The University City Loop, where the RFT offices are nestled, is thick with street musicians. So thick that it's easy to ignore almost all of them. The saxophonists, the drummers, the busking guitarists — these instruments are background noise, along with the car alarms and the frequently squealing brakes. But you'd really have to make an effort to ignore Bryson Gerard. When a guy lugs a wooden crate the size of a coffee table to the corner, pops it open and coaxes ethereal and ancient rhythms from said coffee table, you take notice. Gerard is a self-taught player of the hammered dulcimer, a folk instrument known the world over by dozens of names (cimbalom, hackbrett, salterio, santur), and yet rarely seen in modern life. It's a stringed instrument similar to a large zither or a small pianoforte; the player strikes the strings with small wooden mallets, and out comes this sound. It can be haunting, or jaunty, or lilting, or menacing, depending on the rhythm. Strange beast, the hammered dulcimer. If you'd like to be guaranteed a chance to hear it, Gerard discusses the instrument in a free lecture entitled "The Hammered Dulcimer Revealed" today at 12:15 p.m. at the J.C.Penney Conference Center on the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus (1 University Boulevard at Natural Bridge Road; 314-516-5699). He'll demonstrate some songs and techniques, and play a few songs as well.
Mon., Sept. 28, 2009