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November 01, 1990 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 1990-11-01

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The Michigan Daily-Thursday, November 1,1990- Page 7

ippin schooled in
BreCtian mode

What's so funny 'bout peace, love and Koyaanisqatsi

?

by Beth Colquitt
M ost current musicals
(epitomized by the Andrew Lloyd
Webber style) are lush, grand
drama. They have a novel-like
plot, rich music, and beautiful
costumes. Going to them is 'an
all-consuming and emotional
evening. This is not to say that
pippin doesn't have these things,
but the show employs the same
items in an entirely different way.
Imagine Brechtian theater
theater created by the early 20th-
century German dramatic artist
that is meant to distance the
viewer from the beginning to end
of a show, employing various de-
vices which remind the audience
that they are seeing a show which
is in no way real. It is a represen-
tation of an idea shown for a pur-
pose. Not his well known The
Threepenny Opera, but plays
like The Good Person of Szetuan
and Mother Courage are fitting
examples. Many of Brecht's plays
are profound but dour and depress-
ing. If, however, the man had
written comedy - not satire or
farce, but simple, frivolous, fairy-
tale comedy - he might have
come up with something like
Stephen Schwartz's Pippin.
Although he is the son of
Charlemagne, Pippin is a charac-
ter with whom most modern-day
college students can identify. At.
the opening of the show he has
just graduated from the University
of Padua and has come home to"
search for a purpose in life. "He
reflects the average University
Joe," says co-producer Michol

Sherman. "You could almost say
it is something like therapy...
we're all worried about what hap-
pens after graduation."' Pippin
feels that he is extraordinary and
must do extraordinary things, yet
everything he tries eventually
bores him.
The nature of- the show is
cabaret-like, another resemblance
to Brechtian theater. There is a
narrator who introduces the scenes
and leads the audience through
Pippin's efforts to find himself.
The cast is constantly acknowl-
edging the presence of the orches-
tra and the audience. The props,
as in cabaret shows, are not in-
tended to convey a sense of the
Middle Ages, since the show is
not attached to any particular his-
torical moment. It is clearly
something that could take place at
any time.
The most profound message of
Pippin exists in Pippin's failure
to find anything that satisfies his
taste for the extraordinary. Al-
though the show is extremely
frivolous in both style and plot,
it demonstrates to the idealistic
young the reasons why older
adults have lost their curiosity
about life. The finale is an excel-
lent piece of work which strips
away the glamour the young at-
tach to the future and emphasizes
the pleasures that are available in
the uneventful present, seeking to
reconcile young idealism with
older experience and accepting
what is given.
PIPPIN plays at the Power
Center Thursday through
Sunday. Tickets are available at
the Union Ticket Office.

by Michael Paul Fischer
"It's 1991, for God's sake!" ex-
claims Philip Glass, expressing a
sense of disbelief at how the rele-
vance of Koyaanisqatsi - the com-
poser's landmark 1983 collaboration
with filmmaker Godfrey Reggio -
is only now being generally.recog-
nized, amidst an 11th-hour fit of en-
vironmental awareness.
A cinematic symphony of inte-
grated images and sounds, Koy--
aanisqatsi used the arresting, repeti-
tive patterns of avant-garde pioneer
Glass' score to set off the eerie ten-
sion between nature and technology
- the film's title is a Hopi phrase
meaning "life out of balance" - in a
manner unlike any mere documen-
tary. Still, according to Glass, a lot
of people "thought it was a hippie
movie, really."
This may explain why Glass and
his Ensemble, eight years after the
film's release, are embarking on not
just the first, but their second 17-
city tour to present Koyaanisqatsi:
along with a live soundtrack. "We're-
trying to get people interested,' says
Glass, and for this reason the tour is'
visiting different cities than the last
time, although Ann Arbor is once
again included.
Before the first time around, back
in 1987, some might have scratched
their heads at the idea of paying an
extra $15 to see a movie, with the
only extra feature being music ema-
nating from a darkened orchestra pit.
The answer, during his popular
Michigan Theater performance, was
provided through the power of Glass'
audience-quaking amplification (the
structured, compositional nature of
Glass' work may fit the rubric of
"classical" music, but his genre-
breaking reputation does not). The
sheer challenge of coordinating their
collective playing to the celluloid
pushed Glass' Ensemble to heights
- of intensity which magnified Koy-
- aanisqatsi's apocalyptic urgency.
Out of the trio of seminal
"minimalists" to emerge in the
- 1960s - Terry Riley, Glass and
Steve Reich - Glass is the most
widely recognized, and in no small

The Voyage, designed to commemo-
rate the discovery of America by
Christopher Columbus - set to
premiere in 1992. Insofar as De
Gama explored the Orient, Glass
suggests, his two new works make
kind of an "East/West" set.
Koyaanisqatsi itself was just
the first in the projected trilogy of
"Qatsi" movies which, Glass says,
Godfrey Reggio pursues with a sin-
gular sense of mission. The second,
Powaqqatsi , which dealt with the
clash of development within Third-
World culture, was also scored by
Glass, and released in late 1987.
The third movie, Nagoyatsi, is in
the planning stages, Glass says. But
films are very expensive to produce,
and while Glass churns out his man-
ifold projects, Reggio's vision re-
mains delayed by production costs.
For this reason, Glass plans to fol-
low up this Koyaanisqatsi tour with
a spring presentation of Powaqqatsi,
whose ticket sales are also hoped to
expedite the financing of the final
installment of the series.
"Naqoyatsi" means "life in a state
of war" - and to the suggestion that
such a topic might soon become
very relevant indeed, Glass chuckles
affably. "Godfrey has never shied
away from being confrontational
about things he considers urgent,"
Glass notes. "He feels that if he stirs
up enough questions," Glass once
told the Kansas City Star, "we'll
find ways of making life more live-
able without giving up our pocket
calculators and Sony Walkmans."
Asked if there's anything he'd
like to do that still hadn't been tried
yet, Glass warily acknowledges that
that would certainly be a challenge;
his main interest, he says, is in
"other ways of integrating dance and
film into music theater." "The tech-
nology is on our side," Glass ef-
fuses. "This is just the beginning."
THE PHILIP GLASS ENSEMBLE
performs KOYAANISQATSI live at
the Michigan Theater (668-8397)
Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are
$16.50 for Theater members,
$1850 for non-members.

Avant-gardener Philip Glass brings his Ensemble and Koyaanisqatsi to
Ann Arbor's muesli-munching set.

part due to the incredible critical and
popular breakthrough of Koy -
aanisqatsi. The work ranges from
the opening movement's ominous,
funeral-like admonition to wan, dis-
concerting brass and the whirling,
breakneck arpeggios that accompany
Reggio's curious, time-lapse cine-
matography of a New York City un-
der glass. The synthesizer-based
score compounds panoramic images
of grand canyon vistas, burgeoning
factories, fighter plane pilots, vast
forests and clogged freeways to an
effect the Los Angeles Times called
"the best match of music and film
that we've experienced."
Glass has made a staggeringly
prolific career of cross-disciplinary
triumphs, from Einstein on the

Beach, the 1976 music-theater col-
laboration with playwright Robert
Wilson, to 1986's Songs from Liq-
uid Days, an album of Glass music
featuring lyrics written by pop
singers Paul Simon, David Byrne,
Laurie Anderson and Suzanne Vega.
He scored Errol Morris' documentary
film The Thin Blue Line, wrote
Glass Pieces for the Twyla Tharp
dance ensemble, and created music
for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Glass says his next major project
is another collaboration with Robert
Wilson, a Portuguese-commissioned
opera about the 1490-1500 exploits
of explorer Vasco de Gama. It's a
companion piece to the opera he has
already completed for the Met titled

MiE , .

R ECOR DS
'Coiinued from page 7
'through light and witty or deep and
treary, depending on the tune. She
plays both moods well.
@h The band opted for a live feel
with their release last spring, Hot
C'hocolate Massage. Prayer for the
Jlfalcyon Fear offers a chance to hear
the band in a more introspective,
drcam y mode. While Massage is
eonducive to dancing or at least
_jumping around, Prayer is more
suited to lying in the sun contem-
pIating nothing but Croughn's lilt-
'; ?ng vocals, Scarpantoni's soulful
bowing and John Hamilton's in-
Spired guitar work. Melancholy
;hould always be this good.
-Kristin Palm
Iloy Matinee
Toy Matinee
teprise/Warner Bros.
w:As the producer behind the stone-
jolid, trademark grooves of
Madonna's "Open Your Heart" and
r :'Like A Prayer," and as the man
who used the same rhythmic sense

to focus Bryan Ferry's romantic vi-
sions on 1988's Bete Noire, key'
boardist Patrick Leonard created the
definitive dance/rock sound of the
late '80s. But in joining lyri-
cist/singer/guitarist Kevin Gilbert to
record an album under the group
name Toy Matinee, Leonard has
forged an unlikely partnership.
"Queen of Misery," to be sure,
recalls Leonard's modus operandi
circa "Prayer" through its employ-
ment of percussive synth rhythms,
and "Remember My Name (for Va-
clav Havel)" is elegant, .gratifying
pop - displaying Leonard's prizec
ear for space and simplicity. But the
voice and guitar of Gilbert - whc
writes interesting lyrics about poli-
tics, art and romance in uneasy po-
etry that grows a bit belabored witi
time- lends an uncanny '70s earth.
iness to Toy Matinee's sound.
The baroque twang of Gilbert's
acoustic intro on "Last Plane Out" is
pure Kansas. The quirky surrealist
tribute "Turn It On Salvador" recalls
weird Lennon (perhaps it's nc
concidence that Julian sings backup).
And with its wry keyboards and

S
's
,
x7
.l
v
1
S
S
t
S
,

relaxed melody, "The Ballad of Jenny
Ledge" makes one think of Steely
Dan.
But it is on somber, more con-
templative tracks. - where Leonard
plays up the stately moods of his pi-
ano to memorable effect: - that
Gilbert's handsome vocals find their
best setting. "The Toy Matinee,"
spare and haunting, evokes the at-
mospheres created by Ferry or Peter
Gabriel; the chorus of "There Was a
Little Boy," a strident, arresting por-

trait of childhood alienation, carries
an undertow of ominous synths. On
a scale of 100, Toy Matinee gets a
high "77" - but you can't dance to
it.
- Michael Paul Fischer

I

I

The Michigan Daily - this is what college was meant to be!!!

1

Y . I

1

Save the LP!
Daily Arts

!ll

Mary Claire Anhut
fora
Washtenaw
Community
College Trustee
VOTE TUES., NOV.6a
NON-PARTISAN BALLOT
.Recipient Washtenaw Communmity College Community Service Award
-WCC Futures Committee -Graduate Eastern Michigan University
-Ypsilanti Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Service Award
"16 Years on Catherine McAuley Divisional Board
-Other extensive board experience
Paid for by Committee to Elect Mary ClaieAnhui
Maze A. Oberuscyer, Jr. Treasurer

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Film 2: "Rouge Clasp" (8 PM)
Film 3: "The Last Eunuch of China" (10 PM)
Films in Cantonese with English & Chinese subtitles.
Sponsors: Hong Kong Student Association, LS&A Student
Government, Student Services Office, MSA, UAC (proposed).

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