“In a breathtakingly stunning effort, the Projeto Arcomusical ensemble has crafted a work of such unique beauty, I find it difficult to focus my thoughts amidst a flood of adjectives that spring to mind in response to the auditory joyful discovery this CD provides.”
– N. Scott Robinson, Percussive Notes, May 2017
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Great performances, big awards to Valerie Simpson and Melinda Wagner mark ASCAP Foundation Awards [Alexis Lamb Performs at the 23rd Annual ASCAP Foundation Awards Presentation], CENTERLINE blog by Jim Bessman, December 13, 2018
On a first listen, “Spinning in the Wheel” feels like a jam session with a plan: friendly, welcoming, and not at all micro-managed. Projeto Arcomusical’s unique sound, easy groove, and danceable writing almost makes one forget the hours of work that the members of the ensemble have put into making it sound “easy.” The most wonderful thing about Spinning in the Wheel is the fun that Projeto Arcomusical clearly had while making the album, and any listener can hear it immediately. As a group, they achieve simplicity without austerity and complexity without sacrificing clarity.
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Each aspect of the berimbau is used to full effect on “Spinning in the Wheel” to create a surprisingly diverse and colorful musical language. Throughout the album, the sextet imparts a sense of joy in communal music-making, which is reinforced by the group’s impeccably tight performances. With elements of minimalism, traditional capoeira songs, and folk music from around the world, “Spinning in the Wheel” presents a blend of influences and styles which come together to form a truly unique sound.
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The music for multiple players is most fascinating of all because it makes both the Berimbau and this music “larger” than ever, as it is makes for – for want of a more descriptive term – an almost choral-chamber music. Thus in the larger ensemble music – quartet, quintet and sextet performances – the soundworld is so wonderfully big that it embraces the virtually limitless richness of the instrument. Now this is something Naná Vasconcelos achieved on his own, but no one else has approached the instrument with a view of enlarging this soundscape, and thus literature in praise of it but Projeto Arcomusical. And that is the existential value of this repertoire and its capture on record.
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Projeto Arcomusical takes the berimbau way beyond Brazil in its path toward new musical expression while assuring the musical bow’s zenithal connectivity to its roots in both Brazil and Sub-Saharan Africa. I found myself without hesitation in offering Projeto Arcomusical the highest recommendation I could humbly fathom.
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“Projeto Arcomusical doesn’t miss a beat. The sextet is so tuned in to one another that at times it becomes difficult (if not impossible) to tell where one instrument ends and another begins. The players are so precise, so blissfully engaged with their instruments and one another that the individual pieces and the individual players melt away, and you begin to discover the uniquely captivating character of the instrument itself.”
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“Arcomusical’s music making is elegant, colorful, bold, vibrant, inspiring, and centered. The individual and collective world-class expertise of Arcomusical’s musicians make their performances sparkle!”
– Augusta Read Thomas, University Professor of Composition in the Department of Music and the College, The University of Chicago
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“Arcomusical’s dedicated, enthusiastic music making was a delight to watch. Standing in a semicircle and performing without music, the ensemble demonstrated the kind of communication one might expect from a seasoned string quartet, as buoyant, effervescent Afro-Brazilian textures leapt forth from their instruments.”
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“Arcomusical, an instrumental sextet based at Northern Illinois University, introduced listeners to new music for the berimbau, a Brazilian musical bow of ancient African origin, on which were produced haunting, repetitive sequences of plucked resonances.”
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“Projeto Arcomusical is one of the most exciting new music ensembles on the scene today. What is most unusual is that they are creating groundbreaking and innovative music with one of mankind’s most ancient and primal instruments, the musical bow. Despite the instrument’s simplicity, the group utilizes their considerable musical skills to achieve a sense of elegance that compares with a polished string quartet. Arcomusical reminds us that there is still unlimited potential and undiscovered beauty in acoustic music, especially when it is played with such heartfelt emotion and artistic integrity.”
– Richard Graham, ethnomusicologist, author, historian
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“Arcomusical. Such a beautiful word, signifying such a beautiful sound, entity, creation. I’ve had the pleasure of watching and listening to Projeto Arcomusical grow and develop over the past several years, and what remains with me most is joy – the performers’ joy, the joyous compositions, the joy of honoring tradition while forging new trails, the joyful collaborations with composers and capoeiristas, and the joyful sounds delivered to the audiences. Experiencing Projeto Arcomusical is an opportunity I know you will want to take advantage of time and time again. Experience joy – experience Arcomusical.”
– Rich Holly, Executive Director, Arts NC State
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“Co-composers and performers Gregory Beyer and Alexis Lamb have successfully and significantly extended the art of the musical bow in MeiaMeia, a dazzling suite of chamber works for berimbau. The musical inspiration for this project is directly linked to Naná Vasconcelos (1944 – 2016), the extraordinary Brazilian percussionist who revolutionized the berimbau by advancing its playing techniques and broadening its exposure through his work as a pioneering cross-cultural artist. Vasconcelos’s approach is re-contextualized in MeiaMeia’s original compositions, works that embrace minimalist music aesthetics alongside subtle abstractions of the music of capoeira. Combining these influences and more, MeiaMeia offers listeners a unique experience in melodic bow music performance. Those familiar with berimbau music in and outside the tradition will surely agree that MeiaMeia is a groundbreaking work.”
– Jason Finkelman, Director, Global Arts Performance Initiatives, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign