Nobody expected Dan VanHassel, the brother of Joseph VanHassel, to return to Framingham State University for another appearance in the Midday Performance series, but April 29’s performance proved otherwise.
This time around, VanHassel brought the members of his band, Hinge, a Boston-based contemporary music ensemble, to a crowd of 37 people.
Christian Gentry, a professor of music at FSU, said, “There are some interesting intersections of what you’re going to hear between the punk tradition and that of the rock or pop music tradition, as well.”
The band is comprised of VanHassel – who is the group’s leader – on electric guitar, Keith Kirchoff on piano, Matt Sharrock on percussion, and Philipp A. Staüdlin on three different saxophones.
Hinge opened their five-song set with an original piece, “Ghost in the Machine,” a signature composition of VanHassel’s catalogue.
The song contained a symphony of impressive, industrial-like noises from their instruments, especially in the case of Kirchoff and Staüdlin.
Staüdlin showcased a variety of bizarre saxophone techniques, which include him blowing into it, but producing no sound, as a result. If sound did come out, it would resemble a squeak.
Kirchoff’s contributions were just as uncanny, if not weirder than Staüdlin’s. In the later points of the composition, he banged under the piano with a rubber mallet, producing more percussion than most pianists are accustomed to giving.
If one were to walk in on the space-like, oceanic fade-out at the end, they would not know that such techniques drove the piece there.
The second arrangement was a performance of Chaya Czernowin’s “Sahaf,” which VanHassel described as “a meat grinder of musical genres” in the break between pieces.
“Sahaf” featured a fast, surf rock-esque intro, only to be quickly dismissed by more ominous sounding melodies by the group.
Then, something new came in during a period of deafening silence: ratchets played by Sharrock.
Several call-and-response sections between Sharrock and the other members then followed, with the gear-like sound of the ratchets driving the members to perform as if they were wind-up toys.
After that, though, the piece fell into absolute chaos – everyone began to play their own thing at the same time, creating what could be described as an explosion of noise – full of chaos, impossible to tame.
One chaotic song later, the audience was given a Hinge interpretation of “It’s Not Up to You,” from Björk’s 2001 album, “Vespertine.”
The arrangement ended up being the calmest piece of the set, allowing Sharrock’s skills on the xylophone to shine through. Audience members could see the passion on each band member’s face, as they added their own quirks to the piece.
They closed out the set with another original composition, with the biggest and loudest thing to introduce: Sharrock’s gong.
With a mighty crash of the gong and several thunderous strikes on the drum, the stage was set. This dominating presence reached its peak when VanHassel began to play progressive rock-inspired guitar solos near the end, riding along with the room-shaking degree of noise that was being produced.
Much like “Sahaf,” the band purposely fell into chaos several times, but they stuck it out to the end, leading to a room of applause for their efforts, closing out this year’s Midday Performance series in the process.