The Exploded Concert

Credit: Paola Mathus/ Credit: Paola Mathus/ Credit: Paola Mathus/ Credit: Paola Mathus/

Editor’s Note: The Tartan’s Visual Editor, Theodore Teichman, is a member of the Exploded Ensemble.

The last time I ventured into the Alumni Concert Hall was for a senior recital. The brightly lit room was regal with decorative pillars standing tall at the head of the room, and red panels lining the walls. This Wednesday night, the room was dark, with lights being focused ahead of where the chairs had been arranged for the audience to sit. The front rows were filled instantly, and before long people had to resort to skirting the edges of the seating area to catch a glimpse of what was to be a truly unique musical experience.

The Exploded Concert was performed by Carnegie Mellon’s Exploded Ensemble, with pieces put together by students. Each of the pieces took inspiration from selected source material, and as the co-director of the show, Lance LaDuke, put it, was designed to “blow it up, or explode it, if you will.” The results were thought-provoking and performed with a combination of electronic music and acoustic instrumentation.

The aim of assembling the ensemble was to give students in the school of music some experience with more contemporary forms of music composition and performance. “Today, music is moving at an entirely different pace,” LaDuke explained, which is why it benefits students to have exposure to as many genres as possible. This was the first performance by the ensemble in concert, but far from being their last. “We’ve been experimenting around campus quite a bit, and we’ll be performing later on in the year,” LaDuke promised.

Amongst the pieces was a video that had been conceptualized by the late Pauline Oliveros. Oliveros was an absolute staple in the early years of the constantly evolving field of electronic music, and was known for creating experimental musical environments, and liked to work with natural sounds. The video projected in three panes, separated by the pillars of the hall, and showed the members of the ensemble playing their instruments and marching around the periphery of a racquetball court. The camera continuously rotated, capturing all angles of the court, while a powerful microphone, seen as a gray fuzzy object facing one of the walls of the court, captured sound from 360º. The audio resembled that of an orchestra tuning their instruments, but with the echoes that resulted from the enclosed setting of the court, the sounds melted into what I can only describe as an interlaced cacophony, that simmered down to a hush by the end of the video.

The other performances of the night encompassed the spirit of marrying the electronic and the acoustic. Each piece was complemented with projections ranging from thick streaks of colors melting into one another to a stopwatch that counted to nothing fast, and then slower as the performance went on. Time Lapse, by Theodore Teichman, included a graphic music display overlaying a live video feed of Sophomore Steven MacDonald, walking around the College of Fine Arts building, while playing the bagpipes.

Senior Shoshana Klein also arranged an incredible rendition of Bjork’s Crystalline, entitled Crystallinesque, which incorporated the use of members of the ensemble using bottles and blocks as percussion instruments. The various materials of the percussion instruments creating a ringing atmosphere of tinks, clanks, and bangs that filled the entire hall, as members walked through the aisles and around the back of the hall.

The evening ended with a stunning tribute to David Bowie, arranged and conducted by fifth year senior Erik Fredriksen, titled Warszawa. The tribute included the entire ensemble including electronic, acoustic and vocal counterparts. The deep and raspy voices of Jake Chirulla and Tyler Harper brought vibrance to an eclectic and interpretive orchestra, finishing the event on a moving note.

Since the ensemble has vowed to take the stage again, I encourage all lovers of experimentation to keep an eye out for announcements, and, in the words of LaDuke “if you see us wandering around campus, join us.”

To see the event, and more from the school of Music, visit: https://www.youtube.com/user/CarnegieMellonMusic