I just hate it when the computer screen throws up a blank screen and I’m sitting here, drinking my coffee and wondering how – and where – to begin describing the experience of the Sandbox Percussion. “Experience” is really the right word; everything from the visual presentation (the proscenium looked like a hardware store sales convention) to the sounds produced by instruments ranging from a base bow to a river rock leaves me wondering. Just what was that?
…one person is ticking out one beat and the person standing next to him is just 1/16th of a beat behind. How do you do that?
The four gentlemen who comprise Sandbox (Jonny Allen, Victor Caccese, Ian David Rosenbaum and Terry Sweeney) appeared pretty normal. They were each well spoken, each in control of an array of sticks, stones, pedals and bows as well as two marimbas, two vibraphones, two glockenspiels, and a miscellany of actual drums and cymbals, and each very agile as they effortlessly moved from one sound and sound-maker to the next. They also, I learned in the last selection they performed, were incredibly adept at rhythm. I simply can’t imagine how one person is ticking out one beat and the person standing next to him is just 1/16th of a beat behind. How do you do that?
I admit I had never heard a percussion quartet, and I suspect most of the audience hadn’t either, so this concert was an excellent start. The group has been together since they met in or shortly after completing their music educations. Somehow, they’ve learned to coordinate their movements to such a fine degree that sometimes it seemed that only one was performing at a time. Perhaps it was an example of the famous “Star Wars” mind meld! But however, they managed to be in seamless concert, even as they moved from one instrument to another. I doubt that an accomplished string quartet could manage that feat.
With their amazing coordination, it’s no wonder that this group is Grammy-nominated and, as they become better known to more traditional audiences…
I found it interesting that this was not “foot-tapping” percussion – as I expected. Often, there was no discernable beat, as one would define it, but rather a meandering through sounds, with each providing its own unique beat. Also interesting were the harmonics these instruments produced. It was surprising to hear melodic passages here and there and they offered a reprise of sorts from the heartbeats and throbs of the drums.
With their amazing coordination, it’s no wonder that this group is Grammy-nominated and, as they become better known to more traditional audiences, I’m certain they will take that award. Meanwhile, they tour (with the help of a large U-Haul moving van, as you might imagine), they teach and they enjoy one another’s company. I noted, by the way, that our Super Bowl escapees found the right choice in how to spend their Sunday afternoon.
At the post-concert dinner, I asked Mr. Allen if anyone had ever dropped a stick while they performed. He said, “You just pretend like it was part of the program and carry on.” Who’s to know?
– E Doyle