Today I figured I might as well start this blog writing with a musicological overview of one of Gregory Kozak’s compositions for Scrap Arts Music called “Conundrum“.
It’s the first drumming piece you will hear in our full-length touring show “SCRAP•ARTS•MUSIC” and it’s arguably one of the more sophisticated ones.
Gregory Kozak’s compositional style represents a culmination of his musical training in West African drum and dance, world percussion, Afro-Cuban jazz, and North Indian raga.
Added to this mix is a quintet of rigorously-trained, sonically adventurous and physically fit musicians to perform Gregory’s original compositions for invented instruments.
Having five musicians permits performance of acoustic music rich in syncopations, and choreography that plays off musical and visual ideas of symmetry and balance.
I find it interesting that Gregory composes a lot of his drumming pieces on drum set, so it seems natural that the show would start with just Gregory on the stage with what he calls his “Mini-Zig Traps Set”. This Set includes his signature Mini-Zig Tom Drums, his Bell Flower Chime, a Demi-Globe Bass Drum and assorted accessories — all made from recycled and salvaged materials.
When composing in his studio on drumset, far from the rest of the ensemble or his invented instruments, his four limbs sometimes represent up to four parts in a composition — for example, his right arm is expressing this part for Ziggurat Drums, his left leg this part for Humunga Drums, and so on!
So starting Conundrum with just Gregory on stage is, in a small measure, meant to be a nod to that.
“Conundrum” embodies Gregory’s compositional fascination with the layering of odd meter polyrhythms, and the ensemble’s precise and energetic performance. It’s characterized by elaborate over-layering of rhythms and textures created by eight mobile drums played by four musicians, and the Mini-Zig Traps Set, played by one.
The piece starts with minor seconds and a funky New Orleans street marching band stylization by means of a melodic pattern on Mini-Zig Traps Set and Bell Flower Chimes that introduces a 6/8 pattern with 11/8 interspersed.
(Reference 0:34-1:14 in the accompanying video*).
The pattern is soon echoed by the second group of percussionists who ‘arrive’ on mobile drums, which include Kozak’s original designs of Humunga, Ziggurat, Hourglass and B-52 Drums. The musicians phase, layer, accent and expand the pattern to 47/16. (Refer to 1:54-4:03 on the video)
After completion of the main theme of 47/16, the percussionists begin an 11/16 pattern on Kozak’s Alumo-Plates (tuned to the same minor chord as Kozaks’ Bell Flower Chime that is part of his trap set), while Gregory implies the 47/16 on top of the 11/16 at his Mini-Zig Traps Set . (Reference: 4:04-4:55)
Roles are then reversed and the ensemble returns to 47/16 and in a propulsive polyrhythmic accented movement of call and response between their drums, the Mini-Zig Traps and the Bell Flower Chimes. This theme evolves into a phased and accented crescendo, with a dynamic unison ending in 12/8. (Reference 5:52- 7:03)
Let us know what you think!
(* The video was filmed in Dallas on November 22 2013 in the Winspear Opera House, designed by British architect and Pritzker Prize Laureate Norman Foster.)