Percussionist Jon Mueller will bring the Afterlife Cartoons tour to Fayetteville
Jon Mueller, courtesy photo
Percussionist Jon Mueller will bring his “Afterlife Cartoons” tour to Fayeteville for a performance at Mount Sequoyah Center on Monday, March 14.
The all-ages concert is part of the latest series of Trillium Lounges and takes place at 7 p.m. inside the Millar Lodge building in the center, on the west side of the Mount Sequoyah campus.
Mueller’s solo acoustic percussion performances use repeating tom patterns and subtle shifts in grid-like pulsing to trigger harmonics, phases and chorus-like acoustic phenomena that transform the work of a simple solo. drums to the sound illusion of a small orchestra.
Rhythmic minimalism, contemporary phrasing and energetic sustain lead Mueller’s improvisations into a space somewhere between modern electronic music and primitive drumming, inspiring the audience towards movement and contemplation.
A $15 donation is suggested admission.
Below is a Q&A with Mueller ahead of the event:
You describe your set for the Afterlife Cartoons tour as transforming it from a drum solo to the illusion of a small orchestra. I would like you to expand on this thought and how it all works – as well as what prompted you to make this transformation.
Well, it’s solo drumming, but the harmonics that build up in the room over time add sounds to the acoustic mix that go beyond the hits usually associated with drums. People mostly commented on hearing chants or voices, so maybe it’s more of a chorus effect than an overall effect.
From the very first time I played drums, I was struck by their sound, especially from a player’s perspective. It was inviting, instead of the instrument implying “you don’t know enough to play me”. Although I understand and have used the instrument for keeping time over the years, I know that it is not limited to this function. The tonal and textural quality of drums is a deep world to explore.
Let’s dwell on this description of you finding a space somewhere between modern electronic music and primal drumming, inspiring the audience towards movement and contemplation. I would like to know more about the electronic music and primal drums (and what about each) that inspired you to this space, as well as what led you to incite movement and contemplation.
Essentially, I beat on it in often very simple patterns. But where you hit the head and what tonal combination of toms you use can create interesting acoustic results, and that’s what I’m interested in – using energy and playing not to be visually or technically impressive, but to create something something to listen to that might have everyone in the room wondering what’s really going on. Space also informs a lot about that, and so on tour it’s always a mystery what’s going to happen and I’m doing my best to figure that out and find the results that I know are possible.
In terms of similarity to electronic music, if there are clear rhythmic elements in my playing, I refer less to techno and more to 20th century composers like Alvin Lucier or Roland Kayn who use acoustic phenomena and chance to reveal something beyond their Actions.
The set you describe aligns so well with Trillium’s mission to redefine the live music experience to invite connection. Wondering if you have any performance stories that really speak to those goals – where you really felt those moments happened?
The sense of wonder felt when people describe hearing chants or voices definitely inspires a conversation of connection. This is less of a compliment on performance than a review of what has been experienced, which to me is much less one-sided as I often have a similar experience to share. Together we can marvel at what just happened.
In some cases, I made people cry because of what they heard. In these cases, something deeply personal happens – the sound elicits something in them that they didn’t expect, and it reminds me of how powerful sound can be. These situations inspire me to continue working in this way because there is clearly something valuable on a human level.
Have you ever played in Northwest Arkansas before? What are you looking forward to?
I had one of the greatest performance experiences of my life at Backspace in Fayetteville a few years ago. I have family in the NW AR since the 80’s and have been there frequently. Yet, after so many years, I had never played there until this concert in Fayetteville. So it was really rewarding personally that way, but the audience was extremely attentive despite the fact that I had never played there and potentially had few references for my music. I told them how much the show meant to me afterwards as we all sat in complete silence and it really felt like the whole room was together. We really experienced something together. It’s hard to explain, because it sounds like another show when I say it, but it was really something and I’ll never forget it. I don’t expect this to happen again, but any chance I get to visit the area is important to me. I even took the next day to have more time to be there.
Let’s go back. I’d love to hear about your earliest musical memories – those times when you realized you wanted music to be part of your life?
Well, that’s a very long story. I became obsessed with music and records since I was maybe 3 or 4 years old based on my parents’ records and the radio stations they played. I think almost instantly, I imagined what it would be like to perform the songs I heard. So from an early age I thought I would be a guitarist. For years, that’s what I imagined doing with my life. But then, as I got older, I realized that I couldn’t really play the guitar well, and that realization was kind of devastating. As I mentioned earlier, when I was about 14 and first sat down in front of a drum set and played it, having no idea what I was doing, the sound was inviting and a whole new world that I hadn’t expected opened up to me. The drums showed me the way.
What music is in high rotation for you at the moment?
I have listened extensively to the ‘Spinnan’ CD by R. Keenan Lawler and John Krausbauer, ‘Rampokan’ by Raja Kirik, various records from the Folklore Tapes catalog, as well as a variety of records on the Ocora label, which are two of my favorites. favorite record labels. And, although it’s a 4-LP set, I’ve focused on particular sides of La Monte Young’s “Trio for Strings” box set, with cellist Charles Curtis, who was a big inspiration for me.