Ensemble encompasses world music

October 14, 2010

by Naomi Allison

The Louisiana Tech Concert Association presented the Percussion Ensemble Cincinnati, a three-member group from the College-Conservatory of Music in the University of Cincinnati, Oct. 5 in Howard Auditorium, Center for the Performing Arts.

The group, which consists of Allen Otte, James Culley and Russell Burge, performed diverse music from Central America, Chile, China, Indonesia, North America and South Africa. Otte said he loves percussion because it allows him to play various instruments.

“Percussion is a very sensual, passionate type of music,” he said. “Each instrument has its own voice, is a unique creation and responds differently to touch.  There’s every kind of wood, metal and skin. We enjoy the personal, tactile relationship that we share with each instrument.”

Otte, who participates in Tai Chi and yoga regularly, said percussionists are more athletic than most people would believe.

“For a serious musician, playing an instrument is an art form. A violinist may sit in a chair, stroking their instrument, but we’re more similar to dancers and actors,” he said. “We like to be in good shape so we can move around on stage, talk and interact with our audience.  That way, you can transition from really loud drum playing to delicately playing your piano.”

Performances of the night included  “Some of Living Room Music” by John Cage and Balinese Ceremonial music such as “Pemoengkan,” “Namangan” and “Taboeh Teloe” by Colin McPhee.

Burge, an active jazz vibraphonist, an instrument in the mallet subfamily, said performing different musical styles is challenging because they often require more focus than others.

“Some pieces we play might not be second nature to us. Some things are relaxed. While others are more intricate in nature, we have to pay specific attention to things others might take for granted.”

 Carina Shultz, a sophomore psychology major, said she loved the rhythms used throughout the concert.

 “To me, percussion is the pulse behind the music, almost like a heartbeat,” she said. “It synchronizes with you internally and makes you feel alive.  I mean, without a pulse, you’d be dead.”

Kenneth Robbins, director of the School of Performing Arts, said he was amazed by the dynamic array of instruments.

 “I was profoundly impressed by the nature of their talent and how they performed for the audience,” he said. “The joy it was to be given an international music experience.  We took a trip to Bali and West Africa without having to leave the city of Ruston.”

E-mail comments to nsa008@latech.edu.