Every semester the University of Michigan's Percussion Studio offers a class focusing on music that falls outside traditional Western concert percussion. Last year the class focused on the music of India. I developed my interest in tabla performance because of this class. This year, DMA instructor Dan Piccolo is back teaching a new group of students. Thanks to the University, the class was given a number of tickets to the Asif Ali Khan Qawwali Ensemble concert at Rackham Auditorium last night. I'd studied the music of Pakistan briefly last semester but never been able to hear it performed live. When Dan offered up some extra tickets to the rest of the Percussion studio I jumped at the chance.
The evening was remarkable. I knew something about the context of Qawwali but was completely unprepared for the energy the performance would inspire. The chorus was animated and the tabla player was inspired. Asif Ali Khan and the solo vocalists displayed a range and power that blew me away. When the group asked the audience to stand and dance for the last piece, I don't think there was anyone still seated. I am so thankful for the opportunity to see this group perform live. I would highly recommend seeing them if you ever have the opportunity.
At the same time as the Asif Ali Khan performance, the Wisconsin-based percussion ensemble, Clocks in Motion, was performing in McIntosh Recital Hall at the School of Music. While I wasn't able to attend, I did catch part of their dress rehearsal earlier in the day. Clocks in Motion is a fantastic group. I first saw them two years ago performing Pléïades, Iannis Xenakis's percussion sextet. The piece features six micro-tonal metallic keyboard percussion instruments known as sixxen. Clocks in Motion built their own set and has since made instrument construction a core part of their ensemble.
Since the last time I saw them, Clocks has been very busy. They've been traveling all throughout the midwest performing, giving masterclasses, and commissioning new works. Recently Clocks completed their first Call for Scores and announced a second competition this year. This group's ethos is very much in-line with my own, so I've very excited to participate in this year's competition. I suspect I'll talk more about the piece as I firm up some ideas. The opportunity to work with Clocks in Motion is simply too good to pass up.
E. Ross Ura is a writer, letterer, artist, composer, and blogger active in the Metro Detroit Area.