The intriguing pairing of percussionist and DJby Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Even in a musical world which prizes innovation, a percussionist playing tuned brake drums paired with a DJ creating stories by spinning yarns by spinning disks is unusual. But that's exactly what the Southern Theater in Minneapolis is offering Tuesday night.
The artists involved are Jace Clayton, known to many as DJ /rupture, and percussionist Owen Weaver.
Now based in New York, Weaver is originally from Bemidji, and a graduate of the highly regarded percussion program at the University of Minnesota Music School. His interest initially was playing drums, he says, but its changed, and evolved to where his work focuses primarily on electronics and tuned found objects.
"Say, a re-purposed tea kettle, that I found I can get a lot of interesting sounds out of, or pieces of metal that were cut at a shop cut specific lengths to get a specific sound, and things of that nature," he said.
There is a video of Weaver on his website playing a piece on brake drums.
"Yes, that would "The Anvil Chorus" by David Lang, a piece I'll be performing this week."
This is the kind of stuff which used to set eyes rolling for many traditionalists. But times, approaches, and attitudes have changed. There is growing demand for new music outside the confines of the mainstream classical music audience. Owen Weaver thinks he knows why.
"The cleverest of the musicians and composers have been seeking out those that aren't necessarily into classical music so much as they are into art and other forms of popular music," he said. "And these people are a lot of times more open to hearing these new things."
Which brings us to Jace Clayton.
"Put it simply. I'm a DJ," Clayton said by phone from Brooklyn.
Technically yes, but that's a huge oversimplification. Clayton, known as DJ /rupture is a turntablist, spinning three discs at once.
"What I'll be doing at the Southern will be what I usually do, which is trying to pull in a lot of different sounds, and use a lot of layering and a lot of superimpositions to try to almost get a more narrative sound approach out of DJ-ing," he said.
DJ /rupture has played all over the world in recent years, and that's an important element in this storytelling approach to his work.
"And so every time I am in a new place, a new city, a new country, I am always curious to see what's going on and what people are listening to and how, how music generates meaning," Clayton said. "And all of that folds back into what I am trying to express."
Clayton talks about how his live work is improvisation, using his stack of sounds to react to a time, and a place, a mood, or a context.
"And you can move through all sorts of different sounds," he said. "There can be a hip hop moment, there can be a moment when it can just be spoken word and voices. There can be a moment where you are mixing flutes from Azerbaijan, with a beat that was just made in downtown Brooklyn, and yet they can all be tied together with some greater movement."
DJ /rupture and Owen Weaver haven't actually met. But they have been studying each other's work and Weaver says there are some remarkable similarities.
"His hunting and gathering and sort of mosaic style of putting music together to form something that we haven't ever heard before is not too far off from how I am trying to put together pieces and instruments and music to create a combination of sounds that will make a whole of a piece of music," Weaver said.
Both Weaver and Clayton point out how the Southern Theater in Minneapolis is also reaching out to create new combinations. It was Southern Music programmer Kate Nordstrom who came up with pairing them for tonight's concert.
And both performers say they can't help but learn from one another, and maybe not just musically.
Like who has the heavier luggage? The percussionist with his brake drums or the turntablist with his vinyl collection?
"That is definitely a subject we could debate," Weaver says as Clayton laughs. "Pounds per bag."
Both Weaver and DJ /rupture say they are working on traveling lighter.
- Morning Edition, 12/14/2010, 7:45 a.m.