It goes without saying that percussion ensembles make a lot of noise, but Austin's line upon line percussion does so offstage as well as on. In the four years since Matthew Teodori, Adam Bedell, and Cullen Faulk joined forces, the trio has delivered a series of ambitious, adventurous performances on the home front – at SXSW, the annual John Cage birthday celebration, the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, their award-winning site-specific collaboration with architects Norma Yancey and Emily Little, and their own festival of music by experimental composer Iannis Xenakis – as well as a steadily growing touring schedule to colleges across the country. Now, line upon line is making history by performing Hugues Dufourt's Erewhon in North America for the first time since its world premiere by Les Percussions de Strasbourg 36 years ago.
Why the work has gone unperformed on this side of the Atlantic for so long has a lot to do with the epic nature of the composition. Dufourt employs 150 instruments – some quite obscure – to be played by six percussionists over 70 minutes. The work makes substantial demands of any group that tackles it, and that's certainly been the case for line upon line. Teodori notes that the trio has never played a single work that lengthy. And of course, being a trio, line upon line has had to recruit three more percussionists in order to play it, which also means "there is twice as much to keep track of," he says. Fortunately, the ensemble members' ties with the Butler School of Music made it easier for them to find musicians up for the challenge: Tim Briones, Andrew Fuhrman, and Eric Peterson. Certainly, it was easier than finding the 21 tuned Thai gongs that Erewhon requires – "There are only a handful of sets in the States," says Teodori – or working out what instruments to substitute for the ones Dufourt wrote for that no longer exist. "I think we look for ways to stretch ourselves," he adds. "It's safe to say we feel stretched."
The group performs Erewhon first at the 2013 Percussion Galore! event in Round Top on Saturday, April 13. Then it comes to Austin as a featured project for the 2013 Fusebox Festival on April 17, 7pm, at Stateside at the Paramount (719 Congress), in a performance that's free for the public. Finally, line upon line travels to Houston for a performance at the Menil Collection's Community Arts Festival on Saturday, April 20. For more information, visit www.lineuponlinepercussion.org.
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