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'THUD Island' Finds a New Rhythm

THUD knocks it out of the park
Pilar I Fitzgerald

The men of THUD rock out during their first piece, "Stools."

THUD (The Harvard Undergraduate Drummers) recently rang in its 15th year on campus with “THUD Island,” the organization’s spring performance. On April 25, more than 200 people flocked to Lowell Lecture Hall to watch the group of talented student performers produce music with an eclectic range of percussive instruments.

The group is modeled after STOMP, a percussion group from the UK that gained popularity in the United States in the early ’90s as a result of its innovative use of everyday objects as percussive instruments. High-energy performances are integral to the THUD experience, and the group strives to spread appreciation for their style of music. “We draw a lot of inspiration from groups like STOMP and Blue Man Group,” THUD director Caitlin E. Andrews ’16 says. “What's great about THUD is that it brings percussion to the forefront. In a lot of other groups, we would be stuck in the back row, in a more supporting role. In THUD, our goal is to share our enthusiasm for percussion with everyone on campus and in the community.”

This focus on different sources of sound often draws new recruits to the group. “THUD is unique in the sense that none of us had played on stools or buckets or with cups before we joined the group, so it's new territory for almost all of us,” assistant director Dylan A. Munro ’16 says. “The different musical talents we bring to the table influence the direction that each piece takes on.” THUD’s unique approach to percussion allows the group to explore different themes for its shows every year.

This year’s production, “THUD Island,” featured music closely tied to the group’s experiences on a “deserted” island. In the production, the group crashes on an island and must navigate back to Harvard’s campus for their show, only to find out that they were in the Quad all along. “We came up with pieces that fit into our plot, including a hunting piece with wooden poles, a fire-building piece using boomwhackers, as well as adaptations of some of our classic pieces,” Andrews says. “It was definitely a challenge, but we were really excited by the audience's response to having a more plot-driven show, so we're hoping to continue that in the future.”

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"THUD is unique in the sense that none of us had played on stools or buckets or with cups before we joined the group, so it's new territory for almost all of us."

“THUD Island” represented a departure from the group’s past shows. “Traditionally, we try and make the pieces all fit a general theme and write transitions that also have to do with the theme, but I don't think we've ever had a show with a real linear storyline the way ‘THUD Island’ did,” Munro says. “That isn't to say that we focused less on the music…. We spent a lot of time on the pieces themselves…but it added a whole new element to the creative process when we had the framework of the story to fit each piece into.” Different as this year’s show may have been, the group’s signature focus on its diverse line of percussive elements has stayed the same.

THUD knocks it out of the park

THUD plans to keep formulating more plot-driven shows, but will also continue to showcase the unique talents of its members. “Though our members laugh every time I say it, we also just so happen to be the best cups players on the planet. It's not funny because it's a joke; it's funny because it's true,” THUD member Alex E. Amis ’15 says. “Nobody in the world can make music with plastic cups as well as THUD can as an ensemble or as well as THUD members can as individuals. And I think that is something that we take great pride in.”

The individuals in THUD bring their love of percussion and imaginative energy to the group—skills and passions which allow THUD to continue to push the boundaries of musical performance. “We want to continue…using the stage in new ways, making as many corny jokes as possible, and hitting anything and everything that will make a cool noise,” Munro says. “I think that THUD is really hitting its stride…. We'll still be THUD-ing for years to come.”

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