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To many people, perhaps, the idea of a solo percussion concert might seem a bit daunting. For the full house of folks who showed up at Space4Art last night for David Shively's performance--it was as natural as breathing.

Shively began the 29 minute opus "Resonant Alloy," by striking the edges of two cymbals with knitting needles. There were three cymbals in all--two perched atop drums, with one in the middle fastened to a hi-hat mechanism. When the hi-hat pedal was depressed--the middle cymbal rose to rub against the bottom of a small gong--when the pedal was released-- all three cymbals cantilevered on each other--so that any manipulation of one ultimately set the others into resonant motion.

Shively used drumsticks and different mallets in a constant blur of striking mechanics to layer waves of overtones that built and decayed slowly. Sometimes, eerie effects that resembled whale-songs or a leviathan groaning would emerge--then drift away. Different textural hues would appear, then cross slowly from left-to-right like clouds in a light wind.

The amount of wrist musculature necessary to create these ever-shifting waves of sonic color was truly astonishing, and left me believing that Shively ought to have his insured by Lloyd's of London.

Without a break the percussionist dove into the John Cage/Max Neuhaus construct, "Fontana Mix." This was a challenging listen, for sure. Contact mics were placed on the top and bottom drum heads (two drums--four mics in all). These were then fed into a mixer-- and the speakers were turned inward to face the microphones--creating feedback--which was then manipulated according to written instructions along a strict timeline. It may have been more interesting intellectually than it was to the ears--but, it was a ballsy choice, no doubt.

The final piece was performed on crotales, (a series of tuned brass discs struck with mallets) and accompanied by a lap-top triggering tangentially related sine-waves that hovered and floated in and out of the ether. Meanwhile, Shively created long melodic repetitions that would suddenly include a new note which effectively began a new melodic cycle.

Another out-of-the-box performance to add to the long list of sonic adventures of Fresh Sound.

This was the last in the Fresh Sound Spring series. Bonnie Wright will be resuming the series in September.

Photo by Bonnie Wright

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