Clogs Find Ecstasy Uptown
Published March 11, 2011
CLOGS. PHOTO COURTESY OF SAREPHINA
The Ecstatic Music Festival, a three-month concert series held at the Upper West Side’s Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Center, has brought together a series of some 150 performers that collaborate on stage and, in doing so, explore and redefine the boundaries between classical and popular music. It seems only logical, then, that Clogs, a quartet of musicians whose styles sprawl across the musical spectrum and who, by their own account “don’t really fit into any category,” will help to close out the festival’s season with a show this Saturday.
Clogs, comprised of composer and performer Padma Newsome, guitarist Bryce Dessner of The National, bassoonist Rachael Elliott, and percussionist Thomas Kozumplik, came together as the foursome were completing musical training at Yale. “Right at the end, when we were all setting off to do another degree, I had a very specific dream about an ensemble,” says Newsome. “I woke up in the morning and thought, ‘Yeah, that’s what I’ll do.'” Though “all the people that come out of Yale are pretty hot players,” Newsome adds, “I wanted people who were improvisers, as initially there was quite a strong improvisation agenda. Over the years, we gradually developed our own palette, our own language.” That language has come to consist of an ethereal blend of classical, rock, folk, and jazz, most recently heard on 2010’s The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton (Brassland), a haunting song cycle that incudes a capella vocals as well as eccentric amalgams of marimba, bassoon, and electric guitar.
At the Ecstatic Music Festival, alongside Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond (who lends her vocals to The Creatures) and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Clogs will debut a series of specially commissioned pieces, namely new work by Dessner and the premiere of Newsome’s “Unattended Shadows,” a three-piece set of songs.