Amidst the Richardsonian Romanesque pillars of the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul, a cohort of dancers, musicians and a poet came together for a collaboration that asked, “What is an instrument?” It was the first presentation of the Schubert Club Mix season, a series put together by the Schubert Club that pushes classical music outside of traditional genres and settings.
The performance centered around a curious sound sculpture designed by Masary Studios, an artist collective based in Boston. Masary Studios’ co-founder and principal Ryan Edwards was joined by cellist Michelle Kinney, the STRONGmovement Dance Company, and spoken word artist Alexei Casselle, otherwise known as Crescent Moon, for the event.
As the 24 white cubes were moved around the performance area by the performers, the objects triggered a Musical Instrument Digital Interface, lighting up, changing colors and making music. Layered with avant-garde classical music by Kinney, Casselle’s wordsmithing and Edwards’ own percussion and sound mixing, the multidimensional installation was dynamic and surprising in its blend of technology and interdisciplinary conversation.
Before the sculpture was activated, Kinney performed an introductory solo on her cello, exploring the sounds of her instrument with an unconventional style. At times she’d slide her fingers up multiple strings, playing the yawning notes all at once. At other moments, she played with harmonic sounds, pizzicato, all the while looping the sounds with a pedal.
In “Fugue,” choreographer/dancer Darrius Strong and dancers Gabby Abram and Kelsey Charlotte moved the boxes around the space, piling the cubes up into a pyramid-type structure as they danced. They handled the sculpture with reverence, transmitting their energy into the light, and also finding moments of rest within it. Strong’s choreography juxtaposed sweeping, elegant lyricism with idiosyncratic diversions of shape and rhythm.
In “Laughing Heart,” a more percussive work musically, the dancers squatted down, holding their arms at a bent angle in front of them as they stepped quickly from side to side. That movement was accompanied by Edwards’ heartbeat rhythms and Kinney’s airy bowing.
Alexei Casselle’s spoken word performance was added to the collaboration later on in the performance. Casselle’s emotionally charged words were abstracted as his voice became notes resonated by the boxes.
In “Marcel,” Edwards stepped away from his computer to play a hand drum in a duet with Kinney. The song had the sound of a lullaby, with Kinney’s lilting cello. The work was the most cheerful of the works presented.
All six of the performers joined together for the last piece, “White Noise,” an experimentation in sound wave frequencies, space and movement. The ghostly piece was structured with the Hertz of each of the box’s notes being dictated by their position. In the work, Casselle’s vocals became abstracted sounds, while the dancers moved from pose to pose as a storm of sound swirled around them.
As a whole, the evening offered interesting experiments in layered sound, and offered a thought-provoking exercise about how we create music, and how music moves us.
- What: The next Schubert Club mix will be Spektral Quartet: “Enigma: A 360° Video Experience”
- When: 7 & 9 p.m. Fri. Nov. 4, and Sat., Nov. 5
- Where: The Bell Museum, 2088 Larpenteur Ave W, St Paul
- Tickets: $33.50
- Capsule: The Schubert Club Mix series continues in November when they present an interactive, interdisciplinary performance by Spektral Quartet.