Adam Rudolph with Hamid Drake and Yusef Lateef: Moving Pictures at UMass Amherst
The Magic Triangle Series
Bowker Auditorium, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
February 28, 2008
It is a daunting task to shape a music that incorporates and combines the characteristics of traditional music from a wide range of cultures. For one thing, it is difficult to know how to choose. But, once orchestrated, the diversification of music making methods increases the satisfaction of listening to the final product because nothing seems to be missing: the experience is uncommonly satisfying and full. And for meeting the challenge of making appropriate choices, credit on this occasion goes to percussionist Adam Rudolph, whose octet named Moving Pictures, was created exclusively for performing this complex kind of music. The group performed the second concert in The Magic Triangle Series at UMass Amherst on February 28, 2008.
Rudolph's pursuit in his musical life has entailed the study of rhythmic networks throughout the world. And because he is astutely well-versed in the variations that rhythmic languages can have, he can integrate them so that they become one. He calls one synthetic approach to rhythm "cyclic verticalism" where, as he explained in a radio interview before the concert, he is interested in combining the variation within the repetition of rhythm cycles, predominantly in Asian cultures, and linear stacked polyrhythms, prevalent in African cultures. Rudolph also explained that the instrumentation and players change as his pieces for the group are written. He composes for the way in which particular instruments will contribute to a whole sound.
For this reason, the group really is a set of "moving pictures," a metaphor borrowed from the movies and especially descriptive of the changeable personnel. In this manner, Rudolph is constantly renewing the music as he renews the players. In this performance, strings and reeds were balanced in number as well as in impact: the instruments with the most outstanding voices were the reeds, the cornet and the flugelhorn. The percussion role was filled by the box drum, congas, djembe, and a trap set.
The concert opened with a piece whose overall structure seemed to reflect how rhythmic passages can be syntactically arranged to affect the way instruments work within it. But more than an academic performance, the piece was one big rhythmic "event."
Rudolph positioned himself in his own mixed conga and djembe line and, accompanied by both a bowed bass and brushed snare and toms, initiated a rumbling with his rapidly moving hands and fingers on the drumskins, which lured the participation of every person in the ensemble. Then the music rested for maybe half a count. That stark silence brought in the music that followed like a rush of air. A deep breath had been held before it was exhaled. As the box drum and drum set were operating with a steady pulse, a simple note phrase from the flugelhorn, synchronized with the clarinet, which together contrasted with glissandos on the electric guitar, processed the build-up to another rest. As if in a trance at the congas, Rudolph moved his hands rapidly on the drumssufficient to retain the rhythmic spirit that was left behind for that one moment. The cornet entered both to underscore the just-completed direction of the music and to initiate the next development: a swing rhythm played by flute and clarinet, which process led up to another rest preceding another new direction.