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.
Last night was the premier performance of On Firefly's Wing, my latest composition for solo flute. I thought the performance went wonderfully. Thank you to all of you who came out and for the kind words and congratulations. I couldn't have done it without my flautist, Emily Zacek, who came through in a pinch and put together the piece in a very short amount of time. Bravo, Emily!
As with all things in life a premier of a new piece is the end of a cycle. One piece down, infinitely more to go! I've already begun work on my next piece for the new music group Yukon, for whom I wrote Sofa awhile back. I'm very excited to explore the depths of their abilities not just as musicians, but as actors and performers. More details will surely emerge as the compositional process continues...
Still looking for a fun, possibly pun-related title for this blog.
For this, the inaugural post, I wanted to lay out what you can expect to see from this blog. I don't intend this to be a "marketing blog," though I can assure you that when I put something new out into the world, you'll hear about it here. Instead I want to give some insights to my creative process, talk about issues that are important to me and to the fields I work in, and sometimes just let you know what's going on in my life.
There are some things you can expect to see on a regular basis. As you may or may not know, I publish a weekly webcomic called 5 x 3. You'll always be able to find new posts there, as they happen. I will also talk about them here, and maybe give some little tidbits about their creation. 5 x 3 is always published on Mondays at 3pm EST.
Wednesdays are new comic book days. Naturally in addition to writing comics, I read an awful lot of them. I will be taking some time each Wednesday to review one of the comics from my stack. I read mostly Marvel comics, but in this segment I plan to feature mostly independent publishers and possibly Marvel titles with a smaller audience.
Every time I premier a new piece, you'll hear about it here (and probably twitter, facebook, instagram, and any other way you choose to follow me). After the premier and after the recording gets posted on the "Music" page, I'll share some of the experience of working on the piece and with the performers.
Music and Comics are both fields that face a lot of issues. Now and again I'll take some time to write about some of these issues, or respond to an article written by someone else. I firmly believe that talking about an art form is as important as contributing directly to it.
That's all for now. Looking forward to hearing from you in the future!
E. Ross Ura is a writer, letterer, artist, composer, and blogger active in the Metro Detroit Area.