Trommel mit Mann / Drum with man / 2001
Music Fritz Hauser
Foto Christian Lichtenberg
Press comments on Trommel mit Mann
... This is by far more than a stringing together
of skillful and effective beats. Hausers hour-long performance which,
directed by Barbara Frey, gets a theatrical touch, has something to do
with the becoming aware of ones own creativity and tries to get
to the bottom of how it is achieved. No playing with what goes without
saying but one which asks about its prerequisites ....
DRUMMER OF A DIFFERENT BEAT
This, the North American premiere of Trommel mit Mann (Drum with Man),
is a percussive exploration of sound and rhythm as only Fritz Hauser can
journey. Swiss-born Hauser is no stranger to the world stage of drumming
virtuosos. His concerts in solo and ensemble along with his numerous recordings
have transcended the drums native timekeeping role to define them
as a uniquely musical solo instrument.
So as the Music Gallerys artistic director, Jim Montgomery introduced
our featured performer, I quietly thought to myself that if I could just
get through this first hour of whatever may come, theres a hopeful
reprieve in the second half. At least then Hauser would be joined by two
of our own Torontos finest percussionists. But as the somber and
confident Hauser took the stage, the roaring cheer of the audience revealed
that these were not mere anonymous attendees to a promising program. These
people were indoctrinated disciples of a phenomenon I clearly had yet
to experience. Perhaps this wouldnt be so bad after all.
From the moment Hauser takes the throne its confirmed for me that
this is no drum solo as Ive ever experienced. In fact the first
three minutes of the performance present no flailing sticks, no rumbling
mallets, no swishing brushes and no barrage or din of any kind. These
minutes are spent as whole note rests of silence in which Hauser simply
confronts the drum in a seemingly endless stare as we all watch in anticipation.
Then, beginning on beat 4 at a tempo of only 1 beat per minute, Hausers
hand slaps the head of the drum with one near deafening crack through
the chapel silence. Then, with 60 seconds to dissipate the sounds
rippling waves into almost distant memory, another shock of the hand meets
the drum. The space between strokes, however sparse, has been clearly
defined to faithfully predict the following note at 1 minute later. Only
this time its a surprising quarter the intensity of the last. The
capacity crowd is consumed by the soft blow into a comforting vacuum of
lured attention. And with six minutes and only three notes into his snare
solo, Hauser has captured me and this audience body and soul without even
lifting a stick.
As the piece begins to unwind, almost no surface of the drum is left
unplayed. The wood shell, the chromed hardware and even the plywood floor
they sit on have become fair game for percussive acrobatics. Not surprising
then, his first choice of striking implement is unorthodox. After his
fingers and palms finish rhythmically exploring all sides of the drum,
Hauser selects a thin steel rod instead of a traditional wooden stick
as his first weapon. Then, one hand at a time and without ever missing
a beat, steel turns to mallet. Mallet turns to brush. Brush turns to some
kind of squeeze toy chime concoction which finally turns to a 10 minute
high flying frenzy of drum stick wizardry with interlaced boot stomps
at the 30 minute mark of the performance. Racing hearts could be felt
throughout the hall almost adding counter-rhythm to the symphony of percussion.
Flowing seamlessly from his fiery torrent to a whispering buzz roll,
Hauser displays his control and command of volume without ever breaking
time or tempo. And then, like a true sensei of the drum, Hauser plays
the spaces between the notes which define them. Each note becoming stronger
and more potent with the increasing spaces which precede and follow them.
He is slowing down.
Applause befitting what is now the most remarkable single drum performance
I have ever witnessed most certainly was heard far beyond this hallowed
hall. And certainly no reprieve was needed as I had earlier surmised.
Part two of this program could only be icing on an already perfect cake.
And it surely did not disappoint as Bob Becker and Russell Hartenberger
joined Hauser for Trommeln mit Männer (Drums with men).
The Music Gallerys program hailed this performance as "a spontaneous
exploration of percussion sounds and musical sensibilities." I found
that to be a sophisticated way of saying, "jamming with drums and
everything else you can hit to make a sound by people who know what theyre
Russell Hartenberger, also a member of NEXUS and Steve Reich and Musicians,
is a Professor of Percussion at the University of Toronto. He has worked
with other percussion masters such as Steve Gadd and Peter Erskine as
well as with classical cello genius Yo-Yo Ma and our very own Canadian
At first the music reminded me of a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western
"good vs. evil" showdown soundtrack. And I mean that in a good
way. It was intense and emotional. Like the part of the movie when you
know someones going to get shot but youre not sure who. Youre
on the edge of your seat. The trio then elevated their feel to even greater
intensity. As Becker drew a cello bow across the squared edges of an otherwise
normal looking cymbal together with Hausers unwavering tribal ostinato,
I could have sworn I was listening to a rock concert featuring the feedback
from the guitar of Jimi Hendrix during his Woodstock rendition of the
Star Spangled Banner. But there were bass drum timpani, cymbals played
off of floor toms, mallets striking bongos and a shaker used to sound
off a small tom tom. Clearly there were no rules defined between the performers
before they took the stage. As a result, this concert proved that there
truly are no limits to the creation of percussion music. And as each man
turned to lightly swell their cymbals in turn, the three came together
in sweet waves of harmonic resonance emulating the enchanting drone of
the churchs organ which stands only a few feet away. And finally,
they fade into silence.
I couldnt have imagined how this concert would have entertained
me as a fan of drums and music. Nor would I have guessed that they would
have inspired me as a player and performer. But now I can count myself
as one of them; one of the indoctrinated disciples of this truly unique
musical art form as well as these heroes of their own genre.
Dee Potter, www.echoworld.com