Basketballs, shopping bags become instruments in 'Hey Ya!'
There's nothing abstract about Purdue Prof. Pam Nave's approach to musical color in the Purdue Percussion Ensemble and Winter Drumline's "Hey Ya!" concert on Sunday, April 18.
"Lime green is the color," says Nave. That trendy hue colors everything from apparel to fog for the title number as Purdue's percussionists emulate a rock video setting with their version of Outkast's current hit "Hey Ya!"
It's just the first number in a musical color parade that begins at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 18, in Loeb Playhouse of the Purdue Stewart Center. Admission to the concert is free and no tickets are needed.
Lots of different colors enter the afternoon's musical picture ranging from the orange brown of basketballs in "Double Dribble" to the gold and black of University Spirit plastic shopping bags used in a number called "Sacks Appeal."
Ever since Nave took over the spring percussion concerts in 2000, the annual event has been devoted to a mix of funky, contemporary percussion works - the kind of pieces given national exposure by Stomp - and serious percussion compositions.
"I'm just trying to educate. I want people to be exposed to different types of percussion from total American stuff to the complex rhythms of Indian music," she says.
The adventurous nature of the concert makes it an excellent fit with Spring Fest which encourages the community to explore the campus on April 18 through such events as Bug Bowl and the Purdue Horticulture Show.
With these activities in mind, Nave gears the show to have a broad family appeal. Special guests this year include Sandip Burman, a professional percussionist specializing in North Indian tabla drums, the West Lafayette High School Percussion Ensemble under the direction of Matt Conaway and Ritchie Brickler, a xylophone player from McCutcheon High School.
Throughout the year, Nave keeps her ears open for new percussion works, especially those using items not usually considered percussion instruments. Examples of that on the April 18 concert are "Clap Happy," "Double Dribble" and Sacks Appeal."
Hand and body percussion takes center stage in "Clap Happy." "It's intricate, rhythmic stuff and all four women performing it have solos," Nave says.
Bouncing basketballs form the rhythmic lines in "Double Dribble." "It's like the kids are practicing, or warming up for a game. There's even a coach out there yelling at them and blowing a whistle," she says. Although it sounds like all fun, "it's one of our hardest pieces. You have to put the ball down at the right time and smack it at the right time. There's some very intricate toss work going on."
The percussion instructor had to audition bags to find just the right amount of crinkle for the playful piece titled "Sacks Appeal" where musicians make music by crinkling shopping bags.
"It took me a while to find the right sack. It had to be thick and loud and durable to do all the stuff we wanted to do with it. The crunchy sacks from University Spirit worked the best."
Other tunes adding their own color to the event are David Bruebeck's "La Fiesta de la Posada," an update tune with a Mexican flavor and Edward Freytag's "Death of Ooga Booga." "It's a hard piece but very cool, very powerful and loud. There chanting going on so it sounds like something tribal."
The concert's serious side is highlighted by David Gillingham's "Gate to Heaven," which also requires the musicians to sing while they perform. It features Diana Day, a sophomore nursing major from Indianapolis on a marimba solo backed up by the Purdue Percussion Ensemble.
For more information on percussion at Purdue and other concerts sponsored by Purdue University Bands call (765) 496-6785.