Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Stepping Outside my Musical Box

In all of my twenty-two years I have never experienced a concert so puzzling. One that made me ponder. Even feel as though I had taken part in some eerie cult ritual. The atmosphere and audience were different. The musicians were in their own world producing interesting sounds. The choice of instruments and how they were played was even different. This was the case when I attended the concert Wendy invited the class to in Old Cabell Hall on Friday, September 18. Since I was going to the concert for a class assignment I had pen and pad ready. When I walked in I realized notes were not necessary. The concert would be something I would never forget.
The audience was not arranged in a traditional concert going style. The viewers of the concert had the ability to walk around. In a traditional concert setting the audience is stationary as the musicians perform in front of them. At this particular concert the audience was able to choose which feature of the show they wanted to enjoy. The majority of the audience was graduate students according to Wendy Hsu. They were all dressed nicely and seemed inquisitive about the music style that was being rendered. Some concert goers even sat down in the aisle and on the stairs as they soaked in the musical offering. I continued to walk around and explore each station while still being completely freaked out and confused.
The most interesting dynamic of the concert was the musicians and how they were producing sound. There was one station where our teacher Wendy Hsu produced music on a bicycle. I must say that was a first for me. She used some sort of wooden stick and made music on the bike’s spokes. She also made music using the peddles of the bike. The sounds were amplified by a tiny amp placed by her side. Interestingly, Wendy’s back was to the audience as she played her bicycle. I was blown away with the unique use of a bicycle to produce music. Another musician was strumming his acoustic guitar with a silver spoon. At first I thought he was using a very shiny, large guitar pick. I later interviewed Wendy and she informed me it was indeed a spoon he was playing with. There was also a guy who was playing the bass. Not much was strange about the way in which the bass was played. It did seem a little untraditional when the bass player picked the large instrument up and carried it across the room. I had never seen that done before. The bass is usually stationary. The bass player had a solo which was interesting. There was another guy sitting on the floor with an overhead projector, digital projector, a laptop and several different colors of paints. I could not understand the purpose until my interview with Wendy. There was another female sitting at a desk with a laptop and several household items. These items consisted of duct tape, wine glasses, coins, spoons, and bottles. She used these items to produce sounds on her computer. She frequently blew into the microphone of her computer, changing the setting on the program.
The actual sound of the music being produced was very deep. The notes were sharp and edgy. The music sounded like something from a horror movie or possibly a bad dream. None of the music was repeated the entire time. Before interviewing Wendy I wondered if the music was random and unrehearsed because it came across as such. Everything was original and completely impromptu according to Wendy. The sounds were often altered digitally with laptops at each station. There was also a guy who controlled a sound board on his computer that produced recorded sounds. Some sounds were that of nature and I even heard a car horn at one point.
After interviewing Wendy I felt a little more at ease. I was informed that I had not taken part in a cult ritual but had experienced a new wave of digital music production. These graduate students were breaking ground in the music world. The guy on the floor was not finger painting, but producing and projecting digital art. Since the performance was completely a cappella I personally could not derive a meaning from the music. The gender ratio was 3 females to 4 males which seemed normal. It was interesting to see how the males played traditional instruments (bass and guitar) whereas the females were a little more abstract in their choice of instruments (bike, coins, wine glass). All in all I am thankful I was forced outside of my musical box and experienced such an innovative form of music.

-Danielle Johnson

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