Friday, November 13, 2015

Douglas R. Ewart and Quasar

Douglas Ewart, sopranino saxophone,
    didgeridoo, flute, percussion
Edward Wilkerson, clarinet, alto clarinet, tenor
    saxophone, didgeridoo
Preyas Roy, marimba
Darius Savage, bass, percussion
Walter Kitundu, invented instruments
Duriel Harris, voice, percussion

Gelvin Noel Gallery
Krannert Art Museum
Champaign, Illinois
November 12, 2015

The Quasar ensemble’s performance last night began and ended with Douglas Ewart’s voice, first asking a fellow musician about homelessness (“Do you know how close you are to being homeless?”) and later offering life truths (“To get there fast, go alone. To create legacy, go together.”) The evening’s performance, a single uninterrupted piece, joined music, poetry, and electronics in ever-shifting and compelling configurations: alto clarinet and bass creating an ostinato over which the sopranino soared, an interlude for flute and phonoharp that evoked the sound of the koto, a percussive exchange between marimba and bass. Harris’s poetry seemed to take up the spirit of inquiry with which Ewart began, asking questions about identity (“How many languages do you speak?” “What does your real voice sound like?”), privilege (“Would you say you’re lucky?”), and state power (“How much water?” “How many chokeholds?”)

About that phonoharp: a brief demonstration followed the performance. The instrument has three bass strings (to be bowed or plucked), a zither-like arrangement of doubled strings, and a turntable for sampling. Kitundu also played a kora, or kora-like instrument. Elaine took a photograph (with permission):

I believe in what Eric Dolphy said: “When you hear music, after it’s over, it’s gone, in the air. You can never capture it again.” But I still want to write about it.

Thanks to Jason Finkelman, who continues to bring the news of the new to east-central Illinois.

More about the musicians
Douglas Ewart : Edward Wilkerson Jr. on practicing : Preyas Roy : Darius Savage : Walter Kitundu : Duriel Harris

Three related posts
Douglas Ewart and Stephen Goldstein : Douglas Ewart
and Wadada Leo Smith
: Gray, Ra, Wilkerson

comments: 2

Marzek said...

Thanks -- this is inspiring. Love the Dolphy quote. You're continually present during a piece of music, but it's continuously escaping. The passage of it, though, can change you -- thus, the urge to write.
I've been going to the ballet for awhile now. I started going on a whim -- simply bored with my books, movies & music. (Had been to some modern dance before; reconnected with an old friend, and we started to go because of the wordlessness of it; there was no vocabulary we could use, and that added to the fun & challenge of it). But the first ballet was Balanchine's Concerto Barocco, set to Bach's Concerto for Two Violins. I had played that often enough in high school that it must be in my muscle memory, and yet I completely lost track of time. That's a pretty good symptom of great art.
It stuck, & I've been going ever since. There is a vocabulary of ballet, but I've resisted learning the terms; I don't want to sort & classify movements. I'll go to performances twice -- so much movement flowing, escaping, would like to retain something, catch something I missed -- but it remains, is *essentially* wordless.
Talking with a friend about dance and writing (and this, I think, applies to music as well) -- and we agreed that it comes down to the gesture, or phrase. The one question that can translate from one form to the other is "how do I connect this gesture with another?"
Whether it's Balanchine, William Forsythe, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, or a Japanese drone-metal band, there's that wonderful feeling of having been *shifted*. You leave the venue seeing things on a slightly different level. Sometimes floating a little bit above the ground. A breeze comes up and spins you around.

Michael Leddy said...

Every time I’ve heard Douglas Ewart, I’ve lost track of time. I was “up” all yesterday, and then I looked at the news early last night. (DE’s home base, as you might already know, is Minneapolis.)

Dance is one art I’m pretty much in the dark about. I’ve seen a Twyla Tharp performance, a documentary about Tanaquil Le Clercq. I love Fred Astaire and all of his partners and the Nicholas Brothers. I admire and feel agog. But I’m in the dark.

Marzek, has anyone ever suggested that you should be keeping a blog? (I’d read!)