Music at the Museum: The improvisational essence of the 1960s

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BENNINGTON — Natural History is a one-of-a-kind ensemble. With a world of sound at their fingertips, this trio of eclectic multi-instrumentalists has been breaking sound barriers since 1973, weaving rhythms, instruments, and styles from every corner of the globe, and every period of human evolution, into an intricate and spontaneous musical tapestry. At 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 22, Natural History shakes up the house at Bennington Museum. A presentation of Music at the Museum, this performance is free and open to the public thanks to the support of Alison Nowak and Robert Cane.

Barry Hyman, Jared Shapiro and Derrik Jordan were all students of legendary percussionist Milford Graves in the 1970s, where they learned the therapeutic power of improvisational music. They mix the inspiration of the moment with their decades of experience playing music from all over the world to create a totally new blend of world fusion, a "musical melting pot." Featuring electric violin, kalimba, cello, ngoni, pedal steel guitar, alto recorder, banjo, percussion, surbahar, balophone, gourd trumpet, voice, and more, Natural History is fascinating in that the musicians improvise vocally and instrumentally at the same time, creating the illusion of more than three performers. Their music is wild, unpredictable, playful, fearless and always resplendent with humor and joy. It is appropriate that the concert by these three pioneers of world fusion occur during Bennington Museum's Fields of Change: 1960s Vermont exhibition as they embody the improvisational essence of the nineteen-sixties in Vermont and have been using harmony to spread peace and love ever since.

The Performers

Barry Hyman has been performing professionally since the 1960s and recording and teaching music since the '70s. His primary instruments are pedal steel and guitar, but he also sings and plays harmonica, bass, banjo, dobro, sitar and more. Hyman is an unusually eclectic musician, equally comfortable in the rarefied atmosphere of experimental art music (he is a grant-winning composer and was Artist-In-Residence at Southern Vermont College in 2001) and in the roadhouse atmosphere of popular American styles ranging from blues to bluegrass. He offers private lessons and music therapy at his studio in White Creek, NY, is currently performing with six very different bands, and is the author of "Smart Guitar," a 330-page instructional manual, and "How to Teach Guitar," holistic advice for music teachers.

Living in southern Vermont, Derrik Jordan has sung national jingles, worked with many bands and has had his songs recorded by other artists, but what really excites him is writing, recording and performing his original music. He is an award-winning singer-songwriter and composer, a multi-instrumentalist (electric violin, kalimba, ngoni, percussion, guitar and piano), recording artist and producer.

He studied percussion with master drummer Milford Graves and composition with Henry Brant at Bennington College. In pursuit of new sounds, he has traveled to Brazil, Trinidad, Ghana, Israel and Senegal. He performs with many bands including Tony Vacca's World Rhythms, Impulse Ensemble, Simba and Natural History. He was the featured composer for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra's "Made in Vermont Tour," which performed his work in ten venues around the state in September 2009.

Jared Shapiro holds a BA in music and natural science and an MFA in cello and composition from Bennington College. He studied composition with Henry Brant, Vivian Fine, Allen Shawn and Louis Calabro, and improvisation with Milford Graves. His interest in world music has led to ongoing collaborations and performances with musicians from diverse music cultures. He is an active freelancer, an adjunct at Castleton University, and is on the faculty of Taconic Music's Strings for Kids, the Greater Manchester and the Mountains Chamber Music Workshop, The Mountain School at Winhall, and maintains a teaching studio in East Dorset.

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