Every little thing accounted for in percussion piece

11.10.15
San-Antonio Express News

Whenever Stewart Copeland is in attendance while one of his compositions is being played, he usually can be found fretting and biting his nails.

That is not the case with “Gamelan D’Drum,” which he was commissioned to write for the Dallas Symphony and the world percussion ensemble D’Drum. The San Antonio Symphony and D’Drum will perform it Friday and Saturday.

“With this piece, I’ll be a happy guy just listening to it,” said Copeland, who is best known as the drummer for the legendary ’80s rock band the Police.

Copeland, who will be at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts for both performances, described the concerto as “kind of a cool piece. It never fails to burn down the house.”

San Antonio Symphony audiences who come out this weekend, he said, can expect to find that “the whole front of the stage will be taken up with (D’Drum’s) incredible collection of drums and bells and God-knows what else, mostly with unpronounceable names. And behind them will be the mighty San Antonio orchestra providing a rich, orchestral sonority to these very exotic sounds.”

The piece was inspired by Balinese percussion. Copeland had some familiarity with the music of that part of the world, having traveled there after a tour with the Police. But he still had to deal with a considerable learning curve.

“I had to go to Dallas, and I took a little video camera and filmed each note of each bell and the other instruments,” he said. “I got a little sample and fed that into my computer so I could use those specific instruments and build the orchestra.”

He spent two years working on the piece. The project was documented in the film “Dare to Drum,” which will be screened tonight. Copeland and John Bryant, a member of D’Drum who also directed and produced the film, are slated to attend and take part in a Q&A.

Bryant said he had cameras rolling throughout the development of the piece, documenting Copeland at work and a trip to Bali, where some instruments were custom-made.

“With a documentary, you never know what’s going to happen,” Bryant said. “So it’s smart to have some cameras rolling all the time.”

The film includes the 2011 debut of the piece, which included some unexpected drama. Dallas was hit by a severe ice storm that week. The nasty weather meant that all but one rehearsal and one performance were canceled.

Police fans who have been pining for just a little more since the band’s 2007 reunion tour, which included a stop in San Antonio, might want to put that energy into something else. Copeland doesn’t see it happening, mostly because he and his bandmates — guitarist Andy Summers and frontman/bassist Sting — have long been immersed in other pursuits.

“There are some things that are irresistible,” he said. “To play in a stadium is the irresistible part. Subsuming ourselves into the machine that no longer belongs to us known as the Police is less comfortable.”
 
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