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Oct. 28: Riotous percussion takes audience for a spin

Ballet-Mecanique-rehearsalPULLMAN, Wash. – A composition that caused a riot when it was first performed in the 1920s will highlight a free, public concert by the Washington State University Percussion Ensemble at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28, in Kimbrough Hall.

“Ballet Mechanique,” by George Antheil, is scored for four pianos, two xylophones, orchestral bells, timpani, military drum, tenor drum, bass drum, triangle, cymbals, gongs, woodblock, small and large electric bells, and small and large airplane propeller sounds.

Ballet-Mecanique-rehearsal-600
The WSU Percussion Ensemble rehearses “Ballet Mecanique.”

The composition’s aggressive percussion and periods of silence prompted audiences to riot at its Paris debut and to recoil at its New York debut. Rediscovered and revised in the 1950s, it met with a three-minute ovation in Carnegie Hall.

Antheil once said, “if this piece had any program, it would be towards the barbaric and mystic splendor of modern civilization; mathematics of the universe in which the abstraction of the human soul lives.”

A performance by the Moscow Conservatory can be found on YouTube at http://youtu.be/pZ5iZ-cOb58.

Under the direction of professor David Jarvis, the ensemble consists of 12 student performers. The concert will feature WSU School of Music piano faculty Karen and Jeff Savage, Gerald Berthiaume and Michelle Mielke.

Other works on the program include:

“Cyclone,” by Jim Casella, featuring a quartet of marimbists. Inspired by an expedition to summit Mount Everest at a time when the Himalayas were threatened by cyclone winds, the marimbas introduce the main device of circular motion, grandeur and spaciousness with later accompaniment becoming more active, fast-switching and frenetic.

“Stubernic,” by Mark Ford, which highlights low-A marimba in the style of Latin American bands. The work is dedicated to Stefan and Mary K. Stuber, friends of the composer who did humanitarian aid work in Guatemala and Nicaragua.

“Trio per Uno (1st movement),” by Nebojsa Jovan Zivkovic, which features a bass drum, lying flat, played with timbale sticks by three percussionists. They each also play bongos and China gongs.

 

Contact:
Dave Jarvis, WSU School of Music, 509-335-3929, djarvis@wsu.edu

 

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