Skip La Plante and Carole Weber have made some good progress with their homemade instruments since I last reviewed their work about a year ago. Michael Canick and Alice Eve Cohen have now joined the group, and the foursome presented a stimulating evening on May 28. Most of their instruments are percussion devices such as mailing-tube xylophones, wine-jug gongs, odds-and-ends wind chimes, cat-food-can shakers, table-leg claves, and wash-tub drums. They also have a crude homemade koto/zither, and make good use of a glass pane, a bicycle wheel, spare organ pipes, and photographic light shades. And they are really listening to all of these things. I wouldn’t say that any of their instruments are virtuoso tools yet, but many of them sound quite musical.
I particularly appreciated a segment credited to Weber, and originally created for choreographer Phoebe Neville. As presented here, the work divides into five short sections, each of which features a unique blend of percussion instruments. The piece conveyed some attractive moods, particularly in the sections where Weber added vocal effects. The other works on the long program did not always combine the instruments in effective ways, and there was a tendency to try to fit everything into square clear forms without yielding to formal possibilities suggested by the instruments. But the two audience-participation events at the end of the program both worked. In the first we all blew on bottles and organ pipes in a long countdown. In the second we were invited to chant according to principles suggested by Indian chakras. The event took place in the Frances Alenikoff studio on lower Broadway, and Alenikoff did a brief improvisatory dance.