Beat of a Different Drum
May 04, 2006
With more than 150 performances scheduled for this year’s Arts First weekend, it stands to reason that a diverse range of acts will see the stage. This variety is certainly the case with the weekend’s concerts: alongside the familiar orchestras, rock bands, and a cappella groups, students will also find everything from gypsy-bluegrass fusion to rhythmic ping pong.
These offbeat acts cover a considerable range of traditions and experiences. Some, like Jeolla Woodo Iri Pangut, a Korean percussion group, deliver faithful renditions of ancient pieces; others, like The Harvard Undergraduate Drummers (THUD), draw on modern-day implements to produce their trademark sound. All of these groups, however, find a common goal in their efforts to bring their unusual music to a University-wide audience.
I JUST WANT TO BANG ON THE DRUM
Danielle R. Lehle ’07, a member of Music for Percussion, is no stranger to the stage. A member of the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra and a percussionist since the age of 12, Lehle began playing percussion pieces with three of her classmates this spring in “Music 93r: Supervised Reading and Research.”
“We’re all percussionists from HRO; we’re all juniors,” says Lehle. “We wanted to do pieces that were challenging for us as percussionists and yet were fun.” The group’s repertoire draws on a range of sounds, going beyond standard percussion forms to include a bluegrass piece for banjos.
Lehle is also a member of THUD, a perennial favorite at Arts First. Because the group’s members come from a variety of musical backgrounds, Lehle says they tend to do “different types of pieces that don’t only involve percussion instruments.” This year, for instance, THUD will be performing an original composition by Sonali Palchaudhuri ’07 that uses ping-pong paddles as instruments.
JAZZING IT UP
While Music for Percussion and THUD are working with rhythmic traditions from around the world, the members of the Harvard Jazz Collective aim to bring in a sound whose origins are much closer to home. “Two of the pieces that we’re going to play are really representative of the modern New York scene,” says Noah L. Nathan ’09, one of the six founding members of the fledgling group. Nathan describes the sound as having “very firm jazz roots, but also a funkiness to it.” Nathan and four of his bandmates met through the Harvard Monday Jazz Band, a group that Nathan calls “the main jazz band on campus.”
“There aren’t that many jazz musicians on campus,” explains Nathan, “so you sort of find each other out.” The group sees Arts First as an opportunity to share with others the interests of this relatively self-contained community.
Like many other Arts First performers, however, the Harvard Jazz Collective is also looking to the future. Nathan says that the band members “definitely hope” to continue making music together in the coming year, and Lehle says the same of her new percussion group. For many students, then, their first taste of unusual music may begin at Arts First, and sustain itself in future performances.