March 26, 2019

MSM Spotlight:
Percussionists Tae McLoughlin (BM ’20) and Jon Clancy (MM ’19)


MSM students Tae McLoughlin, Percussion (BM ’20) (in photo above) and Jon Clancy, Contemporary Performance (MM ’19) are two of the performers in the March 27 concert by MSM’s Percussion Ensemble (tickets are free; reservations required)

They explain what makes the music in this concert so special and interesting – and challenging —  to perform.

You’ll both be performing in the Percussion Ensemble concert on March 27 in Neidorff-Karpati Hall at 7:30 PM. What are you most looking forward to? What pieces are you excited to play?

Tae: What I find really exciting is the range of pieces that we’re going to present. We have a very standard, well-known work by Varèse called Ionisation, and we have newer compositions by two living female composers that will be performed in trios.

The first trio, Situation III by Anahita Abbasi, takes instruments that percussionists are familiar with, such as metallic idiophones, including glockenspiel, vibraphone, and chimes, and presents a different perspective on these very traditional sounds.

The second trio is an atmospheric piece by Anna Thorvaldsdottir called Aura. This piece is extremely gestural. It brings to life the sounds of Iceland in nearly complete darkness using choreographed hand-lights, which add another interesting element to the show.

Jon: Similar to Tae, I love the breadth and the depth of the music that we’ll be playing. It’ll be a lot of information in a short amount of time, and I guarantee it will be an exciting and stimulating experience.

I’m particularly excited about the Harrison Birtwistle piece we’re playing with six percussionists; it’s basically a dramatization and sonification of a scene from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The scene is led by a Queen and a King, and I play the King — these two characters are having an argument throughout the work, dictating what the four “chorus members” should play. There’s a sort of musical hierarchy being explored in the context of a Shakespearean play, which I think is really interesting.

Jon Clancy, Contemporary Performance (MM '19) (left), Tae McLoughlin, Percussion (BM '20). Photos by Toby Winarto, Viola (BM '19)

Tell us more about the theatrical elements in this concert.

Jon: The extra wonderful thing about it is that there are a ton of additional theatrical gestures that we have to enact throughout the Birtwistle piece, which helps move the dramaturgy of it forward.

Tae: I think theatrics provide a running theme in this semester’s concert, proving that percussion gestures are extremely varied and can be quite subtle or very dramatic.

You mentioned earlier that the entire ensemble is playing on Ionisation. Could you tell us what’s special about that piece?

Jon: Though it may sound like kaleidoscopic rhythms, it’s actually formally and totally sound. Every motive that is established in the first part of the piece is explored and reshaped later, either through changes in organization or varied rhythmic structures. It’s an early exploration of dilation and compression of time and rhythm, for example, it takes something simple, like a single gesture, and transforms it into triple gestures. The piece is made up of unusual temporal treatments that are actually rooted in chemistry, from what I’ve gleaned — it’s like all of these traumatic materials become ionized throughout the piece.

Tae: In order to achieve this unifying theme, Varèse incorporated many instruments from around the world; from the gong to the siren, and snare drum to glockenspiel, he brought them all together, creating an interesting texture throughout the piece.

Give us your 30-second pitch on why people should come to this concert.

Jon: Drums, first of all! Come for the loudest and quietest sounds you’ll ever hear. If you want to experience the breadth of percussion music from the past 100 years, this is the quickest way to get a taste of it. We’ve got a piece from the 1920s, a piece from the ’70s, and two compositions from after the turn of the century.

Tae: I think that percussion ensemble music is extremely unique and it’s a concert that I know a lot of people are always excited to come see. We can just do things that other instruments can’t quite do, so it’s always a spectacle.

“Come to see the March 27 performance for the loudest and quietest sounds you’ll ever hear. If you want to experience the breadth of percussion music from the past 100 years, this is the quickest way to get a taste of it.”

Percussion, (MM '19)

Watch the video teaser for the March 27 concert