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Accidental Music Festival: Matt Roberts performs modern percussion music

Matt Roberts plays an original untitled piece

Accidental Music Festival: Matt Roberts performs modern percussion music


The Accidental Music Festival continued its sporadic, yet alluring series of concerts this season with a quirky performance of modern percussion music last Sunday evening. Close to the Mills Avenue and State Road 50 intersection, exists a second-floor parlor, known to some as The Space.

Rare is the occasion when one can hear a piece notated for seedpods and a sort of adjustable music box, where the performer feeds the perforated rolls into the ratchet to produce sequences of sound at intervals. Inside The Space, a tree log was perched on a stand, in front of a cramped array of chairs. If you weren’t familiar with the eccentricity that the Accidental Music Festival is known for, you may not have known that the log was just one of Matt Roberts’ many devices among a seemingly haphazard percussion assortment. The University of Central Florida graduate recently added a gold star to his resume by performing in the premiere of John Luther Adams’ acclaimed new work ‘Inuksuit.’

Roberts, a Central Florida native currently seeking an advanced music degree in Alaska, was the lone performer of the recital. Among the selected composers, the best-known was David Lang, the Pulitzer-prize winning purveyor of crossover chamber music of Bang on a Can fame. Lang’s piece was ‘The Anvil Chorus.’

Simply titled ‘Log,’ the piece for a chopped tree trunk has the performer softly strike two mallets over the, uh, instrument, as the music box roll is fed, creating a contrast that doesn’t seem to find a message or purpose. All the same, it was an interesting experiment in unusual sonorities, supported by fluctuating rhythms, devised by composer Nat Evans, with whom Roberts became acquainted in Alaska.

Robert’s own untitled composition, for snare drums and prerecorded samples, was a much louder change of pace. The interesting aspect about it is the patterns he employs over the samples coming from the speakers, especially as they get louder.

American composer Frederic Rzewski (see if you can pronounce that one), a flake among flakes, might have something to say, behind the oddity that gives character to his music. If you’re familiar with some of the music of Roger Sessions, Milton Babbitt and Luigi Dallapiccola, you can imagine what you’re in for with a Rzewski (yeah) piece, coming from that lineage.

Rzewski is perhaps best known for his piano variations on the Latin American popular song ‘El pueblo unido jamás será vencido’ (‘The People United Will Never Be Defeated’). His piece ‘The Fall of the Empire’ – Roberts played select movements from it – features a different set of percussion instruments in each movement, and recitation of different texts over them. “I don’t give a shit about global warming, I only care about my car,” reads the text at one point over graded percussion, alternating short burst of percussion with recitation.

The piece, in all its unabashed kookiness, succeeds in creating different atmospheres for different texts. It’s a sort of pastiche that employs ad hoc percussion instruments and devices and arouses certain reflections and reactions as it progresses, through the sound/text combination. At the end of it, the seemingly disparate movements seem to amount to something or arrive at some conclusion. What that is, I don’t know, but it was some offbeat fun.

Visit percussionist Matt Roberts’ blog here.

To read more about the Accidental Music Festival, click here.

To read a review of a recent Accidental Music Festival performance, click here.

To listen to a performance of ‘The Fall of the Empire,’ click here.