Diverse performers combine for one striking sound
The premise of Cultural Constructions is simple: Four Boston-based musicians from diverse musical traditions collaborate on a concert. The results, however, are anything but, producing some of the most stimulating evenings of music to be heard anywhere. The sixth installment, titled ''Hands and Mallets," featured electro-acoustic percussionist Tim Feeney, Latin jazz vibraphonist Victor Mendoza, Bulgarian-born marimba player Vessela Stoyanova, and ethnomusicologist Andrew McGraw on Indonesian gamelan.
To open, Feeney ceremoniously placed a cymbal atop an amplified drum and struck it, producing a deep chime that hung in the air like mist. The woody sound of Stoyanova's marimba entered, followed by the chromium sheen of Mendoza's vibraphone, and then McGraw's gamelan, with its buzzing, metallic tones pitched askew of the western scale. The piece painted a primeval landscape, introducing the instrumental timbres from which the evening would evolve.
Next came "Cult Mal," composed by series co-curator Ken Field. Based on the notes that the gamelan and western instruments have in common, it was an engaging round robin in which each instrument surfaced and submerged in an elaborate tapestry.
Then Stoyanova moved to an electronic instrument, using her mallets to produce synthesized string and piano sounds. Cellist Valerie Thompson joined her for two glossy pieces inspired by Bulgarian folk tunes.
Mendoza partnered with pianist Rafael Alcala for two Latin jazz pieces. On Mendoza's composition ''Cafe Quemado," the virtuosic duo traded searching melodic lines and heated chordal rampages. Their oblique version of the standard ''Besame Mucho" emerged gradually from twilight before snapping into ruthless swing.
Feeney's solo improvisation gave a glimpse into a mad scientist's lab, as he produced an array of startlingly resonant sounds from his odds and ends and homemade gadgets. McGraw presented two pieces of traditional Indonesian music, one Javanese, one Balinese. Singer Jessica Zike joined him for the first, with Feeney pitching in on gamelan for the second. Their darting, unison lines gave a tantalizing taste of a different world.
The concert ended with Mendoza's tango ''Entrega." He stated the melancholy melody, then spun out intricate variations. Stoyanova chorded behind him, while Feeney and McGraw contributed charmingly ramshackle percussion. ''Entrega" means to give oneself entirely to something. It's safe to say that these four musicians did exactly that on Saturday night.