Class Notes Artist Matra has been visiting schools in the Twin Cities, as well as in northwestern Minnesota. Matra performed in marimba player Jenny Klukken's hometown of Osakis in late October.
Matra performed a variety of its own compositions for students of Osakis Elementary in Osakis, Minn. (near Alexandria and Sauk Centre). The musicians had to share the stage with the set for the high school's production of "Stealing Home."
Marimba player Jenny Klukken was excited to come back to her hometown and perform for students at the school she attended. Her former band director, Randy Resley, still teaches there and was there for the performances. Klukken is a Marimba One endorsed performer. Her marimba is a full five octaves and about eight feet long. It can be disassembled but still requires a minivan to transport. The marimba has wooden bars and metal resonators under the bars. It does not ring as long as a vibraphone does. Klukken is the composer of "Room 57," which you can listen to using the player above.
Andres Crovetti plays the vibraphone. A vibraphone has metal bars and metal resonators, which are the long vertical tubes under the bars. Unlike a marimba or a xylophone, it has a pedal so it can sustain notes longer. To play it, Crovetti holds two yarn mallets in each hand, kind of like chopsticks.
Mat Solace plays the drum set, which is definitely the most recognizable instrument to students. He uses tala wands instead of drum sticks. These are skinny sticks bound together around a piece of foam. Solace is the composer of "When the Mood Strikes," which he wrote in one night; it just suddenly struck him, as it were. You can listen to it using the player above.
Krissy Bergmark plays the tabla drums, which come from India. She has spent a good deal of time in India studying with an instructor. The tabla is played with the palms and fingers, and the rhythms are taught aurally through the memorization of tabla "sentences," called "bols." Each sound on the tabla has a name, and a "bol" is a combination of those sounds. The tabla is covered in goat skin, and the black dots in the middle are actually metal filings. The tabla sounds a bit like the "glug, glug, glug" of a water cooler. Tabla players always take off their shoes before they play, out of respect.
Ryan Hays on the double bass is the only non-percussion instrument in Matra. He joined the ensemble about a year and a half ago. He usually plays "pizzicato" (plucks the strings), but sometimes he plays "arco" (bowed). He keeps the bass line going.
Here's a view of Matra performing on the set of "Stealing Home" from the back of the Osakis High School auditorium. Each of Matra's members composes for the ensemble; their style is a mix of world music, jazz and progressive rock. Their compositions often feature improvisation sections that are passed among the members.
Matra demonstrated the concept of "subdividing" beats with a story of three birds with different size wings. Even though the birds flap their wings at different paces, they all travel at the same speed and arrive at their destination at the same time. It is the same concept as one whole note = two half notes = four quarter notes.
Matra let students ask questions before the end of the performance. One student asked, "Why did each of you choose to do music?" Another student observed that the drummer's drum sticks were unusual and so gave Solace the opportunity to explain about tala wands. Another questions referenced the "strings" on the side of the tabla, which are actually ropes that can be tightened or loosened in order to change the pitch of the drum. The funniest question was, "Are you guys rich?" The members of Matra answered by saying that they weren't rich in money but that they were rich in experience and friends, and that made it worth it.