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Darwin Grosse Excels, As Do Others In And Around Denver

March 24, 2012

Just came home from a dance performance that had the benefit of creative input from Darwin Grosse, a name regular readers of Recording will recognize. 

Katie Elliott and Jim LaVita are at the helm of 3rd Law Dance/Theater, consisting of (tonight at least) seven dancers doing original choreography. The title of tonight’s presentation was Authentic Re-Production; it’s a conceptual inquiry into what’s behind the term “authentic”, and whether a reproduction can be “authentic”.

To this end, Darwin manipulated images fed to his computer in real time from a video camera trained on the dancers, and the images were projected onto a huge wall behind the stage. Nothing like the projection of performers at a pop concert: Sometimes we saw the realtime images, at other times we saw a delayed version of what we had seen some three seconds earlier, and—most intriguingly—many times we saw both the realtime images and a blend of delayed images, artfully modified, maybe momentarily frozen, or fading in and out, colorized, and otherwise providing visual interest .

For example: Picture a dancer bowing to her left, then switching position and bowing to her right, towards the spot where she had just been standing. Darwin lets us see the realtime image combined with the delayed image, with the result that we see a dancer bowing towards a duplicate image of herself. Which is real, which is Memorex, which is authentic?

The performance took place at the Byron Theater, one of several performance spaces in the Newman Center, the fabulous arts complex at DU (University of Denver), home of the Lamont School of Music. I hope the performance was videotaped not just for realtime manipulation but also for keeps, so that it may reach a wider audience—everybody involved should be proud of a remarkable and very creative effort.

It has been a good week for catching excellent performances around Denver. Last night, the Colorado Symphony performed another of the hugely popular “Inside The Score” concerts, where a work is presented with discussion and analysis, using multimedia and full-orchestra excerpts from the score to bring the work closer to the audience. If this sounds a bit like a lecture, it is, but not the sleep-inducing kind—largely thanks to the skills of the production team and the snappy delivery from resident conductor Scott O’Neill, the audience was enthralled as some of the inner workings of Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony (“Eroica”) were unveiled.

On Thursday, composer/arranger/saxophonist Malcolm Lynn Baker premièred and conducted two new works at Dazzle, Denver’s premier Jazz venue. The players were from the new-music organization The Playground, and the event was a fundraiser for the Colorado Symphony, organized by the support organization Colorado Symphony Guild. Good music, good playing, and a good cause!

On Wednesday, at the Newman Center’s Gates Hall, I heard a rare collaboration by two famous wind quintets, the Boston Brass and the Imani Winds, joining forces to play specially adapted versions of some Gil Evans charts made immortal by Miles Davis. What a treat! Not an amplifier in sight—an evening of flute, oboe/English horn, clarinet(s), French Horn and bassoon (the Imani Winds), and trumpet/flugelhorn, trombone/euphonium, French Horn, tuba, all heard au naturel in wonderful acoustics. After the normal daily dose of music heard through speakers and earbuds, such an occasion is like hitting the auditory system’s reset button.

All this following another musical week that started with the Hwang-Ainomae-Hsu violin-cello-piano Trio on Monday, Taiko drummers from Japan at DU on Wednesday, Jazz pianist Lynne Arriale at Dazzle’s on Thursday (see my blog from March 16 and the upcoming interview in the May issue), and Flamenco artist Rene Heredia at Swallow Hill on Saturday. Not bad for a "cow town"...

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