The lineup for AcousticaElectronica goes like this: a conservatory trained violinist, percussionist, classical guitarist, Donkey Show dancer, mezzo soprano, classical composer, dance professor, stage dancer, a handful of DJs and an aerialist (yeah, a guy who flies through the air). They’re all playing an electronic night club set informed by classical compositions like Bizet’s “Habanera” and Chopan’s “Nocturne”, peppered by music and dance solos, with no clear wall between the performers and audience, no clear beginning or end, and opened/closed by local DJs.
Uh, the fuck? That’s a lot to take in.
Put mildly, AcousticaElectronica is an ambitious project, aiming to put on a massive club show drawing from all over Boston’s artistic and academic communities, but also to re-contextualize classical music – and classical musicianship and dance – for the modern world.
“I think we’re over the idea of classical music and electronic music, that there’s no dialogue happening, that they’re two separate worlds,” Colin Thurmond, toUch’s artistic director, said. “I think we’re moving to a point where there’s this cross pollination happening, and that’s really exciting to me. I think there’s a feeling that if we work together, we can build something better than any one of us could individually.”
Under the direction of toUch Performance Arts, a local artistic company rooted in collaboration, AcousticaElectronica has been around since last year’s Together Festival, where they played their first show. For the past nine months, they’ve been fine-tuning and tailoring the show for a night club setting, namely the Oberon, on Feb. 10 and 17.
“What we’ve tried to do through the show is create this unique, alternate world where the audience can come in and everyone’s on the same level, so they’re contributing to the art as well,” Director Marissa Roberts said.
This involves dancers going into the crowd, making contact with the audience and directing them to different sections of the floor, to see the action from multiple viewpoints. This idea stems from Roberts’ academic study of viewpoints at Boston Conservatory.
Aiding in that is the aerialist, Emanuel Avellenet, who’ll be rooted to the ceiling by stilts, performing aerial acts right above the audience, further expanding the show’s dimensions.
“If Cirque du Soleil came to a rave and tried to do something with it, that’s what we’re going for,” Thurmond said. “It’ll be like being on stage with Cirque du Soleil.”
Though it promises to be an entertaining, if thoroughly overwhelming, show, at heart it’s also a cerebral exercise in making classical themes more relevant. Other talented people incorporated into this are the composer of the electronic tracks and pianist, Athena Adamopoulos, DJ/percussionist Rich Chwastiak, classical and bluegress violinist Tessa Lark, classically trained mezzo soprano Julia Partyka, choreographer Elizabeth Mcguire, professor of dance Enza dePalma, Donkey Show dancer Kenneth Miller and dancer Stephanie Crousalot, who recently danced on the Jason Segal hosted Saturday Night Live.
“When we look at it, we say we’re classically trained musicians who love to improvise,” Thurmond said. ” We really are an ipod generation. You know I listen to whatever, a Ferry Corsten mix next to an Indian raga mix next to Mahler’s 9th symphony and that’s all part of my reality. There’s no reason why we can’t express that reality.”
The set is fluid block of music, but it’s rooted in eight numbers, each of which draws from a different classical piece. On the list are Bizet’s “Carmen”, Chopan’s “Nocturne”, Beethoven’s ”Ode to Joy”, and Saint-Saen’s “Carnival of the Animals” (which also happens to be the theme for Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas). Four of the tracks are up on the collective’s soundcloud.
After a quick listen, I can safely say the solos will be truly badass. The music geek in me reels thinking about an electronica show with a singer, classical guitarist and bluegrass violinist ripping solos, if for nothing but sheer curiosity.
For those more interested in the nerdy side of things and wish to stay off the dance floor, the Oberon has a raised mezzanine section and V.I.P. tables for the sit-down experience. The artists have tailored the show for a more intellectual appreciation as well, with a loose theme apropos for the electronic community: ecstasy. The eight songs follow a through-line of of the emotion in different forms and situations.
“The ecstasy of being on stage and performing, the ecstasy of doing something so wrong but feels so good, whether that be sex related or drug related, committing a crime,” Roberts said. “In carmen’s bizet, someone does die a stage death. The ecstasy of feeling perfection in yourself, in your accomplishments and seeing that translated throughout each concept.”
Heady stuff. But both Thurmond and Roberts reinforced that the bottom line of this show is a five hour good time.
“It’s about levels and layers for me,” Thurmond said. “There’s multiple levels and layers of appreciation. It’s like peeling back layers of an onion.”
At the show AcousticaElectronica is releasing an EP with four of the numbers on it. A kickstarter drive is going on now is supporting both the performances and EP.