There is magic in pure sound. And few know that truth as well as the quartet called So Percussion and the installation artist and drummer Eli Keszler — artists who, before this spring, had never met. We thought that they might find kindred spirits in each other.
So as a matter of artistic matchmaking, we at NPR Music decided to invite them to meet and collaborate on a new work that would have its world premiere at Make Music New York, the annual summer-greeting festival of free outdoor concerts across the city. And along the way to creating a world premiere, they brought a New York landmark in as a sixth instrumental partner: the Manhattan Bridge. They named their piece Archway.
Twelve hours before the performance, the 6:30 AM installation of Keszler's piano wires, motors and processors was witnessed by only a few hardy souls. Using a scissor lift, Keszler and an assistant began the long process of fastening wires attached to two large weighted boxes to the tops of lampposts near the DUMBO Archway beneath the bridge. More wires stretched from one of the lampposts up to the Manhattan Bridge itself.
By mid-afternoon, however, the archway area began filling up not just with curious passerby who stopped for a closer look at the atypical goings-on, but audience members who arrived hours early to observe the work of So Percussion as well as Keszler and his assistants carefully calibrating and tuning the installation.
By the time that their performance rolled around at 6:30 PM, Keszler and So Percussion created fascinating layers of sound. The shimmering, nearly melodic lines produced by bowing small cymbals called crotales offset sharply articulated snare drums and the grunting roars, squonks and groans of the piano wire installation. It was urbane and thoroughly urban music for a signature city setting.
Eli Keszler, installation & percussion
So Percussion: Eric Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski and Jason Treuting
Producers: Mito Habe-Evans and Anastasia Tsioulcas; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Event Coordinator: Saidah Blount; Videographers: Parker Miles Blohm, Hannis Brown, Mito Habe-Evans, Kim Nowacki and AJ Wilhelm; Editor: Mito Habe-Evans; Special Thanks: Make Music New York, DUMBO Improvement District, New York City DOT, PAN_ACT Festival and Q2 Music; Executive Producer: Anya Grundmann.