NEXUS at Fifty: PART 26: 2007

Posted by

DANCE MUSIC FOR ELFRID IDE   HERE is a radio show aired of Garry and Russell in conversation with Laura Kuhn, Exec.Dir. of the John Cage Trust at Bard College. They had fun talking about Cage and sundry related topics. You will also hear 2 movements of our recording of Cage’s Dance Music for Elfrid Ide, composed in 1940, lost until 2005. The Trust invited us to premiere this 15-minute work in 2007. It was largely unknown even to Cage scholars and had been composed in the same year as Cage’s Second Construction. It was Laura who discovered it in a pile of music while researching at Mills College, and she says that dancer Elfrid Ide probably performed it on her Thesis Dance Concert given on May 20, 1941 at Mills. John Cage served on the Dance Faculty there in the summers of 1940 and ‘41. It’s whimsical instrumentation includes squawker, slide whistle, ratchet, slapstick, handclaps, cowbells, slit blocks, drums, cymbals, gong, claves and a whisk! Garry describes it as “a wonderful piece of music full of African and Latin rhythms, a fun slow movement using toy instruments and a raucous honky tonk finale.”  

Bill Cahn has put together a very cool video to accompany our performance of the first movement of Dance Music …, you can watch it HERE

LIKE NIMBLE CATS   Yup, that’s us. On Feb. 16, 17 & 18, we performed our Zwilich work, “Rituals” with the Kansas City Symphony under Michael Stern. Here’s Paul Horsley, reviewing for the Kansas City Star: “…Zwilich’s vigorously entertaining piece written for…NEXUS….As they struck, stroked, shook, tapped and bowed the nearly 100 instruments lined up against the back of the stage, conductor Michael Stern led with assurance, neatly blending the kaleidoscopic percussion sonorities into the orchestral fabric…The animated percussionists were…dancing around the wall of instruments like nimble cats.” Thing is, just as our road manager Craig Snowden was leaving Toronto on Feb 14 with the instruments, the worst storm of the decade hit, ultimately dumping 70 centimetres (27 inches) on the area Craig was driving through. He says, “The city shut down for two days just as I was leaving. It took me 14 hours to drive 800 kms (500 miles). Eventually I had to get off the road because the headlights had completely iced over. When I finally found a hotel, I had to kick the snow drift away from the door so I could open it.” Despite stories like this, Craig says, “I have not had a bad trip with NEXUS.” Really, Craig?

While in Missouri we also gave workshops at the University of Kansas (Lawrence, KS), Wichita State University and the University of Missouri – Kansas City.

COOL DRUMMINGS   A really interesting concert: “NEXUS and Friends” with Liam Teague, Peter Erskine, Hugh Marsh and Greg Oh. It was Soundstreams’ first Cool Drummings International Percussion Festival and Conference that brought in over 100 artists from across Canada and seven countries. Liam, Peter and Greg joined us in Bob Becker’s “Palta”; violinist Hugh Marsh joined us in Russell Hartenberger’s “Telisi Odyssey”. All of us joined in on a wondeful improvisation. Peter was the driving force on several of the Takemitsu songs. We had one of the best performances of John Cage’s “Third Construction” ever – it brought the audience to their feet – what a rush. CBC called it a “highlight”. It was a great evening.  

INSTRUMENTS ON TWO NEW CDs    In Feb. we performed at Toronto’s Music Gallery with Swiss drum-set artist Fritz Hauser, in a release of our CD with him, “out of the blue”. Our improvisation with him and his solo called “time flies” were recorded at PASIC’04. Also on the album is Bob Becker’s “Away Without Leave”.  Fritz said, “Improvising with NEXUS is like having 10 extra arms and ears and being surrounded by about 150 years of musical experience.” You can hear Garry’s Baschet instruments on the CD. He tuned them to an ancient Grecian scale from the 7th c. BC. “One has threaded rods, like a giant mbira, and the other has acrylic rods which are rubbed like a wine glass to get a sustained sound. Both have cone speakers like an old Victrola, which amplifies the sound, and echo wires, which give the sound resonance.” You can hear a section of the improvisation HERE







In Nov. we released our album of Takemitsu songs, “Wings”, with beautiful cover art by Bonnie Sheckter. For his piece “Unseen Child”, Bob Becker got involved in the development of a sizzle cymbal at the Sabian factory in Meductic NB. He says “I discovered the world of rivets is large and varied, both in terms of sizes and also materials (brass, copper, steel, plastic, etc.). .. I now own dozens of different types and sizes of rivets,– some made of cymbal brass, which I later found were already being produced by a Turkish company. The photo here is a close-up of a prototype with rivets arranged for Unseen Child. There is only one moment when a sizzle is used – a very delicate accompaniment to soft tremolos on the metalophones. I needed a cymbal that would speak instantly, and be sustainable with a continuous and even sound in pianissimo. This rivet set-up worked best. The 5 outer rivets are medium-size brass, and the 3 inner ones small and made of steel. Garry Kvistad plays this cymbal and others in “Unseen Child” on the CD.

You can read more about Bob’s prepared cymbals HERE.  You can read more about preparing the material for “Wings”, and hear some of the music HERE.   and you can also hear segments from the album HERE.  Some photos from our Music Gallery performance with Fritz Hauser:


CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’   It began at the Pulse Festival: 3 performances of the Takemitsu with the Pacific Symphony and Carl St. Clair, celebrating 10 years since we had recorded the piece with them. One review called it “the piece de resistance” while another said NEXUS “was at the top of its game.” We ended with Reich’s Music For Pieces of Wood which the LA Times found “exuded mesmerizing liveliness amid its superb exactness”.




On to Ojai Festival. Artistic Director Tom Morris brought the famed pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard as the musical director with piano and percussion as the overriding theme. The photo includes Jan Williams, Tom Morris and at centre Peter Eötvös. Aimard said, “Nexus was Tom’s idea. He sent me recordings. I thought [the idea] was very inspired.” [“Still High on Ojai” in Symphony Magazine]. The featured composer was the Hungarian, Peter Eötvös. In the Masterworks concert, we performed with Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich in Bartok’s ‘Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion’ and in ‘Sonata per sei’ by Eötvös.  Percussionists Jan Williams and Tom Morris along with pianists Helena Bugallo and Amy Williams joined is in an electrifying  performance of Stravinsky’s ‘Les Noces’.  In keeping with Ojai’s idea of “Let’s try new things”, we presented our silent film A Page of Madness with Bill’s score, and a Creative Music Making workshop. On the Sunday in the Libby Bowl our solo concert was called “The Color of Sound” – the morning slot traditionally reserved for the most audience-friendly performances so we had fun. An arts blog review said it was “ astounding with what they could achieve in sheer musicality with so little: much more than rhythm but a whole sound world complete with melody, emotion, and even humor.”   Listen to our performance w/ the Pacific Symphony HERE.

Read about  Bill’s “Eötvös sticks” (pictured) HERE



0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x