A steelpan, sometimes referred to as a steeldrum, is a concave, metal bowl-like instrument native to Trinidad and Tobago. Its sound is most often associated with warm, islandic regions like the Caribbean and eastern parts of South America. The instrument is unique in that its sound can be both melodic and percussive--one minute the notes are liquid, silvery, and flowing; the next, they are tinny, rasping beats.
Andy Akiho, who is of Trinidadian decent but grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, says it was the steelpan that led him to become a composer. Currently working on a PhD in composition at Princeton University, Akiho has found a way to unite the sunny sounds of the steelpan with contemporary classical repertory. Beneath Lighted Coffers, the piece he will perform with us on November 10, represents this union.
The five-movement work was inspired by the sophisticated architecture of the Roman Pantheon. From the portico, to the oculus, and even the marbled patterns of the floors, each movement provides a representation of different parts of the ancient temple.
The elaborate metaphor that is Beneath Lighted Coffers pushes the limits of intellectual design. In this work, Akiho presents a rare and interesting notion: he incorporates the architecture of a building into the very architecture of a composition. Numbers derived from the structural engineering of the Pantheon are echoed in the time signatures and percussion of the piece. Perhaps this is just one reason why Akiho is so well known for breaking the mold of contemporary classical music.
Learn more about Andy Akiho at www.andyakiho.com