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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Clay Drumming

    On Monday, Nov. 25, the Mississippi State Percussion Ensemble will present a unique collection of musical pieces directed by Robert J. Damm. The concert will feature 11 pieces of music, one of which is a different approach to the combination of music and art: ceramic instruments. “Ceramic Sound Sculptures” will feature the creative works of advanced ceramic art classes led by Robert Long. The instruments featured are some small bowls played with chopsticks, huge pots, a marimba (graduated lengths of bars) and clay drums.
    “Ceramic has a tradition of being used for instruments, and I guess I just overlooked it in the past,” Long said.
    When approached by Damm to explore the possibility, Long encouraged his students to participate by making instruments. Damm visited the ceramics class once a week to talk to the students about their instruments from a musical standpoint, and some of the ceramics students will be featured playing their ceramic instruments in the concert.
    “The class did superb work. They are beautiful instruments to look at and sound mesmerizing,” Damm said.
    “This allowed my students to see possibilities in ceramics they hadn’t seen before, to see how the clay can be used in different functional ways,” Long said.
    “A Las Rumbas,” another piece in the concert, uses Cuban instruments such as many conga drums and features Cuban traditional dance rhythms. Damm took a study trip to Cuba last summer and learned about Cuban music and dance.
    Another piece of the show, “The 1908 Rag,” features Geoff Rosche, a senior in music education, playing a xylophone solo.
    The creative use of cedar tree stumps with the branches still on it as instruments will be used in “Child of Stump,” which springs from “Child of Tree” by John Cage, which is to be improvised on a cactus.
    “Each branch of the tree has a different tone when played on by sticks,” Damm said.
    “Bowl of Light,” which is a passage from Laura Ingles Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” describing the prairie sky, is a musical soundtrack, including bird and duck calls, to the photography of Dr. Anna Chupa. The first sights Chupa saw after her eye surgery, which were flashes of light, inspired the piece.
    The next piece is an arrangement of works by students from the MSU chapter of the Music Educators National Conference. It is called “Creative Twos,” and is a collection of the music composed of the small groups of the conference.
    “Tusk,” an African musical story of an elephant hunt, is a composition to bring awareness to elephant poaching. The story features African drums, gourd rattles, iron bells and a ram’s horn to represent the elephant.
    “African music is my number one passion in music. Through grants, we’ve required a set of traditional African instruments that we like to use in each concert,” Damm said.
    Michael Michele is a local musician who will play the bass guitar to “Pachelbel Island,” a reggae version of Pachelbel’s “Cannon in D.” “Pachelbel Island” is “very classical music played in reggae,” Damm said.
    Two other compositions in this concert are “Downfall,” which describes the downfall of Paris prior to the Revolutionary War and has ancient snare drums solos and “Las Gallonitas,” which musically portrays three friends that meet at a restaurant and tell their life stories.
    The final composition is “High Voltage” where all eight people in the percussion ensemble play with glow-in-the-dark sticks with all of the lights out.
    Those involved with the percussion ensemble are Chad Austin from Forrest, Erin Bassford from Germantown, Tenn., Adam Dear from Richland, Claire Fellman from Ocean Springs, Ashley Golmon from Smithville, Jason Raby from Olive Branch, Geoff Rosche from Madisonville, Ky., and Ben Williams from Starkville.
    The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. at the McComas Hall Theatre. Admission is free to the public.

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