Joseph Reyes / Sun Contributor

May 10, 2024

PROFILE | Twin Court

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A Twin Court rehearsal looks like a maze. Their Lincoln Hall practice room houses a delicately arranged set of Indonesian instruments which, according to Jack Neiberg ’24, were made for the 1964 New York World’s Fair and later loaned to Cornell by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The instruments lay in a perpendicular pattern, aligned according to their tuning, like a jungle gym through which the members of Twin Court traverse to experiment with new sounds. 

“We weren’t trying to make a band,” says Wyatt Westerkamp ’21. Mandy Gurung, a local community member of the group, believes that the distinct sound of Twin Court emerged from a natural integration of ideas and members over time, driven by a pure curiosity for the potential of the unique instruments at their disposal. It started from the collaborative partnership of Jack and Wyatt, who met through the Gamelan ensemble organized by Prof. Christopher J. Miller. Gamelan is a long-standing Indonesian musical tradition that challenges many Western presumptions about harmony and tempo. Even before Twin Court knew its own name, its members sought to reconcile those contradictions in a rock context. 

If you ask Twin Court about their sound, you will likely get a convoluted answer. There is no easy way to describe exactly what it is they’re trying to accomplish: “creating a river that flows and flows,” is one way they put it. Jack references Steve Reich, a pioneer of Western minimalist music. Reich and LCD Soundsystem offer answers to one of Twin Court’s most pressing musical investigations: How do you make something repetitive, but still interesting? 

“Instead of having really dramatic contrast between moments,” Jack says, “we make our music interesting by slowly evolving — changing tempo and intensity.” Here, they also cite post-punk movements like shoegaze. One goal, according to Wyatt, is to create worlds, “music that feels immersive and layered.” Twin Court takes inspiration from some theoretical traditions in Gamelan, making use of repetitious sections that hurry and plateau. Besides an electric guitar and bass, which the band thoughtfully integrates with the rest of the ensemble, the majority of Twin Court’s instruments are traditional to Indonesia. The Gamelan influence lends to a certain intimacy that the group relates to Yo La Tengo and Lambchop. This is no doubt engendered, in part, by the delicate vocals of Gracekelly Fulton ’25. But the important thing, Wyatt says, is that the band isn’t tied down to any one sound insofar as Twin Court is a synthesis of the many influences imparted by its various members. “No idea is disregarded,” says Caleb Levitt ’24.

When the band makes a mistake, there’s never hostility — only a musically instinctual trust that, with a culture of sincere flattery, creates an inclusive environment more conducive to their artistic aims than individual pride. When I first peek into one of their recent rehearsals, they give me a nod of recognition but can’t seem to break out of the hypnotic pull that keeps them at their instruments. Every time I anticipate the song to end, it doesn’t. Their music is deceptive, in that way. They exploit every lull for the utmost drama. It feels almost as if they’re gently pulling me into the sky, only to reveal at some spontaneous climax that only their gentle rhythm has kept me from rocketing to the ground. 

When the band introduces me to the gendèr, a sort of Gamelan metallophone, they explain that they play it with a mallet rather than a bow so that the delicate sound doesn’t get lost in the mix. But the bow creates a sustained atmospheric tone, like a synth pad, that’s too beautiful to neglect. Lily Dovciak ’27, who demonstrates an uncanny degree of comfort with the instrument, attempts without warning to incorporate a bow part into the intro of “womby” (“Broken Strands” used to be “math rocky,” to Wyatt’s dismay, and “Passing Rain” was “christmasy”). An intense silence washes over the room: “That’s awesome.” Wyatt suggests that they wait another section for the guitar to come in so that Lily’s gendèr can have its moment. A train of unkempt structural ideas follow, and the song graduates to an official title: “Timeless.”

“If you couldn’t tell, we’re a wildly inefficient band,” Wyatt tells me. Much of Twin Court’s rehearsal period is spent experimenting with ideas, whether in instrumentation, tempo, or arrangement, that often twist the direction of their practice agenda. Often, they’ll play very casually — all tinkering at their instruments as they joke around. I get the sense that their time spent together, bound by a shared curiosity for the Gamelan set lent by Prof. Miller, will have a lasting impact on their musical lives beyond the work produced under Twin Court. I’m left to wonder how this eccentric subculture of Lincoln Hall, a world of its own, will persevere in the music that members of the “unofficial Gamelan band of the New York Knicks” make next. 

You can see the final performance of Twin Court’s farewell tour in Lincoln Hall B20 at 8 p.m. tonight. Their yet untitled debut album will release this summer on all streaming services. 

Eric Han is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].