This performance, titled “Introductions,” mixes sounds that are uncommonly heard together and derived from countries all around the world.
Percussion Ensemble: “Introductions”
Saturday at 3 p.m.
E.V. Moore Building
The ensemble’s conductor, professor of music Joseph Gramley, recently took over the role of his colleague, professor of music Michael Udow, who directed the ensemble for 28 years. Gramley has traveled abroad with other groups and has recorded music with Grammy award-winning artist Yo-Yo Ma.
“Percussion music has been around for centuries and was one of the first examples of what we might call chamber music,” Gramley said. “Someone like Yo-Yo Ma who thinks outside of our borders and is about cross-pollination is the perfect example of what we’re doing in this ensemble, which is to branch out and play music from all over.”
Being a core part of the percussion performance major in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, the members of the ensemble put hours of practice into forming a successful performance, on top of their coursework.
“We practice three days a week in class time, but also the students have to learn their parts in their own time,” Gramley explained. “It’s a deep commitment that these students have, and you have to have that in all of chamber music to succeed and to communicate that to the audience.”
Included in the performance will be pieces composed in Ann Arbor, New York, Tokyo and New Zealand, with instruments ranging from marimba to microphone feedback.
The percussion ensemble’s performance will highlight the talents of 20 guest performers, including Dan Piccolo, a University alum and founder of the group Starbrand, a local percussion group.
“The ensemble will be playing a piece that I have written specifically for the event, titled ‘PTA,’ ” Piccolo wrote in an e-mail interview with The Michigan Daily. “It will feature members of my group Starbrand, which includes some members of the local group ‘My Dear Disco,’ who are all University alums. I will be playing tabla (the hand drums of North Indian classical music) and two members of my group, Mike Shea and Bob Lester, will be playing the drum set and electronics, respectively.”
This particular song includes custom instruments designed specifically for the piece, including six PVC tubes, various sizes of wooden boxes and a Rube Goldberg-style machine (which performs a simple task through a complex process) with several objects attached to it and hooked up to contact microphones.
“The piece is inspired by drum and bass music and uses mostly acoustic percussion instruments to mimic the unique sonic texture of the style,” Piccolo wrote. “The sounds from the custom instruments are electronically processed to produce some really exciting sounds. The music for the ensemble is quite challenging, mostly due to the speed at which very intricate rhythms need to be played.”
In addition to the performance, the ensemble is also recording a CD set to come out in September consisting of music all composed by University alumni.
“We received a grant from the UM OVPR (Office of Vice President of Research),” Gramley said. “UM is a world leading research university, and some of the music school’s research can be performance. It is produced by Block M Records and will be released online and available on iTunes.”
Gramley has encouraging words for those who may not want to trek to North Campus in order to see the concert.
“I want students to embrace some music that they may never have seen before, and not to be afraid to come on the bus to see us,” Gramley said. “This is a new genre of music.”