Danny Elfman Week is currently occupying the stages of the Lied Center for Performing Arts and the University of Nebraska in Lincoln this week. Elfman is the renown composer of film scores, particularly those by director Tim Burton. The week includes performances of his violin concerto as well as portions of his award-winning film scores.
As part of the festival, Grammy-winning Third Coast Percussion, a group that works work closely with Elfman, played a concert at the University’s Kimball Recital Hall. The program included works by Claire Assad, Philip Glass, Elfman, Flutronix and Jlin.
Glass’ Metamorphosis was particularly good. Here is was arranged from the original piano to percussion by Third Coast. The various sonic characteristics of the percussion instruments laid bare Glass’ melodic inventiveness, as well as the every changing filigree of swirling sounds that characterized his earlier compositional period. Especially satisfying was the drone note played on the marimba the provided a counterbalance to the continuing pop of the percussion instruments. A melodica provided sustained notes also.
The remainder of the program took advantage of a broad range of percussive sounds on a broad range of struck items. There is no doubt that the Third Coast musicians are extraordinarily capable, but most of the music seemed rhythmically driven, with no particular focus on structure, line, or dynamic. By the time the final piece by Jlin was starting, everything sounded like everything else. While Third Coast highlights diversity on its website, this program was anything but diverse. By the time the third of the five Jlin movements was playing, the exit was looking more and more attractive.
This concert reminded me of attending a performance by minimalist composer Max Richter of his music. The first piece was good but each succeeding one simply restated what was said before. There was not enough variability to make it interesting. The musician of Third Coast are talented, but the music was repetitive and unsatisfying, and after a while, just banging.
For me it was a lost opportunity to show the range of sound, feeling, and effect that a modern percussion ensemble can generate.