In photos and words: Make Music Day Asheville

DJ EmE preformed at Moog Music on Saturday, June 21. Photo by Sarah Whelan

Make Music Day, which originated in France in 1982, is now held in more than 700 cities worldwide. This year marked the inaugural Make Music Day in Asheville, with a number of free events held on Saturday and Sunday, June 20 and 21, at Moog Music, The Altamont Theatre, The Mothlight and as part of the Asheville Percussion Festival. Music was streamed live by AshevilleFM.

Moog Music:

Music poured out from the speakers in the Moog Music store on Saturday, June 20, as Make Music Asheville hit the ground running.

DJ Kutzu led the day with a two-hour set of electronic-styled dance music. DJ Kutzu is well known in the local music industry through his work with Turntable Tuesday, a weekly DJ event held at Asheville Music Hall.

From noon to 5 p.m., local DJs Marley Carroll, Iffy and Cpt. Hyperdrive performed original and stimulating sets that brought in an array of passersby. The modern music knew no age as couples from nearly every generation stopped by, nodded their heads, swayed their hips and looked around the Moog store. Some attendees found their way into Moog by dodging the scattered rainstorms, and others arrived early with high anticipation for the day’s musical events.

A miniature inflatable pool filled with free PBR for those of age sat amongst the synthesizers and electronic instruments in the factory’s storefront. Attendees were encouraged to get hands-on with the instruments, each of which was manufactured by Moog factory employees. A product that received a prominent amount of attention was the Theremini, a synthesizer that involves no physical touch to create sound. — Sarah Whelan

Asheville Percussion Festival:

On Sunday, June 21, one man traversed the hallways of Odyssey Community School with four didgeridoos in hand, passing a fellow barefooted musician before resuming his load-out. Inside the school’s performance room, where instruments from across the globe filled a loosely defined space on the floor, local rhythm master River Guergeurian encouraged the dozens of expectant attendees to test out a hand drum while waiting for the next act.

The show — a split bill between handpan player Adam Maalouf and “kalimba man” Kevin Spears — was doubly significant for its association with both the fourth annual Asheville Percussion Festival and inaugural Make Music Asheville. Both festivals, hosted by Guerguerian and Jeff Arnal respectively, are multi-day, multi-venue events celebrating Asheville’s commitment to the musical arts.

With three locally made Saraz handpans splayed out before him, Maalouf began the concert. His movements, predominantly controlled taps of the index fingers and thumbs, employed all angles of the steel instruments, with the highest pitches hailing from the underbelly of the bowls.

Pausing between elegant, therapeutic songs, he revealed that his discovery of the now beloved instrument actually took place at a previous iteration of the Asheville Percussion Festival.

Continuing to prop up the crowd’s high spirits, Spears took the stage and began with a kalimba-only number. He soon added loops of live-recorded rhythms — some by tapping the bottom of his kalimba and others employing a drum machine — prompting eager smiles and as much dancing as can be expected from a fully seated crowd.

Before adjourning, the two artists invited Asheville Percussion Festival’s headliner, New York City-based drum guru Bashiri “the Bash-man” Johnson, to round out their ad-hoc trio. Climactic moments of rhythmic synergy drew mid song-applause and awe from the audience before toes went tapping out the door. — Kat McReynolds

Here’s a sample clip of Maalouf playing an improvised tune on one of his hanpans:

The Mothlight:

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Mark Hosler performing at The Mothlight

In the middle of a 90-degree day, it was a welcome relief to step into the cool cavelike atmosphere of The Mothlight. Four different experimental acts filled a couple of hours, with setups scattered around the floor and stage.

Percussionist Jeff Arnal, who helped to organize the festival, opened with a short composition using drums, loops and various objects. The result ranged from (and sometimes overlapped) industrial to organic. Arnal achieved sounds of whales, gulls, waves, trains, gears, metal, dissonance, resonance, night, sparks, tides and insects. His musicianship suggested an obscure avant-garde jazz performance, but stripped and raw — maybe locked in a basement for years, left both to polish and to rust.

Other artists on the bill included Jonah-Parzen Johnson, performing “serious, athletic baritone saxophone loops and synthesizer textures;” and The Steve Alford Quartet with Alford on contralto clarinet, Frank Meadows and Danny Ianucci on contrabass, Phil Bronson on drums and the last-minute addition of percussionist Tyler Householder.

Mark Hosler, a founding member of sound art collective Negativland, used a tabletop setup of gear and instruments to create a surround-sound listening experience. Layering sonic textures, he directed various parts of his composition through four speakers at different points on the ceiling. Before he started his performance, Hosler instructed the audience to sit close to the center of the room to maximize the show.

While not exactly participatory, Hosler’s sound installation did create an unusual listening experience — one of being inside the song rather than witnessing it at a distance. At the same time, Hosler’s concern seemed to be less with creating a pleasant or relaxing score and more about producing evocative and provocative sounds. At one point the high pitched, mechanical and sometimes abrasive tones and textures gave way — ever so briefly — to a classical melody. The round-edged softness of that few bars of music was so apparent — even when cut through by a therminlike whine — that it almost redefined the very construct of a classical symphony. — Alli Marshall

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