There is never a shortage of music and art festivals in the Bay Area in the fall, and one can’t see them all, especially while also being a participant. But I was fortunate to catch the final show of the Music for People & Thingamajigs festival on October 14 at Berkeley Arts. For those who are not familiar with Thingamjigs, they focus on music and educational programs using “made/found materials and alternate tuning systems.” Both of these concepts were integral parts of the performances on this evening.
The show opened with an ensemble led by Dennis Aman. The stage was populated by a variety of instruments, including a tuba with a rotating leslie mute, and modified/re-created toy xylophones with alternate tunings.
The music varied considerably. I enjoyed the more esoteric pieces that showcased the instruments and way experienced musicians play them. The toy percussion and electronics worked particularly well. There were also some more conventional pieces, including one that sounded like a typical celtic folk tune, that did not particularly work for me in context of the darker, more percussive sounds of the other pieces.
The second half featured the premier of Symphony in Sea by David Samas. Rather than simply a piece inspired by the sea, Samas took the concept rather literally, with instruments of his own creation as well as contributions from Tom Nunn. The stage was set up with a variety of aquatic themes both natural an artificial, with a beach lounge as well as pirate apocrypha.
[Photo by Bryan Day.]
The piece unfolded over several movements, each related to a well-known phrase about the sea. Different combinations of instruments and vocal techniques were used to evoke different environmental qualities of life in or around the sea.
[Photo by Bryan Day.]
During the early movements, the music was more abstract, with room to listen to the timbral details of the various instruments. However, the later movements were more idiomatic, and even a bit tongue-in-cheek, such as a rousing pirate shanty.
Things did take a turn for the darker with a dance segment featuring Bob Marsh as a sea monster.
In the end, it was a fun performance to attend, both musically and visually. Thingamajigs has several other programs coming up. Please visit their website for more information.