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Press Release

2013-2014

 

November 19, 2013

 

Percussion ensemble creates a musical world

 

ChakTemporal Mechanics Union, the percussion ensemble resident at Cowley College, will present the multimedia performance The Mythos of Bharam Chak, at 8 p.m. Thursday, December 5, in the Robert Brown Theater at Cowley College. Admission is free.

The concert will begin in the Earle N. Wright Community Room, adjacent to the theatre in the Brown Center, when TMU will lead the audience from the Creative Claws exhibition, “Life Through Words and Lens,” an annual showcasing the work of student writers and photographers at Cowley College. TMU will play samba rhythms to move the audience from one event to the other, and audience members will have a chance to play along with the ensemble.

Bharam Chak is an imaginary world created by Chris Mayer, the founder and musical director of TMU. He was initially inspired by the works and philosophy of American composer Harry Partch. Partch designed and built his own instruments using non-standard tuning systems, and created a performance practice he called “corporeality.” This means a performance that includes music, visual, dramatic and movement elements, to create a more involving experience for the audience.

Mayer began work on Bharam Chak while an undergraduate percussion student at Wichita State University.

“Originally I tried to use real cultures of the ancient world as a setting for my musical experiments,” Mayer explains. “But it quickly became obvious it was just too phony and contrived. The obvious answer was to create my own fantasy realm, just like authors do.” That way, he says, “I have complete creative freedom.”

The Mythos of Bharam Chak
comprises three main movements, or myths, that tell stories from the imaginary world. These stories are acted out by shadow puppets designed and built by various Cowley College art students. Shown on video, the puppets add the dramatic visual element of the performance, and create characters and situations the audience can identify with. Each myth is a quest story, of the kind familiar to fans of science fiction and fantasy literature and video games. The spoken portion of the shadow puppet plays is done in a constructed language, also devised by Mayer.

“Fans of Tolkien and Star Trek know all about constructed languages,” Mayer said. “It just adds one more layer, more depth to the world of imagination created in the performance.” 

These three movements are linked together by musical segments that draw upon the experimental material of the Bharam Chak compositions. The total performance will last about 90 minutes.

According to Mayer, the most significant aspect of the composition was the addition of microtonal music, played on instruments designed and built by members of TMU. These xylophone-type instruments play scales based on the 31-EDO system, or 31 equal divisions of the octave. The black and white keys of a piano represent the conventional 12 equal divisions of the octave common to all styles of western music.

To visualize TMU’s instruments, imagine a keyboard that has red, blue, green and yellow keys in addition to the black and white one. This system creates a wider range of musical possibilities, which form the basis of the Bhram Chak material.

The December 5 concert marks the culmination of nearly two decades of research, composition and experimentation.

“Now that it is complete, and we can present it in a finalized form, afterwards it will be time to leave Bharam Chak, for a while at least,” Mayer said.

The ensemble will continue to work in experimental music of various types, but the next several concerts will see Temporal Mechanics Union return to a program based on traditional rhythms from around the world, and more conventional percussion ensemble pieces.

Temporal Mechanics Union is a community based, all-ability ensemble. Anyone 16 and older may join, with no experience necessary and no audition required. For more information, contact Mayer at 620-441-5229, or find the group on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TemporalMechanicsUnion

The current members of the ensemble are Mike Fell, Lynne Hunter, Bryan McChesney, Mitchell Wright and Josh Waldorf.

The concert will stream live online at http://www.livestream.com/temporalmechanicsunion.