Experimental percussion ensembles at The Mothlight this weekend

Western North Carolina-based ensemble 10-can Percussion is one in a growing network of advocates for newer musical works. Be aware: Those sounds might be greener on the vine and more challenging to a listener than standards of classic minimalism. On Sunday, March, 10-can Percussion presents a selection of some curious and transcendent works for a percussion ensemble at The Mothlight alongside a set of pieces performed by the New York-based Mobius Percussion.

“I think contemporary music is far too often imprisoned in academic settings,” says Corey Denham of 10-can Percussion, “We want what we do to be very accessible and personal and we’re interested in exploring performance in as many diverse venues as we can.” Denham, with Emory Hensley and Justin Mabry (the other two members of the group), are among a generation of new musicians who straddle the line between DIY art culture and that of the concert hall.

Because of a certain pioneer mentality toward performing and their willingness to explore alternative instruments, ensembles like 10-can or Mobius Percussion are becoming increasingly free from the standard venues of academia and the logistical difficulties of schlepping any number of marimbas from place to place. “Many of the pieces we play require us to build or find things that would not previously have been considered instruments,” says Denham. “The idea that percussion is all around us drives us all creatively.”

“Shi” (2008) by Alexandre Lunsqui is one work 10-can is featuring on its program that employs an ensemble of atypical instruments, such as a grill tray. The piece fluctuates through subtle polyrhythmic episodes, voiced in a collective buzz of woody and metallic microtones. The piece brings to mind such master exercises in compositional restraint as David Lang’s “the so-called laws of nature,” in which four players ruminate on phasing iterations of sounds for wood, bells and mallet instruments. While keeping pace with the rigorous formal schemes of contemporary work like Lang’s, “Shi” balances this theoretical intensity with an aura of ancient reflection reminiscent of composer Harry Partch’s ambitious ritual theater works of the 1960’s.

Amid this set of new explorations for percussion (some as recent as 2014), Mobius Percussion will also be performing Steve Reich’s 1973 composition, “Music for Pieces of Wood” – a work that, as Sunday’s program states, “is a staple of the percussion repertoire and an early example of minimalism.”

The program is made up of pieces that could, by conventional standards, be considered challenging. But the fact that a listener can sip a gin and tonic at The Mothlight’s bar or play Mortal Kombat between pieces sets a tone of ease and openness for 10-can and Mobius ensembles. Even if the music is esoteric, the experience is the audiences to claim for itself.

WHAT: 10-can Percussion with Mobius Percussion
WHERE: The Mothlight
WHEN: Sunday, March 1, 9 p.m. $5


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Alec Sturgis
Alec Sturgis is a composer, arts organizer and music journalist based in Asheville, NC. Along with his experiences in academic music, studying at the Conservatory at Baldwin-Wallace University, Sturgis also participated in the management of Asheville DIY art-space, Apothecary.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

One thought on “Experimental percussion ensembles at The Mothlight this weekend

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.