March 26, 2005
We don't get enough all-percussion concerts, despite the fact that today's wide-ranging percussion ensembles can provide hypnotic melodies in addition to hard grooves and explosive outbursts. So it was enterprising of Strathmore's Art After Hours series to host a concert by Ko'mm Percussion in the mansion on Wednesday night. The group, consisting of local percussionists Leon Khoja-Eynatyan, Richard McCandless, Rich O'Meara and Joseph Jay McIntyre, presented works by the latter three.
Three of the eight works Ko'mm played stood out. The mesmerizing minimalist-style marimba arpeggios of O'Meara's "Island Spinning" wobbled dangerously after some subtle metrical twists, but the piece righted itself like a top given an extra spin. O'Meara followed that with "301," a work commemorating the official conversion of Armenia to Christianity, in which Khoja-Eynatyan played breathtakingly quiet ruminations on the marimba as his daughter Tatevik rang an Armenian hymn on hand bells. The concert ended with a piece by McCandless called "Pile Driver," which he introduced with the half-boast "This piece is not subtle," but the poetry McCandless found in the cacophony made "Pile Driver" absorbing.
Yet even the less successful pieces were interesting; for example, the world premiere of McIntyre's "Negative" found the composer using real mallets to strike a nonexistent drum, cuing two bass drums behind him to stop rumbling and thus "playing" silence. The reverberations of the drums prevented the silence from cutting sharply through sound, but it was fun to see the idea tried. And as the members of Ko'mm worked hard to make the music sound good, they proved that the sheer athletic spectacle of a percussion concert can be a lot of fun to watch. - Andrew Lindemann Malone
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