Not often do we get to come upon the EARS concert with a full moon to
add an aura of wonder to the festivities. I always attend as one going
to a festival. Student energy is always present. Sometimes its evident
in the obvious rough edges, incomplete nature, or immaturity. With so
many individuals involved their are always something that really shines,
just like the moon tonight. I was not disappointed!
Electro-Acoustic Recital Series
May 8, 2009, UT@Austin Campus
Carol and I attended
2007 and again in 2008, but, this year, only me.
I had my camera, but was admonished not to use the flash. I
agreed, hence the darkness that surrounds all that I have to show.
My program had a green star stuck to the front. Though it was
plastered on the ear lobe, not at all an unheard place for decoration it
still was out of place given the rest of the plain production of a program.
- Introduction by Russell Pinkston and Andee Scott - Students
definitely need reminding to silence their cell phones. I still saw
such devices light up between every work while they... I dunno? do
whatever they do: text to and receive from friends, see pictures,
check whatever. Last fall I was in the back seat of a car full of
family members, headed to the beach, some 10 minutes away. We are all
talking including the 19 year old home from college for a week. While
talking with feigned attention we pried out of him that he was busy
texting friends this whole time. It was hard not to feel slighted.
Dr. Pinkston congratulated we in the audience in posession of a program
with a star. We were permitted backstage during intermission to
participate in one-on-one basketball with a twist. (See below.) He
invited everyone at intermission and after the show into the foyer out
front for another interactive "installation" promising music and
motion. On with the show.
- Mascarita (scene from NightLife) - Composer Jack Stamps. Jack
is one of my favorite electronic oriented composers for his intelligent
use of unusual techniques and it musicality. I haven't heard from him
about his sense of this rendition, but I wasn't over awed. I will make
and effort to see the whole work. Being first on the program can be
tough, I guess.
- Fathoms - no comment.
- Duet - this finally set the tone of the evening. Julie
Nathanielsz must have had some karate exposure. Here was a video devoid
of "music", but full of Julie in a black leotard abusing a one foot
diameter foam tube about 4 feet high. She and the tube spent quite a
bit of time against a way, floor, corner... Long periods of time when
she sat and comptemplated that tube. The slapping of the tube against
the wall (and floor.. and body) was recorded with only a few foot
stamping sounds otherwise heard.
It was not until the closing credits flashed (exploded?) the
DUET up on the screen that I reexamined what I
had just seen as a duet between Julie and the tube. The tube was a
particpant in its own right. The fierce part of the piece was that
not once during it did I feel like she was controlling, or using, the
tube; that inspite of the necessity of her laying hands on it rather
continuously. I should devote more time to getting across that feeling
but, I'm an engineer, not a sensitive writer.
- Shattered - Composer Diana Mino. This was the sacrificial
peice for this program. I choose one each time where I close my eyes
during its entirety to stop the flood of the visual aspect from
completely swamping the sound. I cannot comment on the dancing at all.
The music was nothing really out of the ordinary; started loud, had
quiet moments, became loud and frenetic. I wasn't unpleasant either.
I've already forgotten the feel of it.
- The Blue Jar - Composer Michelle Stuckey, but the stars were
the highly accomplished dancers: Ms. Marshall and Mr. Neely. This work
tells a complete short story was relayed by the printed program. Read
the short paragraph above. As usual with something highly programmatic
I make an effort to suspend disbelief. Still a corner of my mind notes
the strictures that pigeon hole various aspects of such. Once I
acknowlege its presence I can ignore it like specific noisy people at
The back drop was all of a blue to suggest the color of water around
small pacific islands. The dancers' precision was so crisp and
effortless, you just knew this was the result of many hours of
practice. How can you dance it again and again and still make it seem
the touches and connections are perforce of circumstances instead of
memorized and contrived? Not a demonstration? That couple was a delight
The work is divided into the 2 distinct parts. 1) all events
at the island of their meeting; and 2) all that comes after. The
separation is dramatic. A bright, glaring white light from highish
off stage left throws them in stark relief. The dancers are separate
just at that time. The light pins them like moths to a display board.
Immediately thereafter the whole backdrop falls to the floor. The
music makes a quiet transition after the dramatic blaring of the
In the 2nd half the dancers move the fallen blue backdrop with their
feet keeping it as a divider between the two, moving it all over
the stage. I have to believe that dust which would drift up off of
it when punched or beat as they moved it was intentional; kind of like
a peculiar fog generator. This was part of their careful spreading
of it across the floor to simulate the "oceans apart" that they were.
- Intermission Basketball time - Dr. Pinkston led the ones of us
with stars to the back stage and promised a 20 minute intermission so
everyone could give this a try.
No more than about 20 people could crowd back there at once and
one-on-one means 2 people + the master of ceremonies (more like a
carnival barker if you ask me) could be "on-stage" at a time. Only
about 4 different "teams" ended up out there. That was OK. We got
the idea. The "composer and the electrical engineer" hunched over
the laptop like it was a soundboard, adjusting the sliders in
conjunction with the actions of the contestants. There was a sensor
inside the basketball that made notes every time the ball hit the
ground (well, when it hit anything). Just as entertaining was the
inept ball-handling by those brave enough to show the world just
that. I expect if this thing is done again, the music will be less
boink - boink. Still, you gotta acknowledge: sure is different for
and EARS concert.
- Repurpose, Retool Choreographer Lisa Kobdish - This work
was a lot of fun. The recycling angle was aimed singly at paper.
Hard to hurt anybody with that stuff. Two cute vignettes were the
stretching of a 3 foot wide roll of paper the full width of the
stage and its eventual fall to the floor like a long side walk.
That was followed by "sea creatures" who swam underneath the
paper. Then one of the dancers twirled themselves along the once
again vertical roll, getting completely mumified. There was much
rolling around on stage, strategically avoiding a magic curtain
dividing the stage. The choreographers choice of motion was
careful enough that we never felt like, "Oh that was so they wouldn't
run into the net".
The sheer net curtain all across the front
of the stage was barely detectable. It was used as a screen for
projection from the control pod that worked all the stage production
near the center of the audience. Totally absent, wonderfully absent,
was any evidence of black at the edge of the objects of interest
that you expect to see on a movie theater screen. There you don't
see the absense of all light, but do see "black" light projected
onto the screen. In the performance tonight the black WAS absence
of light. I can only imagine that masks were used in front of the
projection light source. The technique was not used as a bludgeon;
something you would expect from a student production.
After a funny scene where the mummified dancer tears herself from
the crysalis, exits stage right, she return to tramp
around, indignantly picking up the detritus caused by the emergence.
Music was synchronized to mozaic appearances on the sheer net and
dancers' "interaction" with those ephermeral elements literally in
Lots of fun.
- Dependency Composer Justin Sharp - This was a bit comedic,
too, as often the relationships which were the target of this piece
often are. The one that sticks the most in my mind is two dancers
attempting to manipulate a crumpled insect whose limbs would not
- Get Rich Quick Composer Ian Dicke - This was by far the most
popular work of the evening. It bordered on being a
Broadway Musical. Electronic music was only half of a duet; the
other being the emphatic piano player, Luke Gullickson. Choreographer
Sarah Goocher has a future in the field. It was beautifully integrated
with the tunes, bordering on "over the top". The audience (and I) loved
it. The subject was a perfect vehicle in 2009 - the stock market
speculators, credit card banks, and hucksters from time immemorial!
I want a recording!
- Sketches Composer Bruce Pennycook - Also a favorite electronic
music composer of mind for adhering to the spirit possible with this
medium to convey through it without being trapped by gimmickery. Dr.
Pennycook is accomplished. This particular work came after easily the
most adrenalin generating, exuberant work of the evening and sketches
just couldn't command its own space of time. It was a let down.
Sketches is just what it was, noisy pencil against paper and lots of
paper crumpling giving a double meaning to the title. It seems just only
a bit more than an exercise in variations on a theme. Still, I
appreciated the avoidance of "quiet"/"loud"/"fast" sequences that get
in to most music pieces.
Lots of people in the foyer used the several Wii controllers to spew
symbols across a suspended screen and short predetermined musical
motifs. I never could get a connection between arm swings and what
could be accomplished, so I shrugged and headed off into the night
on my recumbent.
It was a late ending concert as EARS go, but the, by contrast, silent
ride home by bike allowed me to reflect on the concert, and pronounce
Last modified: 2010-05-16