Note: This review first appeared in The Glass, a music and arts blog founded by Chris McGovern.
The lights dim, then darken in the intimate confines of The Cell. A single spotlight glows over a drum set in center stage. One figure emerges from the corner, picks up two drumsticks, and pounds out a jarring thwack. The figure is Lisa Pegher, and though her epithet of choice is “solo percussionist,” this intrepid powerhouse is more than just a drummer. Pegher is an alchemist of time, sound, and space, crafting visceral landscapes that penetrate the ears and mind. But most poignantly, she epitomizes experimental virtuosity, uniting the abstract and the concrete to form a transcendent whole.
Pegher’s opening thump quickly expanded into a network of drum rolls, cymbal accents, and blunt rhythmic counterpoint. As she cascaded one layer after the other on the Tobias Brostrom composition, an innate assertiveness arrested the air with simultaneous discord and harmony. Pegher’s intensity crested when she tossed her sheet of notes overhead mid-piece. And at once, she launched the first of many self-duos to come, sparking a conversation between her bass drum and cymbals.
These conversations often bordered on dynamic arguments, notably in “Rhythmic Caprice”, composed by Leigh Stevens. Pegher angrily slammed on both ends of her marimba before stirring into a tropical melody, hearkening to the instrument’s Guatemalan origins. She abruptly changed direction, however, tapping the stick of one mallet against the edge of a marimba bar. The flat wood-on-wood rhythm proved an intriguing departure from her immersive sound, illustrating the battle between tradition and reinvention.
Yet the climax of the evening didn’t exclusively rise from any one instrument. As the first half of the program came to a close, a brief lights-out cast over the space. A projection screen whirred down from the ceiling to showcase Ben Hill’s multimedia accompaniment to Pegher’s 2012 record Minimal Art. The blue error message blanketed the audience in tight anticipation, heightened by Pegher’s standby position at the edge of the stage. Seconds became minutes, and the silence grew tighter as technical staff scrambled to troubleshoot the faulty projector. Heads craned toward the sound crew as more minutes stockpiled. Suddenly, a nervous laugh broke from the audience like the concert’s opening thwack. More jittery laughs tumbled forth, punctuated by rhythmic murmurs and Pegher’s own pacing footsteps. And at long last, Hill’s geometric animations graced the screen while Pegher took percussive flight, both artforms uniting into a roaring symphony.