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Bang a Drum With Talujon

NYC-based avant-garde percussion ensemble comes to town this Friday

The Talujon Percussion Ensemble takes to the Lippes Concert Hall stage in Slee Hall on the UB Amherst campus on Friday, March 19, at 7:30pm, for the fourth concert in the Slee/Visiting Artist Series. Based in New York City, Talujon is committed to the expansion of the contemporary percussion repertoire, as well as to the education and diversification of its worldwide audience. Talujon performs regularly for such highly regarded organizations as the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, Bang on a Can, Carnegie Hall, Symphony Space, Harvard University, and the Percussive Arts Society.

Talujon consists of David Cossin, Dominic Donato, Michael Lipsey, Matt Ward, and Tom Kolor, who is now in his second year as a faculty member of the UB Music Department. Kolor, who directs the UB Percussion Ensemble as well as UB Contemporary Ensemble, has been a member of Talujon for the past 15 years and is looking forward to celebrating the group’s 20th anniversary season next year.

The group’s name is derived from two Indian words: tal, an adjective having to do with rhythmic cycles in traditional Indian music, and lujon, a noun referring to a metal log drum.

Their program includes Coming Together by Frederick Rzewski, a composer perhaps best known for his massive 1975 work for piano, The People United Will Never Be Defeated!, a set of 36 variations on a Chilean song, which the composer wrote as a tribute to the struggle of the Chilean people against the newly imposed military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. Rzewski’s works often have a political context, and the 1972 composition Coming Together, which has been described as “a highly minimalistic piece, with repetitive phrasing building to a major climax after 19 minutes,” is no exception.

“Our performance of Coming Together uses a pre-recorded voice reading a letter that Sam Melville, a prisoner at Attica, wrote to a friend just prior to the 1971 Attica riots,” Kolor says. “Rzewski provides a bass line, the text, and instructions for possible arrangements, but leaves quite a bit up to the performers.”

“Talujon commissioned Julia Wolfe’s Dark Full Ride,” Kolor adds. “When Julia told us that she wanted to create a 20-minute work for four drum sets, we were intrigued but also a bit scared. However, it has come to be one of our favorite pieces to play, and it is now a staple of our repertoire.”

The composer has described the experience of listening to Dark Full Ride to be “Like staring for a long time at a Rothko painting, I imagined each of these pieces as an exploration of one color. But in truth an instrument isn’t really a single timbre. There are a myriad of worlds within each sound.”

The third work originally scheduled for Friday’s concert was Interchange, by Ralph Shapey. Kolor explains, “We decided to replace Interchange with Un fruscio lungo trent’anni, a work by the Italian composer Salvatore Sciarrino. Like much of Sciarrino’s work, this piece exists on the edge of silence. The piece uses such delicate sounds as shaken pine branches, stirred water, and scraped glass bottles, and will be performed with the four performers surrounding the audience. We decided to include this piece, because we noticed that there was almost no music below forte on the original program!”

Advance tickets are $12; $9 for faculty, staff, alumni, and senior citizens; and $5 for students. At the door, $20, $15, and $8. Available at the Slee Hall box office, Center for the Arts box office, or at any Ticketmaster outlet. For more information, call 645-2921 or visit

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