Percussion Ensemble

Williams Percussion Ensemble
"Noise/Signal"

Matthew Gold, director

Passport – Dept. Ensemble

The Williams Percussion Ensemble presents Noise/Signal, a program of mostly recent works for percussion, mixed ensembles, and electronics celebrating the raw and uncontained end of the percussion spectrum. Through the use non-conventional instruments such as circular saw blades and two-by-fours, the complex ringing of gongs and bells, and all variety of drums, the program explores what is conventionally thought of as noise and reframes it, revealing its hidden structures and beauty.

The program features the U.S. premiere of Dutch composer Michel van der Aa’s Between, a multilayered exploration of musical positioning through the interaction of live percussion and electronic sounds. The title of James Romig’s Frame Problem, scored for any group of wood, metal, and skin instruments, refers to the process by which the human brain perceives and organizes information. The composer writes that the multiple concurrent meters of this highly rhythmic trio provide, “human listeners with the opportunity to resolve multiple overlapping frames simultaneously. Robots in the audience will probably just be confused.” Saturate, by multi-instrumentalist, composer/producer/sound artist, and experimental music legend Elliott Sharp is a work, “packed with timbral transformation, variable densities, and hocketed grooves,” for baritone saxophone, electric guitar, piano, and percussion. Musical revolutionary and mystic Giacinto Scelsi is represented by his short, brooding and atmospheric I Riti: Ritual March, The Funeral of Achilles. The Williams Percussion Ensemble is extremely pleased to present the world premiere of a work that was co-composed, in the manner of John Cage and Lou Harrison’s Double Music, by two of its members, Alex Creighton ’10 and Brian Simalchik ’10. If i were in, on, or around is built on the pitches of a set of automobile brake drums, and gradually invites the listener to hear them not as noise, but as a gentle and melodic scale.

Special guest Peter Wise of Doggo & Sons will lead the ensemble in a performance of electronic music that, instead of relying on cutting edge technology, utilizes circuit-bent kids’ toys, cheap microphones, and scavenged materials. “Circuit Bending” is an increasingly popular method of taking electronic children’s toys that emit sound, disassembling them, and rewiring their circuits to produce sounds never intended by the manufacturer. Wise’s work explores the strange but often beautiful musical terrain of hacked up kids’ toys from the dark side, tube-loop-feedback, and circuit-bent drum machines.

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.