Concert hall air rattles and rings with percussion solos

Dani Nudelman and two colleagues performed a set of moody pieces on marimba. Students entranced the audience with an array of percussion. (Elizabeth Tacone).

The beat began.

Charlie Winkler, senior music education major, sat before the tam-tam, a large, flat-faced metal disc suspended on a wooden frame. His legs were crossed Indian-style. His silence penetrated. Lifting his mallet, he struck the tam-tam lightly and a reverberating sound began to emanate through the Mildred and Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall.

The beat intensified.

He struck it again, harder this time, faster, more insistent. The sound swelled, enveloping the room in a whirring, cacophonous drone, building as he struck the tam-tam repeatedly, winding up into a nightmarish blur of sound until he was beating the tam-tam furiously with his mallet and then — it ended, no sooner than it began.

Winkler put down his mallet and let the tam-tam settle. Soon the ringing in the concert hall was replaced by its former state of heavy silence, with Winkler at the helm, sitting before the tam-tam for a full 30 seconds before standing up, turning around and leaning into a deep bow. Only at that point was the silence broken — by riotous applause.

Winkler’s goal was not to mutilate the eardrums of the approximately 25 members of the concert hall audience. Winkler was one of six music education majors and students of William Trugg, adjunct instructor of music and percussion coordinator at the College, to perform short pieces at the Percussion Studio Recital on Tuesday March 2.

Winkler’s goal was to execute “Having Never Written a Note for Percussion,” a 1971 piece composed by James Tenney — a goal at which, Trugg said, he aptly succeeded.

“He had been playing around with that for a while,” Trugg said. “This concert hall is extremely resonant. Sometimes it’s hard to get the individual notes to come out. He did play around with it to see where on the stage the notes would best turn out.”

Asked if he was pleased with the performance, the instructor, who conducts and composes pieces for percussion himself, smiled.

“Yeah, I was,” he said.

Winkler’s performance was one of eight played over the course of the 40 minute recital. He followed pieces by sophomore music education majors Travis Knauss, Nick Clipperton and Dani Nudelman, all on marimba, and Marc Chait, on percussion.

Playing pieces such as Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Allemande, from Partita in D Minor,” and Charles DeLancey’s 1973 composition for percussion “The Love of L’Histoire,” the performances were by turns dark and dramatic and light and charming.

Senior music education major Erik Romero closed the recital, playing “Vivace — in the style of Lenjengo” by B. Michael Williams on the djembe, an African hand drum. The piece was energetic and upbeat, characterized by the loud, insistent thumping of the hollow, skin-covered drum.

William Trugg was happy with his students’ performances.

“I thought they did very, very well,” he said. “I was really proud of them. Some of them have been working on the music for the last semester.”

Students in attendance enjoyed the performances as well — though there was one they couldn’t stop talking about.

“I thought they were all really cool. My favorite was Charlie on the tam-tam,” said Sara Truluck, senior music education major.

“It was a little frightening at first,” confessed Sergio Hernandez, sophomore voice major. “I had to cover my ears at the end.”

“It was almost like a train wreck. You couldn’t bear to tear yourself away from it,” Truluck said.

She compared the performance to what happens “at the end of an epic scene” of the television show “Lost” — the screen goes black, the white show logo flashes and deep within the television, a sound starts to build.

“That sound,” she said. “It feels like your life is ending. And then it doesn’t.”