Stone’s throw

Experimental music enthusiasts gather for Make Music Festival.


A group of stone performance enthusiasts made their way down the shoreline of Lambert’s Cove Beach on Thursday evening to participate in the second annual “Stones/Water/Time/Breath” composition performance for the Make Music Festival, an international celebration of music started in France in 1982.

“Stones/Water/Time/Breath” is an “experimental music in which a participant or participants choose any body of water and perform a set of actions designed to create a musical performance,” according to the performance’s website.

Island musician and producer Andy Herr, who grew up fishing around Lambert’s Cove, led the group with a short speech about his experience with the performance last year.

“The sound of the stones hitting the water started to sound like music to me. It didn’t just sound like noise. Even though it seemed like chaos at first, there was a rhythm that started to develop, and tonal qualities that started to develop,” he said.

Each person in the group was equipped with the “Stones/Water/Time/Breath” score, which is a set of instructions on how to perform the composition written by Island composer Dean Rosenthal.

Six years ago, Rosenthal and his wife Karin found themselves at Turkeyland Cove in Edgartown. Rosenthal was skipping stones around when he began to hear different rhythms. “Being a composer I thought, Oh, I’m in the middle of some kind of piece, I need to finish this. This is a performance, how do I finish the performance?”

He kept playing, tossing the stones in the water, sometimes together, sometimes separately, until he felt the piece was done.

Feeling inspired, Rosenthal sat down and wrote out the instructions for the performance, which promote interpretation and improvisation. To carry out a performance one must be outside by any body of water, use as many stones as desired, and make percussive sounds by tossing or throwing the gathered stones into the water.

In 2016, a national organizer for the Make Music Festival reached out to Rosenthal after discovering his stone piece in his newsletter. He asked to make the performance an event each year for the festival.

The performance then spread, being performed and shared around the world, according to Rosenthal. The sheet of instructions was translated into French, Spanish, German, and Polish.

Last year, 12 cities participated in the stone performance, among them Chicago, Seattle, and New York.

“Really a remarkable experience as a composer to have that happen in one day,” Rosenthal said.

This year Columbia, S.C.; Boston, Mass.; Miami, Fla.; Los Angeles, Calif.; Victoria, B.C.; Highland, N.Y.; and Martha’s Vineyard all participated, performing their own variations of the stone performance.

The Martha’s Vineyard group walked along the shoreline of Lambert’s Cove Beach and picked up stones of various sizes and colors before beginning the performance.

“We’re basically playing the water with our stones,” Herr said.

For close to 10 minutes, the group used the stones on the water; some threw the stones high in the air, some threw low, others smashed their rocks into the water, while a few lightly tossed their stones in.

After the performance — which ends when the performer feels it has ended — the group settled down on towels, pulled out food, and began to talk about their experience.

Musician Keikilani Lindsey was accompanied by his two sons, Canela and Leo. The three of them performed with the stones together, creating a splash orchestra of rhythms. “I never thought to do that, but I’m definitely going to do that again,” Lindsey said.