December 13, 2010
TMU features microtonal instruments in recent concert
Inviting the audience on a journey of shadow and light, sound and imagination, the Temporal Mechanics Union presented the premiere performance of The Myths of Bharam Chak Thursday in the Robert Brown Theatre.
This work for percussion theatre incorporated microtonal music and shadow puppets to delve into a dream world filled with goddesses, warriors, dragons and a brave little monkey.
The plot revolved around 14 Copper Monkey’s acquisition, loss and retrieval of The Secret of Time, a mystical force generated by the Rhythm of Life at the very center of existence.
This was the third concert to feature the ensemble’s new self-built microtonal instruments. Microtones refer to specific pitches found “in-between” the black and white keys of a conventional piano. TMU uses a tuning system called 31 EDO, or 31 equal division of the octave, for a total of 31 pitches between one C and another on the keyboard. So far as their research has shown, TMU is the only percussion ensemble in the United States to specialize in this tuning system.
“Musically, this was one of the best performances any version of the ensemble has given,” said Chris Mayer, musical director of the ensemble. “A year after building them, we are now coming to a real understanding of our microtonal instruments and the tuning system. I look forward to doing more complex compositions on a bigger scale over the next year.”
14 Copper Monkey and the other of the inhabitants of his world were portrayed by shadow puppets created by Cowley College art students under the direction of faculty member and TMU performer Mike Fell. The members of TMU performed the shadow puppet play to make the video that was seen in the concert, as they performed the accompanying music.
Mayer praised the work done by the art and design students who made the shadow puppets used in the title piece.
“Their work is outstanding, and we look forward to using the puppets in at least two more sequels to this concert,” Mayer said.
The program also included traditional African rhythms, structured improvisation pieces, and a work entitled Just Another Overture.
Along with Mayer and Fell, members of TMU include Bryan McChesney, Wayne Farley and Josh Waldorf.
Temporal Mechanics Union is an all-ability, community based ensemble. Anyone may join, no matter what his or her previous musical experience. More information on this concert, and on the ensemble, can be found at www.tmu.cdmayer.net, or by calling 620-441-5229. TMU also have a YouTube channel and a Facebook page.