Red fish blue fish is a group on a serious mission: to present and promote the richness of contemporary percussion music. It did that handily Tuesday at the Japan America Theater, where the UC San Diego-based ensemble put in another appearance in the Philharmonic's Green Umbrella new music series.
Led by the dynamic Steven Schick, red fish blue fish emphasized sprawling sonic diversity. The concert was framed by the work of icons in 20th century experimentation. Iannis Xenakis' 1984 "Okho" is for three performers on the African djembe, who dole out pulse-driven rhythms and mine the instrument's timbral range.
The concert's closer and centerpiece, Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Mikrophonie 1," from 1964, is much more abstract and conceptual, untied to a rhythmic mandate. Center stage is the gargantuan gong called the tam-tam, but the scheme is for four percussionists, armed with a battery of everyday implements and microphones. They manipulate the instruments in coloristic, and sometimes bombastic ways, while two performers in the orchestra pit filter and mix the sound as it passes through four sets of speakers.
It's a bracing and dramatic piece, played with fervor here, in which the very physical sound source and its technological treatment embrace in an engaging symbiosis.