Shortly before he died, Queen’s frontman, Freddie Mercury, famously remarked, “Do whatever you want with my life and my music, just don’t make it boring.”
The ensemble, which rehearses weekly, is willing to consider anything with percussive potential—plastic cups, chalkboards, buckets—as an instrument, but is best known for its virtuoso boomwhacker performances.
A boomwhacker, for the uninitiated, is a lightweight, hollow plastic tube, whose length determines its musical pitch. When smacked against hand or thigh, it produces a pleasingly resonant sound. Color-coding helps players keep track of which boomwhacker to reach for during a fast-paced, precisely orchestrated number.
In theory, boomwhackers are simple enough for a child to master, but THUD takes things to a loftier plateau with custom crafted sheet music systemized so that no one player gets stuck with an impossibly complex task.
“A lot of it really comes down to feel and muscle memory,” THUD’s assistant director Ben Palmer told The Irish Examiner. “After playing the song enough and internalising it, we have a sense of where our notes come in. Also, many times our parts will play off each other, so we give each other cues by looking at each other just before we play.”
(That Kermit the Frog-like voice chiming in on THUD’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” cover, which many viewers have mistaken for an obnoxious audience member getting a little too into the proceedings, is actually an ensemble member helping the others stay the course.
As serious as the group is about rehearsal and providing local school kids with free interactive music lessons, their live shows lean in to the silliness inherent in their chosen instrument.
This good humored self-awareness defuses the snarkier comments on their YouTube channel (“So this is why Harvard’s tuition is so expensive…”)
Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inkyzine. Join her in NYC on Monday, September 9 for another season of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.