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Drums And Architecture At Third Coast Percussion's Opener

By Alexander Hough in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 25, 2009 4:20PM

Photo from TCP's website
Third Coast Percussion opens its season this Saturday at Roosevelt University with a program connecting music and architecture. The concert is an extension of the group's recent week-long residency at Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Taliesin, located in Spring Green, Wisconsin, was Wright's summer home and started as a school in 1932 when the architect brought out twenty-three apprentices to study with him. TCP filled their week with outreach concerts, panel discussions, and a final concert, which will be replayed on Saturday night.

The connection of the four pieces on the program to architecture varies in overtness. On one end is "Psappha," by Iannis Xenakis, who, in addition to being a composer, was an architect, working with Le Courbusier after fleeing his native Greece to escape punishment for his involvement with communist resistance groups. "Psappha" (an ancient version of "Sappho," the Greek poet) is a solo piece written for unpitched percussion. The notation is non-traditional but actually extremely precise. Check out a page of the score here.

Other pieces on the concert include Toru Takemitsu's "Rain Tree," written for vibraphone, marimbas, and crotales; a marimba duo from Philippe Manoury's "Le Livre des claviers," which also has unusual notation (e.g. unmetered sections of thirty to forty grace notes that must be coordinated with the other musician); and, after intermission, Paul Lansky's cantanta for percussion quartet, "Threads." You can learn about these pieces' more subtle connection with architecture by showing up an hour before the show for the discussion with TCP and Wright scholar Sidney Robinson.

As a happy coincidence, Wright himself was involved in the creation of Ganz Hall, where TCP's concert will be held, having served as an apprentice to Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan during the construction of their Auditorium Building. In 1890, after the building was already completed, it was decided there needed to be a banquet hall. With nowhere left to build, Sullivan decided to suspend what is now Ganz Hall directly above the Auditorium Theatre. It's lasted almost 120 years, but if you still find the thought of floating above the room below unnerving, take your mind off of it by admiring the ornamentation, which Wright helped design. The hall is easy on the eyes and ears both and will be a good complement, musically and thematically, to Saturday's events.

Ganz Hall at Roosevelt University, 430 S. Michigan, Saturday, September 26, pre-concert discussion at 6:30 p.m., concert at 7:30 p.m., $15, $5 students and seniors