Concert in Old Cabell Hall
As someone who has never really been to a concert, I didn’t have very high expectations upon entering Old Cabell Hall on Friday, September 18, 2009. Guaranteed, I know the difference between a full out concert in Madison Square Garden and an intimate concert like this one, it’s just that I didn’t really have any expectations for the performance other than to simply hear music. I will admit that I did expect to hear music from a band in the conventional way that is so dominant in society—a guitar, drums, bass, singer, keyboards, and maybe a few other instruments thrown in. The ensemble that performed, which included Wendy Hsu, was not at conventional in my mind and I was pleasantly surprised by their performance.
Upon entering the lobby of Old Cabell, I noticed that there were very few people there. I could see common instruments such as a guitar and a cello, but then I also noticed amps by a bicycle and plenty of laptops around with amps beside them as well. I was a little early so I waited outside until the start time. After I went back inside for the performance to begin, I was surprised by what I saw. Where five minutes ago, there had been no audience, a group of people had appeared. Where there had been no musicians, there now appeared several, and where there had been no music, there was an abundance of sound. The audience all appeared to be graduate level students who were there for a class or lecture of some type. The audience was predominantly Caucasian and the male to female ratio was pretty much balanced. Each individual was dressed professionally and majority wore name tags that stated they were students at other colleges and universities. Because the concert was held in the lobby of Old Cabell, there were no chairs or anything, so the audience either stood and walked around or sat on the floor. This further enhanced the intimate feeling of the concert and also allowed the audience to focus more on the music and the individual performances.
The concert was in some ways split up into different sections for each instrument. When I first walked back into the lobby, all of the artists were playing in one cohesive harmony. However, after a while, they broke down the main performance into mini performances. The first mini performance was of a guy using sounds on his laptop to create music. This was very interesting because he seemed to use snippets of sounds that were common and mixed them together with actual musical notes and this created a completely different and intriguing sound together. Even with this juxtaposition of common sounds with musical notes, the music flowed much like any other musical instrument. After his mini performance, another artist who played the guitar began to play. The thing I noticed the most about his guitar playing was that instead of using a pick, he used a spoon to strum the chords of the guitar. I thought this was very peculiar, but it definitely added to the eccentricity of the overall performance of the group. The sound he produced was a very soft, acoustic, calming sound that was nicely contrasted by the swelling and blunt sounds of the other instruments. One of the main instruments that produced this blunt sound was the cello, which the artist played standing up. The notes this artist produced were very strong and blunt, with quick and sharp movements across the chords. And to further add to the distinct sound this artist was making, he only added snippets of sounds while the other artists were playing which made these sounds stand out. One of the other stand-out artists of the group was Wendy. Her instrument was the bicycle and it was, in my opinion, the most interesting instrument. She used the bicycle wheels and pedals to create sort of everyday noises that were actually very rhythmic and created a very unique sound. Overall, the music produced by the group was sort of like a roller coaster in that the audience heard vastly different sounds and tones all in one performance.
After talking with Wendy about the performance, she informed me that the group had actually never practice together or performed this piece together before. I think that the fact that the performance was basically completely improvisational only adds to the intrigue of the performance. I was blown away by the ways that these artists were able to make music and the talent that it takes to recognize the music in these objects. I enjoyed the performance and am really glad that I experienced something this unconventional form of music.