THUD Show Boasts STOMP, Bach, and Robots

Homemade costumes, original techno, and laughs abounded at The Harvard Undergraduate Drummers’ (THUD) spring show on April 23 in Lowell Lecture Hall. Though the venue was not filled to capacity, the energy in the room was high, as the musicians’ enthusiasm and creativity filled the space with the sights and sounds of a variety of different types of percussion.

In line with classic THUD tradition, this concert has its own theme: “Robots.” “If you’re wondering why—we just like robots,” the directors joked in the introductions following the opening number.

THUD member Seungjun Kim ’13 stated that THUD often chooses its concert themes based on general ideas for the concert and specific ideas for pieces.“If we can find a few that are kind of related then we can pick a theme. If not we just kind of pick one and go for it and see what we get,” he said. Seungjun’s twin brother Seungsoo Kim ’13 explained the choice of the spring concert’s theme, saying, “This one mostly came about because [the] roommate [of Co-Music Director Noam Hassenfeld ’12] had these robot costumes [lying] around.”

Seungsoo was referring to the costumes worn by various members of the group–full-bodied, red and silver, metallic robot suits–during and between various pieces. Both these costumes and the transitional skits between pieces added personality and humor to the show. However, as the performers were unwilling to sacrifice the quality of their music for the sake of the theme, the weight of the theme lied with these two aspects rather than with the music. As THUD member Ian Dunn ’14 pointed out, most songs in the program were only loosely robot-related.  The THUD priority is interesting music, he said. Rather than enforcing the theme and thereby limiting the style of music, THUD chose to maintain variety. “We’re all about having a little something for everyone.”

A little something for everyone could definitely be found in the show. Performances ranged from STOMP-inspired body percussion to renditions of Bach on the xylophone, vibraphone, glockenspiel, and marimba to the classic THUD cups tradition, in which they create rhythm with their hands, the tabletop, and solo cups.

The range of performance style goes hand-in-hand with the range of specialties within the group.  Most group members are competent in all forms of percussion–mallet, drumset, snare, body, etc.–but many specialize. THUD co-director Gene Yoo ’12 says, “I’m not really a fan of mallet percussion,” though he is a capable player. “I don’t deal so much with tonal music, I just deal with rhythmic stuff.”  Situations like these are not uncommon for incoming THUD members, and they are not a significant factor in the audition process.  “You just have to be somewhat competent in percussion … We just look for talent, and we also look at what kind of person you are, your character, your personality. That factors in a lot, actually. We try to keep the group dynamic very chill, very playful, casual.”

This casual and laid-back approach to group dynamic is not indicative of the ensemble’s work ethic. About two weeks before their concert, they start rehearsing much more frequently than their usual two-hour, weekly pratices.  Even when their rehearsal schedule intensifies, THUD members still find the work enjoyable. “We’re all here to do it for fun,”  Seungjun said.  “It’s not something we do to write on a resume.  Few of us are planning to go into music.  It’s really our hobby … And the type of music we play kind of embodies that.” Member Rachel Wagley ’11 concurs. “This has provided an outlet for me to just—hit stuff,” she joked while snapping, clapping, and doing some low-key body-percussion.

Twins Seungjun and Seungsoo similarly view THUD primarily as an enjoyable experience. “We’ve played percussion since middle school and it’s always been the fun thing for us to do,” Seungjun said. “Because as Asians, we played piano because our parents made us, but then we played percussion because we wanted to,” he joked.  “It’s just us enjoying ourselves and expressing ourselves, more than anything.” This enjoyment of expression resulted, for many THUD members, in a very fulfilling performance. As Seungjun exaplained, ”If we had fun … it was a good show.”