[Colin Thurmond’s iPod is a veritable grab bag—his musical taste spans classical, electronic, and even Gaga. Only a few days after stepping on the NEC scene, he began sketching out an event that would mash up classical and electronic music, improvisatory dance and sound painting. In October of 2010, Colin received a grant from the Entrepreneurial Musicianship Department to bring AcousticaElectronica to life. He quickly collected a team of like-minded musicians, dancers, and visual artists, and together, they created a body of work that brings different genres of music and artistic disciplines into conversation with one another. The event was picked up by Boston’s premier electronic music festival, Together—and then, AcousticaElectronica started to grow into something greater. Colin and his team decided to launch toUch, a performance company that presents multi-genre, interdisciplinary shows, like the pilot AcousitcaElectronica.
In this post, Colin and Rich provide a window into the evolution of AcousticaElectronica and toUch, and showcase the creative team behind the venture. They also deliver a sense of the entrepreneurial mindset that drives their work, and the importance of “wearing many hats” and developing a diverse skill-set.]
AcousticaElectronica. Quite a mouthful to say, but then again – quite an idea.
The concept of the show was simple. Blend the virtuosity found in the classical concert hall with the energy of the late-night dance club. The show seeks to reconcile two worlds that are seemingly distant- classical and electronic. We didn’t want cliché, though. We felt that it was not enough to take an existing piece then add a beat and effects. We wanted to totally restructure the DNA of the music. Sound sacrilegious? Maybe, but a hell of a lot more fun. Check out our remix of a Faure chanson.
The pieces seemed to fall into place. Recent graduate from the Master’s program in classical percussion,
Rich Chwastiak (AKA The WIG) has always been a fan of electronic dance music and combines his percussion skills to add a live performance element to his DJ sets throughout the US and Europe. Although having positive feedback from the dance club, he felt inhibited to showcase this side of his musical personality in a traditional classical music environment. Was it wrong to combine these two worlds?
While studying composition at Juilliard, Athena Adamopoulos felt hesitant to show off her own work as a producer of electronic dance music (EDM). Being recently turned on to EDM, and struggling to juggle popular music with classical training, Colin Thurmond, posed the idea of combining the two worlds in a single concert. It didn’t stop there. While meeting with the amazing amount of talented students across Boston, we realized that it was not just musicians struggling with the idea of how to create something fresh and relevant in the face of such a great tradition. It was also dancers and artists. How does one create a painting after the likes of Monet, Van Gogh etc.?
Wagner had his Getsamkunstwerk. This was ours, just without all that Anti-Semitism. A total work of art. Everything, from the music, art, dance, to the clothes on our backs, all working to the goal of expressing a young generation’s reality in today’s world.
This is how AcousticaElectronica was born. The WIG plays the Music of Athena with live string quartet, vocals, guitar and piano. The music is complemented by dance and visual arts. Visual artist, Josh Wisdumb, improvises on canvas to the performance stimuli. The dancers also improvise an unbelievable combination of classical dance with modern movement. We paired the show with the Boston Together Festival the largest electronic music festival in the New England region. AcousticaElectonica premiered at the Arts at the Armory in Somerville, MA on April 22.
Music, dance and art exhibit tremendous artistic integrity and depth paired with an extremely visceral response. At once: sexy and classy, sensuous and stoic, irreverent and reverential. The three pillars: music, dance and art show great historical command by paying homage to past masters yet finding a fresh new voice. German art song of Schumann combines with Latin grooves and a dance club back-beat for a listening experience unlike anything ever heard before. 16th-century lute songs of John Dowland meets trance, Carmen’s habanera and Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata are blended with house music.
Ok, so why? The 21st -century musician needs to wear many hats. This question of breadth vs. depth has always been an issue, but today we need both. Having multiple skills will not only lead to more success but will lead to a more fulfilling career. We cannot afford to estrange our audience or sit in an ivory tower. Neither can we afford to be a huge “rebel.” We need to take a hard look at what it means to be an entrepreneur. Arts in the community are only as strong as it’s arts organizations. For a young musician to ignore the stark reality that is the business world, is virtual suicide. To be an exceptional artist is not enough. Many of our educational institutions are beginning to see the light. Luckily, New England Conservatory is on the cutting edge and the support from the Entreprenurial Musicianship (EM) program for AcousticaElectronica was incredible. A huge thanks goes out to Rachel Roberts, Eva Heinstein, and Nell Buck for their support.
It seemed like a huge waste to live in Boston and not collaborate with the wealth of talent that resides within, say, a five-block radius of Symphony Hall. For this reason, toUch performance art, was established. Collaboration is the heart of this venture. toUch performance art, is the company we founded in order to promote the larger conceptual works, such as AcousticaElectronica, that seek to give a new art experience to diverse audiences.
The mission of the group is to create high-quality, innovative and unique art by integrating music, theatre, dance, performance, poetry, and visual art. We bring a remarkable experience by engaging the senses through emotional and thought-provoking programming. toUch aims to create and host current and relevant new work as well as uphold great tradition. We push boundaries and questions our current conceptions of art by encouraging communication with the audience. toUch is rooted in collaboration and community service, bringing art and education to all types of audiences.
We had an amazing group of artists collaborate on the project. Truly the cream of the crop. Tessa Lark and Grace Park, violin. Elisa Rega, viola. Debbie Pae, cello. Adrienne Arditti and Laura Jobin-Acosta, vocals. Colin Thurmond and Jesse Weiner, guitars. Steve Martin, bass. Athena Adamopoulos, piano. Rich Chwastiak, DrumKAT, percussion and turntables. Marissa Roberts, Elizabeth McGuire, Lydia Zimmer and Josh Beaver, dance. Josh Wisdumb, visual arts.
To keep up to date with future performances visit www.touchperformance.com. For booking email: firstname.lastname@example.org. We would like to thank Tony Woodcock for the opportunity to write this blog.
Addendum August 18, 2011
I would like to take the opportunity to thank each one of the members and recognize their amazing contributions to making AcousticaElectronica so incredible.
First recognition goes to Athena Adamopoulos, who composed/remixed all of the music for the show. Her countless hours of work, and sheer musical genius have been an amazing inspiration for every person in the group. Her amazing ears, imagination and creativity have been tremendous fuel for the success of this project.
To Rich Chwastiak, who defines the “making it happen” mentality. His constant high energy and willingness to do whatever it takes, invigorates me. He opened my eyes to what a virtuoso performance a DJ can give.
To Marissa Roberts, who makes so much of toUch work behind the scenes. Her selfless works to better the show without any recognition humbles me.
To Tessa Lark, who astounds me every time she touches a violin. For her amazing versatility between styles and willingness to play anything, she is the epitome of what AcousticaElectronica seeks to celebrate.
To Deborah Pae, for her unflagging professionalism, her ability to give more than you think anyone is able to give, and the way she has everyone hang on every note she plays.
To Jesse Weiner for his willingness to support toUch above and beyond. His ability to give such solid advice at just the right moments keeps me sane.
To Adrienne Arditti, for her enthusiastic support for this project and her contagious excitement.
To Grace Park, whose charm, charisma, and musicianship truly shows that being a beautiful person can make a beautiful musician.
To Elisa Rega, for her hours of help beyond the call of duty. Her multi-faceted approach to music is an inspiration to us all.
To Lizzie McGuire, for loving toUch more than anyone. Her fire and enthusiasm for the ideas and ideals of the group, leaves me speechless.
To Lydia Zimmer, for her unending creativity in movement. Her ability to embody the music is a wellspring for collaboration for the other artists.
To Josh Beaver, who shows me every time he moves what it means to be uninhibited by technique. The direct link between his thoughts/inspirations and his body is so incredible. It serves as the model for what all artists hope to achieve.
To Laura Jobin-Acosta, for whom no distance was too great to be a part of a great project. Her flexibility and musicality pours directly into everything she touches.
To Steve Martin, whose humor brightened the most stressful situation and whose bass lines pumped us up in the most tired of times. His commitment to outreach must be thanked.
To Erika Boysen, whose energy in outreach and personality in performance kept me grounded.
Last but not least, to Josh Wisdumb, whose work inspires everyone. A big thanks to him for being such an amazing artist who can truly paint music better than I can play it. Everything his hand touches is an inspiration to me.