NEXUS has been producing creative and unique concerts since its first one in 1971. This past weekend was no exception as we collaborated with an amazing young Iranian / Canadian vocalist and setar (www.setar.info) player, Sepideh Raissadat who is quite well-known in her native country. Our performance was at a great little theater in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada as part of a very cool music festival called Open Ears. Band member Russell Hartenberger has been working diligently to transcribe and arrange the many classic Persian songs that we performed with Sepideh.
Due to the differences in tuning, there was a concern about using western instruments in conjunction with her setar, a traditional Iranian string instrument (not to be confused with the Indian sitar). Since we were not able to adapt to her intonation (we were primarily playing fixed pitched marimbas), she adapted to ours. However, her phrasing, pitch bending and beautiful vocal timbres made it work incredibly well. The festival producers were very pleased that we played to a sold out crowd. It did help to have a large Iranian population in this small town and they showed up in big numbers!
In addition to the Persian songs, Russell transcribed six songs written by Moondog (Louis Hardin), a popular street musician and philosopher from the 40s to the 70s in New York City. He was a blind, eccentric composer who was known as the “Viking of Sixth Avenue”.
The then conductor of the New York Philharmonic, Arthur Rodzinski, invited him to attend rehearsals of the Philharmonic which I am sure influenced his musical output. Moondog was also friends with Philip Glass and Steve Reich. Some credit him for having had a little influence on the minimalist music movement. These pieces were fantastic and Russell’s arrangements were quite beautiful and effective.
The other work on the concert was an older work of Russell’s called The Invisible Proverb. A previous version of this piece is on our Drumtalker CD (nexuspercussion.com/2004/11/drumtalker-dvd/). Hopefully we will be able to record the Moondog Suite, the Persian Songs and possibly rerecord The Invisible Proverb. We are scheduled to do this concert again at the University of Toronto on October 27th of this year.
The next night, we performed Steve Reich’s Drumming. We collaborated on this concert with the Canadian percussion group TorQ (Richard Burrows, Adam Campbell, Jamie Drake, Dan Morphy, with guest Brennan Connelly). Gillian Stone, Amy Gottung and Laura Chambers also joined in on vocals and piccolo. Everyone played phenomenally in what is a fairly rare performance of the complete work of Drumming (part one alone of Drumming is performed more often).
Backstage just before the concert, Sepideh gave us a short lesson on Iranian finger clicking. We were totally blown away by the sheer volume she was able to produce by simply pushing one finger against another. These are the kind of things that keeps touring interesting. The jokes are usually pretty good too.
For more information on Sepideh’s latest recording, go HERE.