Michael Pisaro's A Wave and Waves

Michael Pisaro's A Wave and Waves


October 28, 2018

1:00 PM-2:15 PM


225 South St
Williamstown, MA 01267

Michael Pisaro’s A wave and waves for one hundred percussion instruments—featuring the Talujon Percussion Ensemble, the Williams Percussion Ensemble, and guests—is a rare, deep listening experience in which listeners are immersed in an ocean of sound. Colossal percussive waves are created by layers of imperceptibly soft sounds—sandpaper on stone, seeds falling on glass, bowed bells—forming a textural landscape bristling with detail. The 74-minute work employs 100 performers, arranged on a grid, with the audience embedded within. 


Please note that this performance will take place in the auditorium.

A wave and waves was composed in 2006/07. It is scored for 100 percussion instruments played by 100 players and is in two parts. The first part, A world is an integer, is in the form of a single wave lasting 35 minutes, made up of delicate and elemental sounds entering and dissolving back into silence. The second part, A haven of serenity and unreachable, consists of 100 smaller waves that combine and overlap, creating powerful swells that eventually crest and subside. The 100 percussion instruments in the work range from conventional instruments played unconventionally to found sounds and everyday materials. The list includes sandpaper, metal brushes, stones, and grains of rice and seeds falling on the surfaces of different materials (wood, ceramic, glass, plastic, metal, etc.) as well as on marimbas, vibraphones, and snare drums. The sounds are predominantly soft, and the instruments are activated through rubbing, bowing, and gravity rather than through hitting. The individual sounds are “like single grains of sand (or molecules of water), which, by being combined with other like sounds, form larger patterns and collections.”

This colossal work is an utterly unique experience for performers and audiences alike, tapping into the elemental quality of sound, waves, and nature. For the listener, time is distorted and one learns to hear the world in a new way.

In programs featuring cutting-edge new music and important works of the twentieth century, the Williams Percussion Ensemble (WiPE) surveys a vast terrain of sound and rhythm. The ensemble employs all manner of percussion instruments, found sounds, and electronics to create music that resonates across boundaries of genre and discipline. In addition to music for percussion alone the group presents works for mixed ensembles and new and experimental music for a range of instruments. WiPE often works directly with composers and collaborates with artists in diverse media in order to explore the connections among sound, form, image, and movement.

“The Williams Percussion Ensemble stood under the warm May sun and sent sharp-edged, tightly organized rhythmic salutes into the Berkshire hills.” — The Boston Globe