The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Friday, April 17, 2009 - 5
du es it outon
By DAVID RIVA compatibility.
DailyArts Writer More of Walla's production
prowess flashes on "A Diamond
Mohammed Bennis and the Hmadcha Ensemble perform Moroccan sufi music.
UMM A's livingart
ufi chanting reopened.
The Hmadcha Ensemble was
nt to be held in founded by artistic director and
poet Mohammed Bennis, whose
museum's apse goal was to preserve the traditions
of the Sufi chanting of the city of
By PRIYA BALI Fez in Morocco. Their presenta-
Daily Arts Writer tions in Ann Arbor will be per-
formed in a style similar to those
centuries, traditional Sufi featured in the Fez Festival of Sufi
g of the Near East has been Culture in Morocco and the Festi-
a way val of World Sacred Music.
ressing Mohammed The Festival of World Sacred
s devo- Music is an annual week-long festi-
i music BeNiS and val of exhibits, lectures and perfor-
o been the Hmadcha mances featuring some of the most
ated in Ensemble renowned musicians in the genre
s and of spiritual music. The festival
a form 8 p.m. Saturday becomes a meeting ground through
acces- and 7 p.m Sunday which not only music, but ideas
ven to on religion and democracy, can be
ievers. At the UMMA Apse exchanged. The event works to rec-
eekend, $40 ognize the importance of allowing
med varying cultures and religions to
ndthe Hmadcha Ensemble interact with one another.
ke Sufi chanting's haunt- This open-minded atmosphere
aptivating sound resonate certainly resonates with the goals
the University of Michi- of this weekend's performances.
seum of Art's Apse. The large open space of the muse-
performance is sponsored um Apse not only has great acous-
University Musical Soci- tics, but, because there is no stage,
though UMS and UMMA it creates a setting where the per-
llaborated in the past, this formers and audience are able to
ance marks the beginning interact on a more intimate level.
will be an ongoing part- The audience will be arranged
now that the museum has throughout the space, allowing
it to view the stage at multiple
perspectives from different lev-
els of the museum. With the per-
formance out of the context of a
concert hall, the museum's setting
emphasizes the possibility of expe-
riencing the ensemble not only
aurally, but through a different
visual perspective. Bennis and the
Hmadcha Ensemble will be treated
as an actual exhibit in the UMMA
that will come to life through song
"It will challenge us to think
about how performance changes
not only acoustically but experien-
tially when you move it into a dif-
ferent type of space," said UMMA
Director James Steward.
"It's not just the space which
changes the performance, but the
performance changes the space,"
The setting will ask viewers to
stretch their preconceived notions
of the function of an art museum.
It will also suggest more holistic
ways of approaching art objects
in traditional museums, taking
into account the culture from
which such objects are derived.
In the case of this weekend's per-
formance, the museum's inter-
national collection - and more
specifically its Islamic art - will
be given another means through
which it may be understood and
The ensemble will perform five
songs, beginning with incantations
and progressing into chanting and
movement. The chanting consists
of spiritual poems devoted to the
Prophet Muhammad and other
noblemen and is hypnotically beau-
tiful, transporting the audience to
another world. The songs celebrate
and praise the divine through a
collection of echoing voices.
It isn't uncommon for Sufi
chanting to be absent of instru-
ments as more emphasis is placed
on the intonation and pace of the
voices. Traditional percussion
instruments are occasionally used
during performances, and the final
song by the ensemble will feature
a guenbri guitar - an instrument
commonly heard in Gnawa music,
which is heard in Arabic and sub-
Saharan African songs.
Steward said that elements such
as historic Turkish carpets would
add to the setting's decor and pro-
vide a firm framework that this
music would have originally been
"We wanted to reinforce the
cultural character of the art that
is being performed rather than
putting it into a neutral space," he
Oh, sweet irony. Sometimes Ben and a Tether," creating an ambier
Gibbard, Death Cab for Cutie's sound that forms an airy yet te:
lead singer, relies tured atmosphere. Gibbard dish,
too heavily on ***" out one of his weaker metaphors
his paradoxical he compares a stagnant relatior
wit. But this time Death Cab ship to the objects in the song
it seems unin- forCue title. Round two goes to Walla.
tentional. On "My Mirror Speaks" includ(
"I Was Once a The Open a complacent hand-clappi
Loyal Lover" on Door EP rhythm, which superficially di
The Open Door Atlantic/Barsuk tracts from the song's simplist
EP a jaded Gib- structure. A display of Gibbard
bard sings "All questionable vocal range mak(
my friends are forward-thinking the third songa push.
/ getting hitched and quitting A straightforward rocker,
drinking / And I can feel them
pulling away / as I'm resigned to
stay the same," as he reflects on
the pains of growing older, which An EP full of
was a common theme of 2008's
Narrow Stairs. nuanced tracks
The irony kicks in with the
knowledge of Gibbard's recent cut from
engagement to actress and singer
Zooey Deschanel. He has induct- 'Narrow Stairs.
ed himself into the group of clean-
cut, married men he longed to be
a part of. Hopefully this won't
signal Gibbard's last offering of Was Once a Loyal Lover" employ
songs about heartbreak and lost excessive distortion and a heavi
opportunities, an art he has per- basslinethannecessaryfor aDeat
fected over Death Cab's 12-year Cab song. Histrionic lyrics lit
existence. "There's so many bridges engulfe
The Open Door EP is a collec- in flames behind me" are expect
tion of four new songs that didn't from Gibbard, but with his quirt
make the cut for Narrow Stairs, delivery, its difficult not to fall f
as well as one demo from the their utter sincerity. The four
LP. Essentially, the EP is a talent offering is a victory for Gibbard.
show featuring Gibbard's simple Although the four songs pro
yet insightful lyrics matched up to be just as worthy as many son,
against guitarist/producer Chris on Narrow Stairs, it's understan
Walla's anal-retentive production. able why they weren't include
The competition between the two on the album. "Little Bribes" at
is playful and a unique element to "I Was Once a Loyal Lover" bo
theband's success. Gibbard's emo- sound incomplete, neither co
tional nature balances out Walla's taining a definitive ending. "M
perfectionist song crafting, and Mirror Speaks" harkens back1
vice versa. the sound on 2001's The Pho
In "Little Bribes," a angsty Album, displaying more cot
Gibbard expresses his dissatis- plex melodies, which contra
faction with the modern world's the strum-heavy sound heardc
prevailing tendency toward Death Cab's last two albums."
impulsive desires. Walla flaunts Diamond and a Tether" is a ligh
his mastery by blending a rock- er-waving ballad with a twang
steady acoustic line with an guitar line and is too complace
anticipatory background guitar to fit in with the more upbe
that seamlessly ushers its way tunes on Narrow Stairs.
into brief yet energizing piano Standing on their own, tl
and electric guitar flourishes. songs of The Open Door EP a
If the EP were a boxing match, solid and certainly worth a liste
round one is a toss up between especially when accounting f
the competing talents of Gibbard Gibbard's position in song-writi
and Walla, displaying their tight limbo.
WANT TO COVER
Report on performances and work for our Fine Arts staff.
The life of Hollywood's 'Party'
By TOMMY COLEMAN
Daily Arts Writer
What would Vincent Chase from "Entou-
rage" be doing if he never broke through
with his role in "Head On,"
the movie that launched
his fabled acting career and
propelled him into stardom? Pary Dow
Well, he'd probably be work-
ing at Party Down Catering. Fridays at
Starz's new original series 10:30 p.m.
"Party Down" takes a more Starz
cynical look at Tinseltown
than the dream-like Holly-
wood success story of "Entourage." "Party"
follows a gang of wannabe writers and actors
who never quite got their feet in the door, and
are now reduced to having to pay the bills by
working for a catering service.
The catering company, Party Down, is home
to a wacky set of characters, some of whom
are more realistic about their chances in Hol-
lywood than others. The show's lead, Henry
Pollard (Adam Scott, "Step Brothers"), is the
most sensible of the bunch. His 15 minutes of
fame are over he was featured in a series of
beer commercials - and now he just wants to
get through life without being asked to repeat
Scott has the talent to pull off the more real-
istic-minded Pollard. He plays the part perfect-
ly, having mastered the blank, judgmental stare
necessary for moments like when his coworker
Kyle Bradway (Ryan Hansen, "Veronica Mars")
pathetically recites lines for his upcoming audi-
tion to get a role in a shitty "O.C."-esque drama.
Conversely, when geeky wannabe science-
fiction writer Roman DeBeers (the hysterical
Martin Starr, "Freaks and Geeks") babbles
about how he's more badass than George Lucas
("Everyone knows Lucas is kiddie bullshit. I'm
hard sci-fi!"), that stare of utter disbelief sport-
ed by Scott is money.
The most memorable performance, howev-
er, is delivered by Jane Lynch ("Role Models")
as Constance Carmell, the crew's eldest mem-
ber. She tells stories of glory days hanging out
with Gene Hackman and working on "Mat-
"When I snap my fingers, you'll be able to move again."
lock." Most side-splitting are the moments
where Constance imparts her knowledge -
or, often, lack thereof - about acting and the
movie business to the younger caterers.
unglamorous world of
L.A.'s burnt-out party
The group of Hollywood misfits have a gig at
different locatiions each week. They've worked
everywhere from a homeowners' party in a
a place where senior citizens can meet to hook
up. The mobile setting, which takes away the
stage and laugh track, puts a refreshing twist
on the tired workplace sitcom recipe.
"Party Down" also benefits greatly from
having fewer restrictions than the average
sitcom. The show airs on Starz, so, unlike
its network counterparts, there isn't strict
censorship on the show's raunchy comedy.
There's full frontal nudity in the series pre-
miere, pot-smoking in the second episode and
more dirty words in the series so far than net-
work TV comedies could ever dream of using.
The show's venue turns out to be a blessing.
The rude, sometimes downright vulgar sense
of humor in "Party Down" is used perfectly to
sell the show's brand of comedy.
"Party Down" is unlike any other work-
place comedy out there, and that's its biggest
strength. With that in mind, maybe Starz will
stop showing "The Jane Austen Book Club"
and "Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best
of Both Worlds Concert" over and over to
make room for more original programming
like "Party Down."