In Percussion, School of Music

Group hopes online performance of “Sevilla” will be one of many

Musicianship is defined in part by the idea of reinvention. Every performance presents a chance to experiment with variables such as interpretation and instrumentation. Case in point: the new BYU percussion quartet, Tangents, which recently boosted its online presence with a recording of “Sevilla,” arranged for four marimbas.

Tangents was formed by percussion professor Darren Bastian in Winter 2019, during his first year at BYU. His goal was to connect BYU percussion with the larger percussion community both locally and worldwide. The name “Tangents,” he felt, evoked the idea of connection.

This advanced group meets weekly as a class under Bastian’s direction, and members rehearse together on their own time as well. Bastian encourages their independence as musicians, asking students to set their own goals and assist with music selection. In addition, he assigns a performance project of their choice each term, anything from planning a video shoot to presenting for local schools.

Tangents members Tanner Johnson, Nathan Hurst, Nathan Winters and Peyton Ford perform “Sevilla”

“I purposefully leave the assignment open and tell them that the sky’s the limit,” he said. “The group has won grant money to do such things in the past, and they continue to make bigger and bigger plans for the future.”

Percussionist Peyton Ford auditioned for and was placed in the group by Bastian. “Tangents is unique because our main purpose is outreach,” Ford said. “We’re really trying to foster an environment of sharing and support to every school we visit and every clinic we give.

“My favorite part is showing kids what we do,” she continued. “When we visit middle or elementary schools, these little kiddos’ eyes get so big seeing what all we do and play! I feel like this group is such a fantastic tool to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in an unobtrusive way — we just play good music and serve others the best we can.”

In addition to performing on and off campus, Tangents will also be seeking opportunities to expand its online presence. The quartet’s performance of “Sevilla” from Suite Espanola by Isaac Albeniz marks their second official virtual performance. Bastian arranged the piece for marimba quartet, and BYU students Tanner Liddiard (video production) and Aidan Bay (audio engineering) used BYU’s Studio Y to complete the recording.

“We choose the music we like,” Bastian said. “I like to have the group record my arrangements because they end up being the first recordings of those pieces on YouTube. We also have some fun recording ideas for the near future, including some classic works by iconic composers. We  look forward to more creative presentations in our videos. We’re just getting started.”

Percussionist Tanner Johnson, who transferred to BYU from Utah State University last year, was also invited by Bastian to join the group. He enjoys the wide range of music played as well as the variety of instruments they get to use.

“We could go from playing a marimba quartet to playing with a mix of keyboard and auxiliary percussion,” Johnson said. “We may play a very rhythmically heavy piece and then move to a slow, textural piece right afterwards. Last semester we had to find and buy the wackiest items in order to play one of our pieces! It can get pretty hectic to set up a lot of different instruments, but it’s rewarding to try and experience new things together. That’s what I like most about this group: we’re different and we’re versatile.”

This semester the group will be performing a piece that involves household objects. “We’ve even been talking about putting electronic instruments in the mix — so we’re definitely expanding our horizons,” Johnson said.

Tangents is the realization of Bastian’s dream to expand his involvement with percussion ensemble music. “I have made some arrangements for the group and love the creative process involved in that,” he said. “I also love the intimate nature of working with a small group of students. These students have to take a lot of initiative in getting things done.”

Watch the recording of “Sevilla” below:

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