In many ways, day two of Hopscotch was all about drumming. From Tyler Damon sitting-in with the David Nance Group for some killer two-drum sunbaked jams at the WXDU/Three Lobed Records Ritual of Summoning Day Party at Kings, to Jon Mueller’s one-man gong orchestra at the Wicked Witch, percussion took a front-and-center stage. Much of the credit for all of this goes to Kate VanVorst—who curated many of these shows—and her long-running Resonancy Series.

Within all that, Susie Ibarra’s set at Fletcher was maybe the most revelatory (with love and respect to the seventy-eight-year-old giant Milford Graves who gave a wild, ageless performance despite ill health earlier that night). The Filipina-American drummer has been a prominent figure in the jazz and improvised music scene for twenty-plus years now, though I haven’t heard much from her in recent years. Her fifty-minute performance felt like a sonic encyclopedia, conjuring every sound imaginable from her kit. 

A short, wildly incomplete catalog of those sounds:

The microscopic whoosh from shaking plastic brushes in the air.

The low, barely audible rumble from her kick drum that sounded like bleedthrough from a dance party in the next room. (There was no dance party in the next room.)

The gong-like cymbals, which were hit with just the right amount of force so that they never quite sizzled but instead, rang like gongs. At one point, Ibarra hung two small gongs from her left arm and created a six-piece mini-gong orchestra.

The kalimba-like ringing from the hardware of her drumkit when struck by those same plastic brushes

The list could go on and on. It felt as if Ibarra was constantly conjuring pitches from places that don’t normally make pitches (there’s nothing to play a scale on, in a drum kit) and then somehow manipulating those pitches to create successively more astonishing sounds. 

Perhaps most impressively, it never felt as if she was just playing through her catalog of sounds. The suite she created felt intentional and alive, moving intuitively from one soundscape to the next. Certain rhythms or effects came back at unexpected times, linking everything together satisfyingly. I’ve only ever heard Tatsuya Nakatani paint sounds across time quite so fluidly.

The person running sound at Fletcher also deserves a shout-out. They managed to pick up all the subtle details—every impossible, minuscule sound—without adding extra noise or glossy sheen. Everything was clear, clean, dynamic, and transparent. None of the sets in Fletcher would have worked otherwise.

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