Few drummers (percussionists??) can move me the way Zelienople’s Mike Weis can. For close to two decades, his considered style and approach have evolved with curiosity and vulnerability (full disclosure, he played on my album, Bloodlines, and is the main reason that album is as good as it is). Ring the Bell for the 10,000 Forgotten Things is the culmination of his participation in the Calumet Artist Residency program at Miller Woods in 2019.
There’s so much to this project that makes it special, but I keep finding myself drawn back to the photo book and the concept behind Weis’s images. During his residency, he took hundreds of photos of Little Bluestem, a type of native grass. From there, he “superimposed the shapes of maps of protected nature preserves in the Calumet Region on the Little Bluestem images and then cut and copied these shapes onto a diptych panel to emphasize the cut up and fragmented practice of land use in the Calumet Region and how little of land portion is preserved in its natural state.” The images are striking.
Ring the Bell for the 10,000 Forgotten Things takes the project further, connecting the ways this land has been overtaken by people and development through a series of field recordings Weis made during the residency. Natural sounds and manmade sounds intermingle, sometimes indistinguishable from each other, broadening the sonic palette into new places. Crickets chirp and airplanes fly overhead, both things most of us are so familiar with we take for granted, but in this project the effects become heightened.
Weis ties everything together with his inventive, emotive playing. Percussive sounds melt into the landscapes, spurring movements in the shadows. Rhythms become cloaked in a shroud of insect song and metallic resonance. A humid eerieness folds into surprise grooves buoyed by hollow tones and sonorous chimes. Weis’s arsenal is expansive like a massive network of interconnected mycelium. Through sound, photographs, and imagery, Ring the Bell for the 10,000 Forgotten Things is a treatise on worlds that are slipping away.
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