Photo by Dana Casto
It was breakdown Bach to my ears recently at Attack Theatre‘s rehearsal space. I was suddenly listening to the last movement of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto, delivered by Pittsburgh native and guest musician Jonathan Moser on first violin in the title and Attack music director Dave Eggar on the less-expected cello and difficult second violin part, with Tom Pirozzi supplying a rock bass and Chuck Palmer in and out on drums. Keeping in line with the band’s philosophy, the music was presented with a fresh approach, where they came together and split apart, allowing snatches of the original to peak through periodically or to disappear in favor of a percussive interlude.
The Bach will be part of “Beginnings,” a world premiere featured on Attack’s newest program in celebration of its 15th anniversary this weekend at the New Hazlett Theatre. (See Listings.) “We knew we wanted to repeat some work, but we knew we didn’t want to do a traditional restrospective,” said Michele de la Reza, founding director with husband Peter Kope, as she sat cross-legged on a sofa near the coffee bar.
Instead the Attack members identified thematic threads for the program, offhandedly titled “Show #58″ (and still quite an achievement over 15 years). The first half will be connected to technology, often a part of the Attack experience with live feed video and slide show inputs.
It will start with “R.A.M.,” one of the group’s more recent works and designed for a family-friendly audience. But the original was created to tour and this time the Attackers wanted the opportunity to “up the values of the piece to sculpt the eye through lighting, [plus] upgrade the set and rechoreograph some things.”
If “R.A.M.” will use the latest technology, it will be followed by the pre-computer “Typeset,” a ’40’s film-noir of a piece from 1996. After all, the typewriter was the “technology” for many years, anchored by the tell-tale tick-tacking sound of the keys. But the real connection between the two works lies elsewhere, according to Michele, noting that “it’s still about documenting an idea, where the writer takes kernels of that idea and puts it down on paper.”
Just like I’m putting her ideas down on this CrossCurrent “paper.”
Photo by Matthew Kleinrock
But on to Act 2, based on the notion of time — past, present and future. “We’re thinking so much how we devour the present, which is the sum of the past,” Michele offered. Speaking of that, “Trapped,” with ethereal music by internationally renowned Japanese composer Somei Satoh, focuses on the past. “These characters are “trapped” emotionally and psychologically in their own personal history,” she said. “They cannot get past their past — they’re haunted. But even though the subject is so inward, the actual [artistic] exploration was about the future for us. Somei Satoh’s music sent us in a forward direction aesthetically and choreographically.”
Which led her to the premiere of the night, “Beginning,.” where the dancers looked at all the beginnings of ideas. They were instructed to write “two lines of a book you never wrote.” Since each dancer turned in six suggestions, there was “a whole slew” of beginnings from which to choose, hence the more traditional Bach substructure. “We won’t mimic the music,” Michele asserted. “The Bach will be the glue.”
As for the ending? We’ll see…
While I was in the studio, I came up with this Deoro update:
Dave Eggar: Dave revealed that the group scored a Grammy nomination for “Best Musical Arrangement” Of “Itsbynne Reel” from Deoro’s latest CD, “Kingston Morning” (Gil Goldstein, arranger and Grammy winner himself). It’s up against multiple Grammy Award-winning arrangers Vince Mendoza and Patrick Williams and long-term heavy hitters like Ted Nash and Frank Macchia. The winner will be announced Feb. 13, 2011. Dave said that the nomination has generated a great deal of interest in the group, which has been doing a lot of touring in Europe and Appalachia.
Tom Pirozzi: Tom talked about Deoro’s return to the Phillipines last summer, where the guys drove into the mountains for eight hours to a remote village. “When you’re up there, you feel like you’re a million miles from everything,” he said. One of his fondest memories was drinking his morning coffee in a treehouse. But in case you’re wondering, the village did have some electricity for his electric bass, although “not 100 percent dependable.” And one of the natives was surprisingly computer savvy and gave the village a Facebook page.
Chuck Palmer: Chuck is a native of Columbus, Ohio and, after 10 years of residence, now considers himself “officially a New Yorker.” “But Pittsburgh is really a nice combination of the Midwest and East Coast,” he said, as he went on to explain the band’s reason for its long-term relationship with Attack Theatre. “From the first day, I said, ‘Okay, I love these people. I love them as artists. I’m committed to them. I’m committed to the creative process.’ Maybe that’s because Chuck is a workaholic like everyone associated with Attack. He revealed that they open a show and then go back to the “house” and watch the video. They immediately begin “changing things to make it better — that’s the drill,” and then keeping repeating the process. He’s also grown with Attack. Chuck pinpointed the event where he began expanding his musical boundaries — a gig at Muhammed Ali’s celebrity-laden “Fight Night” to fight Parkinson’s disease in Arizona, where he played with Dave, Gil and eclectic violinist Lucia Micarelli. “Gil changed the way I looked at music,” he said, explaining that he learned to let “the rhythm live in the room.” So Chuck has built on that, particularly in the all-improv “Assemble This” at various Pittsburgh art galleries and museums last year. In fact, he thanked Peter “because I never had this much safety and freedom within a musical and artistic setting before.”