Yale College New Music on Thursday presented “Shake, Rattle & Roll V,” a percussion performance by Matt Keown MUS ’16 and Jeff Stern MUS ’16 at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
Keown and Stern, known as the “Icarus Duo,” performed pieces composed by eight Yale students and alumni — Thomas Gurin ’18, Cyrus Duff ’18, Charlie Romano ’19, Leonardo Gorosito MUS ’12, Rafael Alberto, Griffin Brown ’18, Max Vinetz ’18 and Seth Gregson ’19 — as well as one arranged by Keown.
Asked about his creative process, Vinetz said, “I started thinking about personal experiences that were meaningful to me.”
“The ideas of distance, time, beliefs and uncertainties resonated with me and I wanted to explore that,” he said.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the performance was the contrast between static Beinecke and the dynamic drumming. In any other context, a pair of drummers on the mezzanine of a library would be questioned, if not asked to leave.
However, on Thursday, as the pair walked on to the stage and began playing two snare drums, the seemingly mystifying juxtaposition started to make sense. Standing only several hundred feet away from “The Canterbury Tales” and a Gutenberg Bible, Keown and Stern at first seemed out of place, but as the pieces developed, they began to resemble stories and memories, much like those captured in the books around them.
One piece, Brown’s “Skylit,” was inspired by a walk the composer took to clear his head. Another, Duff’s “Cat,” attempted to capture the experience of saying the word “cat.” These stories and experiences — told through instruments of percussion — provided an interesting counter note to the ancient manuscripts stored only yards away.
While some of the pieces only tangentially commented on the space, Vinetz’s “Gathering Dust” confronted the books head on. Vinetz wrote the piece after reflecting on his parents’ divorce in 2014. Afterward, he was tasked with sorting through hundreds of books, most of which would be taken to a public library. In examining the books, he discovered that his father wanted to learn Portuguese and that his mother loved reading adventure novels.
Vinetz’s piece was an eclectic but engaging mix of sounds and timbres that effectively mimicked the experience of uncovering and reacting to the remembrance of old memories. The instruments seemed to fluidly shift from the background to the foreground.
“What seem to be textual figures at one point may emerge as a melody later on,” the program notes explained.
Emil Ernstrom ’19 said he appreciated how Vinetz’s piece seemed to comment on the space in which it is played. He mentioned that other concerts in the series, which are often held in Beineke, tend to have more to do with the setting of the performance — a type of self-awareness that he appreciates.
The two performers, Keown and Stern, fed off each other’s energy and engaged the crowd with unique introductions to the pieces. In many ways, Icarus Duo made the show as much a visual performance as a sonic one, incorporating elements of dance.
The Icarus Duo is part of the Icarus Quartet, a musical group featuring pianists and drummers.
Skakel McCooey | email@example.com