April 19, 2006
Temporal Mechanics Union to present adaptation of science fiction classic
Temporal Mechanics Union, the percussion ensemble resident at Cowley College will present a program of traditional drumming styles, and the premiere of an adaptation of a classic science fiction short story at their next concert. The performance is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. May 4 in the Brown Center Theatre. The concert is free to the public.
The premiere piece is “Repent, Harlequin!” said the Ticktockman, based upon the short story of the same name by Harlan Ellison. First appearing in Galaxy magazine in December 1965, the story is a dystopian tale of a future in which time is regulated by an authoritarian regime, and the struggle of one man to fight the system.
“I read the story again recently, and the rhythm of the language inspired me,” said Chris Mayer, musical director of the Temporal Mechanics Union. “It’s perfectly suited to an experimental musical treatment. We have adapted the text to be read in a dramatic way by several voices, with percussion accompaniment.”
The adaptation, composed by Mayer, uses repeating musical themes.
“In that way, it’s kind of like a movie soundtrack,” Mayer said. “The music reinforces moods and scenarios, and defines the characters.”
The adaptation calls for the members of the ensemble to play their instruments and recite the text simultaneously. As far as Mayer can tell, this is only the second adaptation of “Repent…” to a non-literary medium.
“The story has inspired a lot of genre art,” Mayer said. “But there’s never been a musical approach to the text.”
Graphic art is a major part of this performance. A number of Cowley art students have contributed original works that will be featured in a multimedia presentation that accompanies the music and narration.
Harlan Ellison is among the most respected and honored contemporary writers in America. He has written or edited 75 books, more than 1700 stories, essays, articles, and newspaper columns, two dozen teleplays and a dozen motion pictures. Ellison has won nearly every national award available to writers, including multiple Hugo Awards, three Nebula Awards, many script-writing awards for his television work, two Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America, two World Fantasy Awards, including their Lifetime Achievement Award, and five Bram Stoker Awards from the Horror Writers Association, including their Lifetime Achievement Award.
He has also been awarded the Georges Méliès fantasy film award twice, two Audie Awards (for the best in audio recordings), and was awarded the Silver Pen for Journalism by P.E.N., the international writer’s union (this prestigious accolade was presented for his columns in the L.A. Weekly, titled “An Edge in My Voice,” in defense of the First Amendment).
At the 2006 Nebula Award held May 4-7 in Tempe, AZ., Ellison will be honored yet again by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, becoming the latest Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master for his lifetime of achievement in science fiction and fantasy.
Ellison served as Creative Consultant on the revival of the CBS-TV series The Twilight Zone until late November of 1985, at which time he resigned due to network censorship of a script dealing with racism that he had written and was directing.
From 1993 until 1998, Ellison served as Conceptual Consultant on the hit series Babylon 5. More information about Ellison’s career can be found at http://harlanellison.com
Those credentials can be a little daunting to the musicians putting on this performance.
"I’m getting cold feet about sending the material to Harlan Ellison,” Mayer said. “He tells it like it is, and if he doesn’t like it, we’ll know about it.”
The ensemble is looking for future opportunities to perform the work, particularly for Ellison’s fans, and science fiction fans in general, to get their response.
The program includes a performance of rumba, a traditional style of Cuban music and dance. The ensemble will perform the three forms of rumba. Yambu is the oldest form, usually danced today by elders, while guaguanco is danced by younger couples, a more sensually playful dance. Columbiá is a solo dance for men, often as a competition showcasing athletic and rhythmic prowess. The ensemble will play the rhythms associated with each form, and improvise solos on traditional-style conga drums, bells and shakers.
Temporal Mechanics Union has played afro-cuban styles on several previous concerts. New to this program is an arrangement of Tahitian “beats.”
Mayer says drumming in Tahiti is a very energetic and technically demanding style.
“I hope we can convey some of that excitement to the audience,” Mayer said.
Also on the program is a piece called Unknown Rhythmic Composition.
“It’s a musical scrap, a page of rhythms that I found floating around in my files,” Mayer said. “I’m not really sure what it is.”
The members of the ensemble have taken the collection of rhythms and arranged them into an experimental piece.
Current members of TMU are: Wayne Farley, Mike Fell, Mark Jarvis, Chansi Long, Bryan McChesney, Rebecca McGary, and Jared McGuire.
The Temporal Mechanics Union is an all-ability percussion ensemble that performs traditional rhythms and experimental music. It is open to the public; no musical experience is required and there is no audition. The group is actively seeking members for a performance in Minnesota this July.
For more information about the group, the May 4 concert, or to join, contact Chris Mayer at 620-442-5229, or visit http://tmu.cdmayer.net