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Classical 101

Sympatico Percussion Group Rehearses Joe Krygier’s ‘Monkey Mind’

Sympatico Percussion Group rehearsing Joe Krygier's 'Monkey Mind' - Photo IDs L to R - Christopher Norton, Scott Herring, Susan Powell, Johnny Mendoza, Joe Krygier.JPG
Hambrick, Jennifer M.
Sympatico Percussion Group rehearsing Joe Krygier's 'Monkey Mind.' From left to right musicians Christopher Norton, Scott Herring, Susan Powell, Johnny Mendoza, Joe Krygier.

To most of us, a bowl of water, a bulldog clip and a rubber band are just household objects. But in Joe Krygier’s world, they’re musical instruments.

“As percussionists, we’re often asked to play a whole host of unusual instruments, some things that are definitely not considered traditional percussion instruments,” Krygier said. “Those are under the category of found instruments.”

And just about anything in Krygier’s path could make its way into is music. That’s exactly how a bicycle wheel wound up in his new percussion ensemble work Monkey Mind.

“I had this bicycle wheel just sitting around in the studio, and I saw it there and I was like, Oh, that’d be a perfect little moment for a transitional, non-rhythmic kind of thing. One of the players starts spinning the wheel, then just puts his mallet on it to kind of have that sort of clacking sound. So, I just wanted to have a little bit of fun with that particular moment.”

Krygier, who is based in Columbus, composed Monkey Mind for the Sympatico Percussion Group, in which he performs with fellow percussionists Scott Herring, Johnny Mendoza, Christopher Norton and Susan Powell.

The group premiered Monkey Mind recently in Columbus, but Krygier says the work originated much earlier in the sound world of his imagination.

“The inspiration for a piece always starts with sounds. When I’m coming up with some of my music, I’m looking for some unique kind of sound combinations.”

In Monkey Mind those sound combinations come from Western percussion instruments, like marimbas and cymbals, and from West African and Indonesian instruments. For additional effect, Krygier throws in a fresh take on the drum set – what he calls a “pseudo drum set.”

“It’s got some drum set components that are kind of common, like a kick drum and a high hat, maybe some cymbals, but I’ve incorporated some other world percussion instruments into that, so it’s not a kind of traditional drum set,” Krygier said. “I’m drawing from some kind of global percussion experiences.”

You can hear the unique sound combinations in Krygier’s Monkey Mind and see how they’re made in this video from a recent rehearsal of the Sympatico Percussion Group.

There’s a lot going on in Monkey Mind, and that’s part of the point. For Krygier and his Sympatico colleagues, the cool thing about percussion ensemble music isn’t just the funky beats they come up with – and there are plenty of those. The real joy comes from surprising audiences with the welter of unexpected sounds that a mix of traditional and non-traditional percussion instruments can create.

Jennifer Hambrick unites her extensive backgrounds in the arts and media and her deep roots in Columbus to bring inspiring music to central Ohio as Classical 101’s midday host. Jennifer performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before earning a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.