Man, percussion/drums get pretty pigeonholed sometimes, you guys. Everyone knows they’re great at creating grooves and serving as the rhythmic backbone for bands, sure. But don’t you think that sometimes drums get tired of that role and want to branch out and do some other work? They’ve so much potential!
Luckily, dudes like Nick Hennies realize the infinite potential of percussion/drums as a sound source. Hennies’ Psalms from 2010 was a brilliant theme, and variations on Alvin Lucier’s “Silver Street Car for Orchestra,” where various percussion instruments’ timbral quality/resonance were altered through minute changes in dampening, striking location, and attack. Hennies illustrated in those works that even slight changes in technique could generate vast sound differences with his instruments of choice. Hennies’ latest release Duets for Solo Snare Drum continues the performer/composer’s exploration of percussion’s sonic potential, but this time with the focus on the microcosmic realm of the snare drum.
The three duets on the record (respectively written by John Cage, Peter Ablinger, and Hennies) all feature a “solo snare drum performer in duets with three non-performative musical elements.” All three of the elements presented here (silence, noise, and tone) in some way reflect a sonic component of the snare drum’s sound, and tonal differences between each track is striking. On Hennies’ own “Cast and Work,” the composer explores the tonal variations that can occur when the snare on his instrument is turned off and then mixed with other pitched elements. Like Cage’s and Albinger’s compositions, “Cast and Work” is mostly a subtle piece until a barrage of pitched noise from Vanessa Rossetto, Brent Fariss, and Henna Chou comes in near the end. When taken together, these compositions alter the listener’s perception of what a snare drum can do sonically and succeed in taking the instrument out of its often typecast role in music.
Duets for Solo Snare Drum is out on CD and available for download September 1 as Weighter Records’ first release as a label. You can listen to an excerpt of “Cast and Work” below: