Sound ExChange delivers powerful, arresting performance

Nadine Sherman, Contributing Photographer

The student-led Sound ExChange Orchestra joined with senior percussionist Peter Ferry to present an interactive music-and-multimedia fusion concert on Saturday, Feb. 23.

The event, which took place in the May Room, featured multimedia creations designed by Rochester Institute of Technology professors Maria Schweppe, Michelle Harris, Joe Geigel, and Susan Lakin. Each piece on the program was accompanied by photos of the artists’ works, which were projected onto a screen above the orchestra.

Soloist Ferry and senior cellist Audrey Snyder opened the concert with a lively movement from Didkovsky’s  “Caught by the Sky with Wire.” Following this high-energy duet, the orchestra displayed its full harmonic richness in a movement from Bruckner’s “Symphony No. 7.” As the orchestra played, colorful dots, squiggles, and zigzags designed by professor Schweppe appeared on the projector screen, rotating and flashing in sync with the music. Conductor Danko Drusko handled the tender middle section of the piece with a particularly graceful, light touch.

After the Bruckner, Ferry returned onstage to announce an upcoming item on the program called “The Nostalgia Project.” He invited audience members to send in photos from their smartphones to the project’s online mailing address, hinting that these photos might appear on screen later in the concert or in future performances.

The next piece, “Staying the Course,” featured Ferry on a variety of percussion instruments and objects, including bongos, a doumbek, a metal box, and a spent artillery shell. Ferry explained that each note in the piece represented one American life lost in the Iraq War. At the time of its composition in 2007, the piece contained 3,312 notes, but composer David MacBride instructed future performers to write in additional notes to represent the number of casualties. The audience experienced these grave numbers at the level of metrical form, as Ferry drilled out 4,459 notes in rapid melodic and rhythmic patterns.

As Ferry played, text emerged on-screen detailing the life of one Rochester soldier lost in the war. Each note and pattern took on new meaning as an extension of grief, making the often-distant reality of overseas losses raw and immediate.

The piece segued directly into Barber’s famous “Adagio for Strings,” performed passionately by the orchestra’s string section. Shrouded images of the Twin Towers and the New York skyline materialized, illuminated by searchlight-esque apparitions of candle flames. Designed by Harris, this suggestive and haunting creation fit seamlessly with the “Adagio.” The skyline design gradually melted into images of plants, water, and human hands, suggesting a theme of regrowth and rebirth. The music intensified into a rich harmonic climax; simultaneously, the on-screen images brightened, amplified, and shifted, transforming into a vibrant,  white light.

Following the “Adagio,” Ferry commenced the “Nostalgia Project” by inviting audience members to jingle their keys as he rustled a small set of bells. According to its website, “The Nostalgia Project is a collaborative work between musicians, artists, computer scientists, and the general public. It draws upon web-based photo sharing, text messaging, and musical performance to explore the notion of nostalgia.” Based on a piece by composer and percussionist Matt Evans, the “Nostalgia Project” combined home video segments of tadpoles, migratory birds, and ice-sheeted streams with Ferry’s performance on vibraphone and bells. Photos and text from audience and orchestra members alternated with these video segments as Ferry bowed vibraphone bars to create a floating, enigmatic melody.

The concert concluded with the New York premiere of Jacob ter Veldhuis’ “Barracuda Concerto” for solo percussion and orchestra. The colorful, vigorous piece showcased the collaborative skills of both the soloist and the orchestra, which  engaged in playful dialogue as images of underwater flora and fauna swayed onscreen.

The entire performance — part elegy, part audiovisual celebration — redefined the concert experience through its innovative structure and tenor of humanity.

Winstein-Hibbs is a member of the class of 2014.



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