Tigger Benford is a percussionist and composer, specializing in hand drumming, improvisation and music for dance. In recent years he has been blessed with the opportunity to compose scores for the established and renowned choreographers, Sean Curran and Jane Comfort, and for his colleagues at Rutgers, Randy James, John Evans, Paulette Sears and Julia Ritter.

Benford has composed three scores for Curran, which are performed together as a half evening length suite known as “The Percussion Dances”. “Abstract Concrete”, for 3 percussionists and 10 dancers, was the first to be completed, premiering at Central Park Summer Stage in July 2000. This was followed by “Metal Garden”, premiering at the Joyce Theatre in June 2001. “Metal Garden” is for 9 dancers and two musicians, playing prepared piano and a percussion set up of various drums, bells, gongs and other metal and wooden instruments. “Metal Garden” was also the name of a CD produced and played by Benford and pianist Peter Jones, released in 2000 and consisting of 20 duets for prepared piano and percussion. Curran was so taken by the CD that he asked permission to use the same title, and made dances to five of the twenty pieces on the CD. The third dance is “Amadinda Dances”, named after the Ugandan pentatonic log xylophone played by three musicians on stage. This dance premiered at New Victory Theatre in 2003.

In addition to the above three pieces, when we musicians were able to appear live with the company, a body percussion quartet known as “Quadrabox Redux” was added to the program. “Quadrabox”, in its original form was created by Benford and choreographer/musician Martha Partridge in 1989. The newer version presented by the Curran Company at the Joyce Theatre in 2001 and the New Victory Theatre in 2003 was a second version of this 1989 work. Anna Kiselgoff , reviewing Curran’s New Victory season in the New York Times, had this to say about “Quadrabox Redux”: “Mr. Curran joined these musicians ....in a breath taking tour de force, “Quadrabox Redux”. The visual and the aural converged as the performers played an extravagant form of patty-cake as they accelerated their rhythmic changes. The execution was astonishing, and the memory required was even more so.”

In the past two years, Benford worked with choreographer Jane Comfort to develop the instrumental and vocal score for her dramatic multi media dance, “Persephone”. This three part, half evening length work was premiered in parts and as a work in progress, finally being presented in New York at the Joyce Theatre in October 2004. The most recent performance was at Memorial Hall at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, in November of this 2005.

One of Persephone’s most unique aspects is the extensive vocalization by the dancers. Benford wrote much of the vocal material sung by a chorus of dancers, as well as the more dramatic material sung by Aleta Hayes, playing the role of Demeter, Persephone’s bereaved mother. The instrumentation was for four players, and included marimba, amadinda, synthesizer, piano, shakhuhatchi flute, alto flute, Kabuki flute, accordion and two multi percussion racks.

The Curran and Comfort companies tour all of these works extensively in the United States and abroad, using recorded versions of the instrumental scores.

Benford has also actively produced music for his colleagues at Rutgers and their professional companies.

Among these works are three commissions by Randy James: “View From the Hudson”, a half evening length work for five musicians and eight dancers, inspired by the events of 9/11/01, “Unknown Horizon”, a raggae-ish quartet, and “Heaven’s Dust”, in collaboration with pianist Michael Wall. Last year Benford created music for John Evans for two percussionists on stage performing with two dancers in a piece called “Quench”, in which four extensive and beautiful percussion set ups framed the stage action of the two dancers. An ambient but expressive recorded track also played a role in this three part quartet.

Benford has released three full length CDs and a 30 minute CD of the ballet score, “Fluctuating Hemlines”(Septime Webre/1996). “Noise of Choice” (1997) is 10 pieces for marimba and hand drums. “Metal Garden” (2000) is described above. “Talamalika” (2004) is a five part suite of rhythmically related pieces for four hand drummers and four singers. “Fluctuating Hemlines” (1996/2001) is a live performance for five percussionists.

 
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PERSONAL STATEMENT OF THE ARTIST

Playing for dance is important to me. What I value about it most is that seeing movement helps me create music, and it is necessary for me to create music to live life with a sense of satisfaction and meaning. In turn, the music I play seems to be inspiring for those who use it for movement, and this is gratifying as well, to know that my music has found a useful place in the world.

the multi-rack

Playing for technique class provides the musician with a unique opportunity to play for people who are neither sitting passively in (one hopes) rapt concentration, as in the concert hall, nor are they chatting and eating as they are in clubs. They are instead engrossed in an organized and highly demanding activity that has great meaning to them. To be able to help in such an enterprise is something to be valued.

Western 20th and 21st Century art holds self expression to be a given in the act of creation. I personally feel it is somewhat over rated. Plenty of fabulous art has been created throughout history and around the world by people who have no inkling of “self expression”. I prefer instead to think of the creative process as an exploration into “what is needed here?” This means that I tend to alter works that I may have performed previously to fit what seem to be the needs of that particular space at that particular time.

tabla

My interest is in generating certain responses in listeners. If I got the wrong response it’s the wrong piece. The meaning and nature of the piece exist in the world as a set of responses, not as some absolute artistic entity in my own mind.

marimba

I believe that art and artists exist to fulfill an evolutionary design. Their consistent presence throughout history in culture after culture cannot be explained by politics or by economics. People need a special place and time to escape temporarily from the circle of their own lives, which are often filled with pain and drudgery. Art and entertainment which do not have the power to transport the audience have no business being on the stage.

Bodhran

As a consumer I value both art and entertainment. For me what distinguishes the one from the other is that art gives me insights to bring back into my life. As a creative and performing artist, my goal is to provide this spark for the listener, so that they are fully engaged by the music as it happens, and come away from it with that little something that will enhance their lives in some small, mysterious way.

Amadinda

 

 

Benford’s formal training was at University of Illinois, where he recieved his Bacheler’s and Master’s Degrees in Percussion Performance. At Illinois he began his work with dance and received extensive financial support from the dance department in exchange for accompaniment and composition. Currently he is studying tabla, the classical hand drums of North India with Pandit Samir Chatterjee.

After graduation, Benford toured for three years with saxophonist Paul Winter’s group, the Paul Winter Consort, doing 200 concerts during that time. He then co-founded and performed with Rhythmic Union, a jazz-fusion quintet that toured extensively in the mid west. Rhythmic Union released two LPs with Inner City Records.

Upon moving to New York City in 1984, Benford co-founded “Partridge/Benford Dance-Music”, in collaboration with choreographer Martha Partridge. Each piece was conceived from the outset as a hybrid of sound and movement. The group did many residencies and workshops at U.S colleges and in the United Kingdom.

Benford’s works have been funded by the Mary Flagler Charitable Trust, Pennsylvania Council of the Arts, Meet the Composer and the Dodge Foundation. His works for dance have been presented at the Joyce Theatre, Kaye Playhouse, the Duke on 42nd Street, John Jay Theatre and Central Park Summerstage, American Dance Festival and Bates Dance Festival, as well as at numerous universities in the United States.

He has proudly worked and taught nine summers at Bates Dance Festival, which is the summer home of many of the most accomplished musicians for modern dance in the world. He is a founding member of the International Guild of Musicians in Dance, and is an Associate Professor in the Dance Department at Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University.