Cartoon characters cavort in "BOOMwhackers" percussion show
Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner make cameo appearances in “BOOMwhackers,” a Sunday, April 14, concert by the Purdue Drum Line and Percussion Ensembles that’s packed with surprises and innovative music.
Set for 3 p.m. in Loeb Playhouse of the Purdue Stewart Center, the free 90-minute show is appropriate for all ages.
Drawing inspiration from the Warner Bros. “Merrie Melodies” cartoon “Zoom and Bored,” Purdue senior Jack Moreland created an original percussion piece that will be performed while the cartoon – featuring Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner – is projected on a large screen in back of the musicians.
Moreland boasts a wide range of percussion experiences in his four years at Purdue, from the raucous atmosphere of Ross-Ade Stadium with marching band to the controlled excitement of Elliott Hall and the classical concert stage. “I just wanted to do something different,” says the Plymouth native majoring in Computer Graphics Technology.
Composing music not only provided the perfect challenge, but also allowed Moreland to combine his passion for percussion with his interest animation, which he studies for his degree. A sale video of “Merrie Melodies” cartoons provided a particularly action-filled, six minute-fourteen second bit of zaniness called “Zoom and Bored.”
Arranging a bell set - saved from junior high music classes - on his apartment coffee table, Moreland watched the video night after night with the sound turned down. “I played the little bells with my fingernails and listened to melodies to see what worked,” he says.
“I watched it so much I got to the point where I was dreaming the cartoon. I would wake up in the middle of the night with a melody in my head.”
Guided by Purdue percussion instructor Pamela Nave, Moreland aimed at a serious composition, not one dominated by honks, crashes and other goofy sound effects so typical of cartoons.
An ensemble of six percussionists play more than a dozen instruments in “Zoom and Bored” including xylophone, marimba, bells, chimes, tympani, snare drum and a variety of gongs and cymbals. Musical tempos of up to 240 beats per minute – “Hail Purdue” is 152 beats a minute – match the heightened mood of the cartoon and provide a serious challenge.
“I’ve worried that they’re going to be able to play that fast. Some of the xylophone runs are just crazy,” he admits. But the student musicians have proved to be up to the challenge.
The more Moreland worked on the composition, the more he wanted it to communicate something other than fun.
“There are definitely parts of it that are happy, but there are definitely parts that are not. Some parts are almost sad,” he says. “The music looks at Wile E. Coyote and the fact that he never wins, that he’s always losing but he keeps getting up and trying again. It (the composition) took a weird turn like that. I’m glad it went this way. Otherwise it would be just another ‘Merrie Melodie’.”
Moreland’s original composition is surrounded by other innovative tunes on the concert. Several numbers are performed in the style of the popular percussion group STOMP including “Me Tarzan” and “Comic Relief.”
Nave will give the audience a chance to try the stunts STOMP pulls off when she directs them in a body percussion number put together especially for this program.
The contemporary numbers are balanced with classical pieces like Rosaurao’s “Marimba Concerto.” Several xylophone rags – including a solo spot for Nave – are programmed, as are numbers that take a playful approach to serious works. An excerpt from the opera “The Barber of Seville,” for instance, will be performed in the style of Bugs Bunny.
There will also be a guest performance by a percussion ensemble from Harrison High School.