The Southern Oregon University Percussion Ensemble and Left Edge Percussion, both directed by Terry Longshore, will present “Revolution,” featuring some of the earliest music for concert percussion ensemble. John Cage famously said, “Percussion Music is Revolution,” and this concert will feature some of the most ground-breaking works of the genre’s first dozen years. The opening concert of SOU Percussion’s 2019-20 season, it will be bookended in the spring with “Evolution,” featuring recently composed music, including the winning piece from the inaugural 2019-20 SOU/Left Edge Percussion Percussion Composition Contest.
The Southern Oregon University Percussion Ensemble will open with “Ritmicas Nos. 5 & 6” by Cuban composer Amadeo Roldán, conducted by Master of Music student Mitchell Carlstrom. Composed in 1930 as part of a larger collection of pieces, these pieces are the first compositions for concert percussion ensemble, and utilize traditional Cuban instruments, rhythms, and dance forms.
Following the “Ritmicas”, SOU Director of Percussion Studies Dr. Terry Longshore will conduct Edgard Varèse’s seminal work, “Ionisation.” Composed in 1929-31, “Ionisation” is widely considered to be the starting point of the concert percussion ensemble genre. Known as the “father of electronic music,” Varèse’s complex use of timbre, texture, and tension were unparalleled at the time. His employment of noise (sirens, anvils, large clusters on piano) are matched by his ingenious combinations of percussion instruments borrowed from the orchestra (snare drums, bass drums, cymbals), and many world music traditions (gongs, bongos, cowbells, etc.) to create beautiful and cacophonous sonorities.
Composed in 1933, William Russell’s “Three Dance Movements” sets three common dances in uncommon meters: “Waltz” in 7/4 time, “March” in 3/4, and “Fox Trot” in 5/4. Notable techniques used by Russell include sawing a cymbal, playing all keys of the piano with a board, and breaking a ginger ale bottle.
In Henry Cowell’s “Ostinato Pianissimo” (1934), each of eight performers performs a repeating pattern (“ostinato”) of unique lengths, all at a very soft dynamic level (“pianissimo”). The very challenging xylophone part will be performed by junior Bachelor of Music in Performance student Logan Rickard, a Trauffer-Polich Percussion Scholar. The other musicians accompany on jala tarang (tuned rice bowls), muted piano, drums, gongs, and other percussion.
Johanna Magdalena Beyer’s music was virtually unknown – not performed, published, or recorded – during her lifetime, likely due to gender bias, and has since become noted for its expressiveness and innovation. Active in the experimental music scene, she often used simple percussion ensembles as choirs of sound, as in her “Percussion Opus 14” (1939), and her music has a captivating sense of breath and shape from her frequent use of stringendo and rallantando (speeding up and slowing down), paired with dynamic change.
Left Edge Percussion will perform two works: Lou Harrison’s “Canticle No. 3” (1940) and John Cage’s “Third Construction” (1941). Harrison’s “Canticle” employs one of his favorite musical devices, the canon, in much of the work, and also displays his mastery of timbre. Instruments normally associated with melodic passages, the xylophone and guitar, are given the role of simple 3-note decorations, or rhythmic underpinning. The melodic heavy lifting goes to an ocarina (ancient vessel flute) as well as industrial instruments capable of producing gorgeous, shimmering pitches, albeit indeterminate: automobile brake drums, antique Bundt cake pans, buffalo bells, and steel pipes.
John Cage’s “Third Construction” is still one of the most-performed works for percussion quartet, and the intricate writing, immaculate orchestration of found indigenous sounds, as well as the sheer groove of the piece make it an audience favorite everywhere. When the conch shell sounds about at about the three-quarter moment of the piece, percussionists everywhere sing along! Join along in this joyful moment!
The concert closes with “October Mountain” (1942) by Alan Hovhaness. Although composed at the same time as many of Cage’s and Harrison’s most-beloved works for percussion, it is a turning point in the repertoire, using the marimba as the main melodic voice for the composition. Hovhaness was highly influenced by the music of Armenia and India, and in “October Mountain” employs melodic techniques on the marimba borrowed from the jala tarang of India. “October Mountain” sounds almost cinematic compared to the other pieces presented, and points us in a direction we will hear later this season in our upcoming programs, “Deconstruction” and “Evolution.”
TICKETS: $10 General Admission
Purchase tickets online oca.sou.edu/box-office or by calling or stopping by the OCA Box Office 541.552.6348 491 S. Mountain Ave. Ashland, OR Monday – Friday Noon-5pm and one hour before each performance.