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November 17, 1995 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-11-17

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The Michigan Daily - Thursday,November 17, 1995 - 9

Other side of here: Digital Music explores new terrain

By Craig Stuntz
Daily Arts Writer
It-wasn't so very long ago that the
notion of"American Music" was consid-
ered a contradiction in terms. Within the
last century, however, many truly Ameri-
cdtf*orms ofmusic have emerged, begin-
ning with jazz and bebop around the turn
of the century, encompassing the folk-
influenced neo-classicism of Aaron
Copland and the experimental works of
Charles Ives, and continuing to this day
with modern forms such as minimalism.
In fact, an "American musical context"
now exists: New composers grow up hear-
ing and reacting to these forms, incorporat-
ing and adding to them in their own works.
An example is "The Driver's Son," to
be performed this weekend by the School
of Music's Digital Music Ensemble in a
program with the Creative Arts Orchestra
and Percussion Ensemble. The piece con-
sists of excerpts and improvisations on
themes from an opera by "Blue" Gene Tyr-
anny, aformer Ann Arborresident who now
lives in Brooklyn, NY. The opera was
originally commissioned for the Ben
.,Franklin bicentennial in Philadelphia, and
was written between 1989 and 1991.
The Digital Music Ensemble is actu-
allya University class, open to anyone.
Although performance-oriented, musical
skill is notnecessarily aprerequisite; danc-
ers, painters and electronics hackers have
all found homes within the DME. In
addition to synthesizers and electroni-
cally processed acoustic instruments, this
weekend's concerts will feature dancing
(choreographed by Katie Stevinson) and
computer painting. The ensemble per-
forms several times per semester, both

Where: Mcintosh Theater, School
of Music
When: Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday
at 4 p.m.
The show is free,
here and on the road.
Around two years ago, Tyranny men-
tioned to Pat Bora, a singer in one of his
old Ann Arbor bands, that he would like
to do a concert here. She put him in
contact with Steven Rush, the director of
the DME. He sent scores for the opera to
Rush, and the class began experimenting
and improvising with them.
Eventually, the ensemble found three
of the 36 themes which comprise the
harmonic foundation of the opera to be
the most interesting and appropriate for
them, and came up with seven "move-
ments," each based on these three themes
and their own improvisations. The final
structure of the performance was deter-
mined by the ensemble's experiments
with it, instead of the otherway around. "I
had no idea until Monday at 5:00 what the
plan was," says Rush.
The result is a piece which is very
different from Tyranny's "own" version
of the opera. "It's a truly collaborative
work," he says. And thanks to a grant
from the Office of the Vice President for
Research, the collaboration will be taken
still further, as he will perform with the
group this weekend.
Tyranny is enthusiastic about the
DME's take on his work: "It's fantastic. I
didn't even know before I came here what

the instrumentation would be, and it's
really beautiful....The articulation of the
wind players is perfect, exactly what I'd
imagined for the sound."
Each of the seven "movements" has a
similarstructure: aminimalistic, repeated
theme - similar in some ways to a
continuo in baroque music - serves as a
foundation on top of which rhythmically
freer solos step in and out, in the manner
of ajazz band. "Ifsomebody hears some-
body doing a lick, they gravitate to that
lick and double it," according to Rush.
The 36 themes which are the basis for
Tyranny's opera are similar in concept-
but not in implementation -to ragas, the
foundations of Indian classical music.
Each theme has its own chord, emotion
and melody. "All ofmy music is based on
dynamic, kinetic reality; there's nothing
abstract," he says. But it's not program-
matic either. Rather, he's interested in the
rhythms and pitches heard in everyday
sounds. "Music is not a separate thing
from the rest of my life. It's my way of
understanding the world."
A theme called "The De-Certified
Highway of Dreams" is the basis for three
of the seven sections in the performance.
Each of the three begins with a lively,
crisp piano and synthesizer "continuo."
What is interesting is that the music seems
at once improvised and rehearsed; as free
solos wind in and out and other players
react to them, rhythmic variations on the
"continuo" are introduced with perfect
The other two themes, "His Tone of
Voice at 37 (Empathy)," and "Isle of the
Rose-Apple Trees," have a very different
emotional effect, though they are quite

similar in their logical structure to "The
De-Certified Highway of Dreams." In
both of these themes, the "continuo" is
slower and softer, variations in the timbres
and the solos become more prominent.
Particularly attention-catching are
Tyranny's fast, swirling, virtuosic piano
solos, which prompted Rush to exclaim,
"You are truly a dangerous guy!" As
spectacular as they are, they are also com-
pletely improvised. "It's the kind of thing
you can't write down," explains Tyranny.
The DME will also perform "Feet Mu-
sic," by Ornette Coleman, and "Other
Side of Here" by Mark Kirschenmann, a
doctoral student in music composition at
the Universityof Michigan. "Feet Music"
begins with familiar themes, but soloing
and experimentation build quickly, and
the piece becomes quite chaotic. But then,
all ofthe sudden, the group falls back into
synchronousness, staying together for a
few bars until the players start experi-
mentingagain. Thishappens several times
over the course of the piece.
"Other Side of Here" begins with a
slow, steady, moving percussion line,
filled out with synthesizer drones and a
funky, resonant bass synth line, none of
which wouldbe out ofplace in apop song.
But on top of this is a long, beautiful solo
played on a trumpet, electronically pro-
cessed to give it a pitch and intonation
more reminiscent of a clarinet.
The concert crosses so many musical
boundaries that it's bound to have a wide
appeal -at least to non-purists. Incorpo-
rating elementsofminimalism,jazz, ragas,
and pop, the DME synthesizes a style
uniquely their own.

Women's glee club In rehearsal last night. H LLMVnflh1
Re-formed Women's club makes waves

By Elizabeth Lucas
Daily Arts Writer
The Women's Glee Club has not
been widely known on campus for
some time. The group re-formed last
year under the direction of voice
professor Theodore Morrison, after
a hiatus of several decades.
The group is now preparing for
one of the highlights of their 1995-
96 season, tomorrow night's fall
concert. Those attending the event
should have a thoroughly enjoyable
evening, according to Morrison.
"This year's group is very enthu-
siastic. They're doing wonderful
and subtle things with music,"
Morrison said.
This year the Women's Glee Club
has 60 members, which Morrison
felt was a good, substantial number
of singers. "They love music a great
deal, and this produces a wonderful
ensemble feel," Morrison com-
The Women's Glee Club began their
musical season in early October. They
performed Beethoven's Ninth Sym-
phony with the University Choir, the
Men's Glee Club and the University
Symphony Orchestra.
"That was a huge deal," Morrison
said. "It was a wonderful start. It
made me feel that they have real
potential for subtle artistic expres-
Tomorrow's performance will be
somewhat different. The women
plan to sing selections by European
composers Benjamin Britten and
Felix Mendelssohn. However, they
will concentrate more on American
20th-century composers, such as
David Conte, Aaron Copland and
Alice Parker.
To prepare for this and other con-

Where: Hill Auditorium
When: Saturday at 8 p.m.
Tickets: $7, $4 for students at Hill
auditorium box office or the uhion
ticket office.
certs, the group rehearses four hours
a week. Morrison takes part in this
process by "selecting music and
making sure it's properly rehearsed
and ready to go."
Morrison appears to enjoy this
job. "For me, the best part is the
combination of making beautiful
music and working with people who
are energetic and enthusiastic. We
work very hard, but we really have
a good time."
The Women's Glee Club can be
heard at events other than tonight's
concert. The group performs at tail-
gate parties, university functions
and concerts.
Later in the year, the Women's
Glee Club is planning on creating
and presenting a Women's Vocal
Arts Day for about 350 high school
students. "(The high school stu-
dents) are actually going to partici-
pate in a very short concert with
members of the Women's Glee
Club. It's kind of to recruit them,"
Morrison commented.
The Women's Glee Club will also
perform a spring concert here, and
then tour the East Coast.
"We haven't toured in some time,"
Morrison said. "It will be exciting."
The Women's Glee Club may be rela-
tively new at concert-giving, but their
enthusiasm should make up for any
lack of experience. It sounds as though
the musical talent displayed at their
fall concert will be exciting.

'Nadja' awakenes the
undead in new ways

By Prashant Tamaskar
DlIyArts Writer
┬░Ghren the fact that vampire movies
are dime a dozen, it is amazing that so
few of them are actually interesting.
The majority of these films are either
exploitive reproductions ofearliervam-
pire works, or are attempts at bringing
a different perspective to the genre.
Although often commendable, these at-
trepts are usually unsuccessful.
!owever, Michael Almereyda's ec-
centric film "Nadja," falls victim to
neher of these shortcomings. It pre-
seuts an original and entertaining story
abut the children of vampires.
Me film begins with Nadja (Elina
Lpwensohn), fleeing her homeland af-
ger the murder of her father, Count
Dracula. She arrives in New York City
h4ping to find her brother, Edgar, in
"older to relay the bad news and to find
a fivay to hide from her father's killer.
Hoton her trail is the man who killed
Dracula, Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Fonda),
who is determined to find the other two
aimpires and lay them to rest forever.
Nadja and Edgar's strategy for sur-
lvvma-is to seduce important people in
Van Helsing's life and turn them into
vampires. The pawns in this game are
Van Helsing's daughter, his nephew
and his nephew's wife. Throughout the
film, all of the main characters are in-
volved in a giant chess match that ends
in an undoubtedly intriguing manner.
,Since the executive producer of the
movie is David Lynch, it is not surpris-
ing that the overall plot is novel and
innovative. There is more to this film
than just the hunting of vampires. The
world of these vampires is remarkably
normal, even consisting of love and
dysfunction between the two siblings.
Also adding to the atmosphere are ran-
dom lines of comedy that are perfectly
incorporated into the smoothly flowing
dialogue. The rather unusual action and
writing create an exciting, unpredict-

I ftvEw

W Nadja
Directed by Michael
Almereyda; with Elina
Lowenstein and Peter Fonda
At the Michigan Theater
able ride that is characteristic of Lynch's
One of the best decisions made by
Almereyda was to shoot the movie in
black and white. The presentation is
stylish, elegant and seductive, with the
lack of color creating a somber, realis-
tic environment that would otherwise
not appear as well. It is impossible to
imagine this film photographed in any
other way.
Another interesting technique incor-
porated into the movie is its distorted,
low resolution cinematography that of-
fers various surrealistic scenes. The
majority of these sequences focus on
the vampires seducing and attempting
to transform others into their state of
existence. This film distortion thus pre-
vents the viewer from seeing the details
of everything that is happening; it dis-
plays just enough to maintain the lucid-
ity of the plot. Therefore, many of the
scenes are dream-like, leaving a lot to
the imagination.
Despite all of this, the movie would
not work without the impressive per-
formances ofthe large central cast whose
roles all complement each other. Elina
Lowensohn as Nadja is the perfect
vampiress: She is smart, sensuous and
conniving. Peter Fonda, as the vampire
exterminator, Van Helsing, maintains an
equilibrium between playfulness and in-
tensity, incorporating whichever aspect
the script calls for at a given point.
Three other characters, played by Suzy
Amis, Martin Donovan and Galaxy Craze
skillfully portray the victims of the con-

Gorgeous Elina Lowenstein as Nadja, the daughter of Dracula.

flict between Van Helsing and his en-
emies. Throughout the film they are
shocked, confused and bewildered, with-
out ever blatantly documenting these
emotions. Like most of the movie, these
characters are amusingly dry.
Although rather bizarre, "Nadja" is
exciting, humorous and truly enjoy-

able. It is a complex film, touching on
numerous themes throughout the course
of the action. And, unlike last year's
uninspired "Interview with the Vam-
pire" or Eddie Murphy's "A Vampire in
Brooklyn," this movie does one thing
that the others don't - it successfully
executes its original, inventive premise.


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