By Grace Ann Brew
Whether it’s the rainsticks your child plays with in Gymboree or the recorded ocean waves you listen to during yoga, no one can resist the soothing splashes of sound created by water. On July 18 award-winning percussionist Tom Teasley brings a whole new level of intricacy to babbling brooks and water droplets with his Sonic Saturation Performance and Sound Installation at the Athenaeum.
During his 45-minute performance, Teasley will play a multitude of instruments that use water to manipulate sound. These include water drums, a water gong and an aquasonic, which is a metal instrument containing water and spokes of differing sizes.
“While researching Chinese music for an upcoming theater project, I became reacquainted with the Chinese composer Tan Dun,” Teasley says. “He has a concerto for water percussion, so finding these instruments was a result of researching that piece. The show [at the Athenaeum] is also water themed, so all of those elements kind of collided.”
China is not the only country from which Teasley draws influence. In fact, the world-renowned musician gathers inspiration from all across the globe when he travels as a cultural envoy for the State Department. “I’ve made several historic trips to Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Jerusalem where I collaborate with master indigenous musicians,” he says.
The array of international influences produces a “rhythmic stew” of sound, according to Teasley. “The basic aesthetic of what I do is that of being a jazz musician, but I’m adding other elements from India, the Middle East and the Far East.”
Teasley’s talents stretch far beyond that of a percussionist. His performance also includes digital looping. “I’ll be using a device that allows me to, in real time, play something, and then while I’m playing I will record it. There will be sounds that I will manipulate electronically to simulate the sound of rainsticks and running water, over which I will overlay frame drums and Native American flutes.”
The water-themed visual exhibit “Saturate” features Teasley’s multimedia piece “Secrets of the Wine Dark Sea.” “There’s a combination of audio and visual elements for which I’ve coined the term ‘video choreography,’” Teasley explains. “It is inspired by my work with dance departments. What I’m trying to accomplish is when dance and music are very tightly synced together—where you can hear the rhythm when you just watch the dancers.”
Join Teasley July 18 at the Athenaeum for an aquatic act of acoustic excellence, and don’t forget to check out his latest CD, “Dreams of India.”
Tom Teasley at The Athenaeum
201 Prince St., Alexandria
July 18, 7 p.m.