Percussionist Mark Adam has had a career-long relationship with experimental American composer Steve Reich's work. When Adam wanted to assemble a crew to start rehearsing Reich's 2008 piece, 2x5, in his Wolfville barn studio, it wasn't hard to find other musicians who were equally excited about the project.
"It sounded too fun to pass up," says pianist Jeff Hennessy.
2x5 is scored for 10 musicians, or five playing against recordings of themselves. It's an intense piece that is both challenging and entertaining. Adam describes the feeling of being inside 2x5: "It's scary, oceanic in moments and totally exhilarating." Guitarist Jeff Torbert says, "It's like driving 200km/h on the Autobahn and at the same time playing Just Dance on Nintendo Wii with nine other people. Extreme fun."
2x5 also depends on a lot of intense concentration and physical exertion from its players. "The piano part requires the player to bang out strange chords that contort your hands into awkward positions for a long period of time---and every chord is accented," Hennessy explains.
Hennessy, Torbert and Adam, along with guitarist Eugene Cormier and bassist Nic D'Amato, debuted their performance in the spring to enthusiastic reception, maybe because 2x5 is just as mind-altering for listeners as it is for the band.
Audiences "are often baffled when they watch us tap our feet along to the beats we're feeling, because it contradicts their own perception of the groove," Hennessy says. "You can kind of choose how you want to experience it," Torbert adds. "I think that's part of Reich's mastery---he creates something intangible beyond the individual musicians and their parts. As the players, we don't have the option of stepping away from our role in the moment and hearing the whole web of rhythmic relationships that is 2x5. So the audience gets the best view!" --JF
Steve Reich’s 2x5 w/ Fond of Tigers, Friday, July 6 at St. Matthew’s Church, 7pm, $18/$15