Saturday, January 28, 2012
I've just come home from seeing the Los Angeles Philharmonic perform Mahler's 6th Symphony. Mahler pulls out all the stops for this piece, with something like a 100-person orchestra, including six percussionists.
I saw the San Francisco Symphony perform Verdi's Requiem a couple months ago, and the bass drummer stole much of my attention. This particular drummer hit the three climactic beats with two bass drums and then adjusted one drum to play the rest. He repeated the exact same procedure of tilting the drum and adjusting it each time that bit of the piece came around. Noticing the repetition of his process was fascinating. The movements were perfectly calculated.
Everyone in the hall had to be thinking that that guy is the coolest dude in the room. And that guy knew it. I figure, for a percussionist, it's the thrill of a lifetime. He's thinking, "yeah, I'm the badass that gets to play the bass drum in the Verdi Requiem. You're welcome."
Watching a world-class orchestra perform is watching lifetimes of practice, precision, timing and technique. And no one is so on display than a symphonic percussionist. They practice, practice, practice and then often hit something once, maybe twice (unless on timpani).
The photo above is an image I found online of a "hammer" used in Mahler's 6th Symphony. It is only played two times in the whole performance. The instrument I saw for this LA Phil performance (conducted by the 31-year-old Gustavo Dudamel, or as my Dad lovingly calls him, "Gus the Dude") was probably five feet tall and six feet wide, made out of simple, unfinished pine wood and had a giant whole in the middle of it. The mallet looked like something out of a Looney Toons cartoon. The percussionist (Perry Dreiman) had to walk up a couple of stairs to hit this thing.
There's also a moment in the last movement where five of the six percussionist bang the cymbals at the same time. The moments watching them prepare is exciting. I felt like a little kid waiting for this big bang, "Oh man! FIVE CYMBAL CRASHES!" And then it's over, and they move on to the next thing to hit, or wait for another 100 measures.
Two percussionists, including the same guy who played the hammer, also play off-stage bells. But I didn't realize what was going on. These guys kept exiting and entering stage, and I was thinking, "what the hell is going on here? This is so distracting!" But once I figured out what was going on could enjoy it as a super cool effect.
These guys have the best jobs.
(No offense to the rest of the orchestra, you guys are pretty fabulous yourselves, but you're not quite as amusing to watch way up in the balcony!)
Read about it from the source: the LA Phil blog.
Friday, January 20, 2012
Thursday, January 12, 2012
2) "Float and Fall" by Meklit Hadero / On a Day Like This
3) "Monkey Gone to Heaven" by the Pixies, performed by Conspiracy of Venus / UnderCover Presents The Pixies' Doolittle
4) "Opa Cupa Fly" by Brass Menazeri Brass Band, vocalist: Bridget Boyle / Vranjski San
5) "Many Seasons" by Kacey Johansing / Many Seasons
6) "With You" by Dreams, vocalist: Emily Ritz
7) "Driving is Fun" by Dina Maccabee / Who Do You Suppose You Are?
8) "Stay" by Crystal Monee Hall / River Train
9) "Cadillac" by Con Brio, vocalist: Xandra Corpora / From The Hip
10) "Our Little Secret" by Megan Slankard / Token of the Wreckage
11) "Love For the Asking" by Kally Price
12) "Tore My Heart" Oona Garthwaite / Shhhhout!
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Interview with Meklit Hadero, the Nile Project and bringing East Africa together through its own music
I am so excited about the Nile Project. I've offered to help out in any way that I can (I already donated some money). This is what being an ethnomusicologist is all about!
The project is in its infant stages and requires a tremendous amount of research: Who are the musicians? What are the songs? What are the logistics of touring the Nile? (There are after all alligators and rapids along the way.)
Meklit and Mina need your help to get to East Africa for the first research trip this spring and are raising 10 thousand dollars on kickstarter to help cover the costs. But more importantly, they want to get the word out about the project.