of his Alaska home. John Cage’s Imaginary Landscape No. 1 is one of the very first electro-acoustic works ever composed, making use of two variable speed turntables to project and manipulate the sounds of specific Victor frequency and constant tone records. The Williams Percussion Ensemble will also perform Christopher Rouse’s Bonham, based on the drumming of the legendary Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, and the world premiere of a work by Bennington College student Daniel Miller. Interspersed around the evening will be the movements of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Tierkreis (Zodiac), 12 melodies of the star signs. Originally conceived for specially built music boxes, the work will be heard in the premiere performance of arrangements made by Williams students and faculty for this program.

Employing a nearly limitless battery of percussion instruments, the Williams Percussion Ensemble performs cutting edge new music, masterworks of the twentieth century, experimental music, and music from around the globe. Performances feature the use of all manner of percussion instruments as well as homemade objects, found sounds, and electronics. 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.