Contemporary clarinet and percussion: Renowned duo Rated X II performs at Razzo Hall

Razzo saw an animated, eclectic performance by clarinetist Jean Kopperud and percussionist Tom Kolor Wednesday, February 16th. The two musicians performed five contemporary, experimental pieces that proved to be very cutting edge.

All photos by Ashley Klann.

Kopperud and Kolor took to the stage in stark red and black outfits that paled in comparison to the incisive, disparate nature of their performance.
Whether it’s a psychological phenomenon or a matter of coincidence, both musicians had a striking resemblance to their instruments. As she played, Kopperud’s tall, frail body undulated with the varying notes coming from her clarinet which ranged from shrill highs to plummeting, guttural lows. The duo’s body language also mimicked their music’s qualities; they reacted to both the swiftly changing composition and to each other.

One of the most enticing things about live performance is the visual factor. Being able to see professional musicians together in their element is an amazing thing. Especially in a one-on-one scenario, the audience truly gets an understanding of the constant give and take that is involved in the performance. Kopperud and Kolor were constantly engaged in a call and response, their instruments and body language feeding off one another. To see two musicians so enraptured by the performance aspect of being on stage was very entertaining.

Their first piece, X-ASTI by Yiorgos Vassilandonakis (October 2010), was a fast-paced glimpse into the duo’s diversity and varied style. Kolor’s xylophone was ablaze as he sped back and forth across the keys. The piece was inspired by and composed for the two. The work has a very up-in-the-air, scattered and surreal feeling to it that is almost jarring. The highs and lows that Kopperud plays are astounding. The low clarinet notes played so rapidly make the wind instrument sound more like percussion. It chuffs and bellows through the piece, then flies back into shrill highs.

After the duo’s first piece, composer John Aylward spoke about his work, Twin Suspension (July 2010). Aylward said that his inspiration for the piece came from the death of his father’s twin brother. He added that in the composition, each instrument corresponded with another, lending to the theme of twins and parallelism.

As Kopperud and Kolor moved large percussion instruments across the stage in preparation for Twin Suspension, Aylward called the duo veterans who “test the limits of their instruments” through contemporary compositions. He also called their work imaginative.

Twin Suspension was a little less abrasive than their first piece. Kolor surrounded himself behind a wall of percussion instruments including gongs, tom toms, wood blocks, and vibraslap, among others. The clarinet’s shadowing twin, the bass clarinet comes in part way through the composition, enforcing the piece’s theme.

The duo then played Evocations by Louis Karchin (August 2010), Wills & Wonts by Jeff Stadelman (July 2010), and Throat by Mathew Rosenblum (September 2010), all of which further explain the two musicians’ creative experience and what makes Rated X.

Evocations is all about stylistic variety. The composer calls it “the striving and stretching for something ‘beyond’ (i.e., the ‘x-rated’ factor)…” and says it’s all about maximizing the potential to combine various worlds. Wills & Wonts focuses on the “X” or the exchange between parts. Throat, according to the event’s program, was commissioned by Kopperud for the Rated X II Project and is dedicated to her and Kolor.


About Ashley Klann

Clark masters student. Local reporter. Photographer. View all posts by Ashley Klann

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