Percussion Ensemble Prepares for Historic Performance of ‘Music for 18 Musicians’

WRITTEN BY: NICK CHARLES

Members of the Temple University Percussion Ensemble are diligently preparing to make history this Tuesday night. The group – along with a handful of professionals – will be performing the Philadelphia Premier of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians.

Music for 18 Musicians was composed between 1974 and 1976 by composer Steve Reich. Since its world premiere in New York City on April 24, 1976, the piece has been performed hundreds of times all over the world and has been commercially recorded six times. However, the piece has never been performed in Philadelphia, which gives this group of musicians the opportunity to debut this musical masterpiece to the city of brotherly love.

“I am so honored to be a part of this historic premiere,” sophomore music therapy major, Jake Mauersberg exclaimed. “The piece is unlike any other and to be a part of the group that performs this for the first time in Philadelphia is very special.”

The musical work is categorized under the genre of minimalism. Minimalism – defined by the Webster’s Dictionary – is, “An avant-garde movement in music characterized by the repetition of very short phrases that change gradually, producing a hypnotic effect.”

“The simplicity of the intricate minimalist lines and texture are fascinating,” Travis Goffredo, a junior percussion performance major and President of the Temple Percussion Club stated. “As the piece develops, through the blend between all of the instruments on stage, there is an ever-growing mass of sound that changes from one shape and sound to another.”

The piece features eighteen musicians, and a total of thirty-one instruments. The parts are divided as follows:

MusicFor18Musicians

  1. Violin
  2. Cello
  3. Female voice
  4. Female voice
  5. Female voice
  6. Piano
  7. Piano
  8. Piano and maracas
  9. Marimba and maracas
  10. Marimba and xylophone
  11. Marimba and xylophone
  12. Marimba and xylophone
  13. Metallophone (vibraphone with no motor) and piano
  14. Piano and marimba
  15. Marimba, xylophone, and piano
  16. Clarinet and bass clarinet
  17. Clarinet and bass clarinet
  18. Female voice and piano

Director of percussion studies at Temple University, Phillip O’Banion, is the man behind this musical event. O’Banion has been coaching the students and directing rehearsals since they started rehearsing the piece in mid-January.

Music for 18 Musicians is really more than just a concert. It’s a communal gathering on stage,” O’Banion stated. “For one hour, the audience will experience high energy with no breaks.”

In addition to the unique musical format, the piece demands an enormous amount of mental endurance for each performer.

“The piece is extremely difficult in the regard that each performer has to be mentally engaged for the entire piece,” senior percussion performance major, Thomas Kolakowski, explained. “It is not like a standard orchestral work where you play for a few measures, have a few measures of rest, then play again. There is no time to stop and think about anything, if you do, you run the risk of throwing everything off.”

Kolakowski also explained the most interesting attribute the piece holds: no one listener will leave the concert with the same experience.

“Depending of your placement in the concert hall, different overtone and different rhythms will pop out due to the reverb of the room,” Kolakowski said. “What a person on one end of the concert hall will hear will be completely different then what a person on the opposite side of the hall will hear. This unique effect will leave every audience member with a different experience.”

Joining the Temple University Percussion Ensemble on stage will be other Temple University student musicians, as well as Brooklyn-based percussion group, Mobius Percussion.

The concert will take place on Tuesday, April 5, at the Temple University Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. and will be free and open to the public.

 

 

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