Ochre Dust – Bekah Simms

Bekah Simms, a Canadian composer from Newfoundland, wrote this piece in 2014 for percussionist Evan Bowen. It uses a traditional Newfoundland instrument, the ‘ugly stick’, along with throat singing and added theatrics to conjure “the idea of individuals who look like us, but whose mysterious and ancient rituals are lost to time and understanding” (Bekah Simms in 2014 score preface).

I performed this piece a number of times in Salem, NY (US), Kitchener-Waterloo (CAN), Huddersfield (UK), and Darmstadt (DE). Ugly stick’s are typically home-made: beer bottle caps are nailed to a stick with a boot attached to the bottom. As this instrument doesn’t fit snugly into airplane’s overhead compartments I rebuilt my ugly stick three times with tree branches found in each location.

The recording was made in Zac Ward’s cavernous sheet-metal sculpture in the Cary Hill Sculpture Park at Salem Art Works in August 2017. Aaron Glasser filmed the performance.