ArtSounds Sounds Off the New Semester with Wind Instruments and a New Vibe

Photo // KCAI

Morayo Bakare

On Sept. 10, the Kansas City Art Institute held ArtSounds, an event initiated by KCAI and UMKC in order to explore artistic pieces that combine disciplines in a performance setting. This is the eighth year for ArtSounds, which is slowly growing in popularity. The night opened with an act by the World Woodwind Duo, consisting of Thomas Aber and Dwight Frizzel.

The recital began with the song “Osiris Wobble” and the wailing of Frizzel’s invented instrument, the zwoom. This unique device consists of a long hose connected to a mouthpiece. Frizzel’s zwoom has a one-inch thick pipe that was a little more than a yard long. Frizzel specializes in various woodwind instruments, so experience led him to prefer a bass clarinet’s mouthpiece, but any mouthpiece can be used.

The name “zwoom” comes from the sound the instrument makes when its open end is twirled in the air as the musician blows into it, resembling an airplane flying over, but at a higher pitch.

“I had a shower hose… and I put a brass mouthpiece on it and I started buzzing,” Frizzel said. “I started swinging and it would get the Doppler Effect.”

The Doppler Effect is the sound of a siren, for example, becoming louder as it approaches the listener but recedes as it moves away. With the zwoom, the effect can be controlled effortlessly by swinging the tube in the air at varying speeds and height. As Frizzel and Aber strolled in with the zwooms on their shoulders, drummer Patrick Conway kept time and the song turned into what appeared to be a discussion between the two musicians. When Aber would respond with a note, Frizzel would interrupt with many notes and a tune, taking the more dominant role in the duo. Afterward, the piece moved into more of a jazz sound as Frizzel and Aber switched the zwooms for a bass clarinet and saxophone. This part of “Osiris Wobble” was more melodic and structured than the beginning portion.

The next piece, titled “Sho-Chi,” was played by Robert Carl on his wooden flute. The song opened with the dimming of the lights and a mystical sound traveling slowly through the room. The opening played from a miniature stereo system but as the quiet moaning continued, it evolved into a louder, more melodic sound and Carl joined in with his flute, harmonizing with the song but never overpowering it. The atmosphere changed instantly and the audience was transported to a more relaxed ambience. It is no surprise from the sound of the music, the Japanese translation of the title is “ground from which all life springs.” The song continued with a peaceful but whimsical earthy sound that kept the audience afloat in another world the sound had created until the calming end.

The rest of the performance followed with the World Woodwind Duo playing with guest performances on songs called “Star Seed,” “Tree of Life,” “Oceans of Kansas,” “Aquarius” and “Devil Dog.” “Star Seed” focused on the constellations and was accompanied by a projection of a metal disc with the constellations engraved on it. “Tree of Life” had a projection of Darwin’s chart on the hierarchy of animals while the musicians complimented the slides with their woodwinds and the Yamaha WX5, a digital wind controller. “Oceans of Kansas” had slides of waves crashing peacefully against a rock while wave music played in the background alongside the bass clarinet and alto clarinet. “Aquarius” was a song created by German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen in 1975. The piece is one of twelve melodies each symbolizing a zodiac sign and uses a music box played into a microphone which guides the other musicians who play alongside it.

The night ended with the last song, “Devil Dog,” performed with Conway on the drums and two students, Will Bradley and Colin Rausch. Rausch played on a bongo drum while Bradley performed mutilated synthesizer sounds on a modified child’s alphabet toy. With the combination of the toy and the woodwind instruments, the style could be classified as “synthetic jazz.”

The Kansas City Star has described the World Woodwind Duo performances in the past as “an eros-fueled space opera.” Their recital at ArtSounds correctly fit that description. To hear more from The World Woodwind Duo, listen for them on KKFI 90.1FM on Wednesdays from 12:30-1 p.m. on the program “Arc to Microchip.”