Saturday, May 02, 2009

Director's Notes

As the centerpiece of this concert, the Humboldt State Percussion Ensemble will be performing an extremely revolutionary work by Edgard Varese entitled Ionization. Written in 1931, Ionisation features 14 performers playing over 47 different instruments. The sound mass and texture fields heard in the piece are both colorful and dense.

As well as a grand piano and all of the standard instruments of the percussion family, Varese also calls for Afro-Cuban instruments such, and exotic instruments such as gongs, sleighbells, castagnetts, a glockenspiel, a lions roar, two anvils, and, perhaps the most unique of all, two hand crank sirens. The low-pitched siren used by the Humboldt State Percussion Ensemble is the exact Sterling type II hand crank fire siren that Varese specified in his 1931 score. The high-pitched siren is an authentic combat field siren issued by the US military and made by the Federal Electric Company in Chicago, Illinois.

Often considered a radical futurist, Varese claims that he was interested in sound for sounds sake alone, and for that reason, considered all sounds as valid. As early as the 1930s, Varese heard the sound of the siren as a result of the modern world, and as such, he used it as a musical instrument in his composition. Many scholars have noted that Varese's ideas and experiments with sound, which predated the invention of the first synthesizer by almost 40 years, had an extensive effect on the development of electronic music. This is certain to be a memorable performance that should not be missed!

Also featured on the first half of the concert, the HSU Marimba Band will present the folkloric marimba music of Mexico, Guatamala, and Africa, and the HSU World Percussion Group will present the folkloric music of Cuba, ending with an exciting rendition of the famous Cuban carnival music, Conga de Comparsa.

The second half of the show will feature the festive dance music of the Humboldt State Calypso Band. One of Humboldt County's favorite ensembles, the Calypso Band will feature several high-energy dance compositions from the Caribbean in their set.

The Humboldt State Calypso Band prides itself in maintaining an accurate and authentic connection to the roots of the steel band movement and the innovative musicians of Trinidad, the island on which this unique percussion phenomenon was born. The band is dedicated to the performance of traditional and contemporary music from the Caribbean, Africa, Brazil, Cuba and the United States.

In addition to its regular performances at Humboldt State and throughout Northern California, the band has undertaken tours to San Francisco, Santa Cruz, San Jose, Santa Rosa, Sacramento, Stockton, Fresno, Oakland, Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Seattle, WA, and has just returned from a standing ovation performance at the Northwest Percussion Festival held at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon.

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