Monday, January 12, 2015

The Perfect Blackout

My love for mashups and indeterminate pieces has a lot to do with the satisfaction of finding unexpectedly meaningful connections that arise from unplanned intersections. Yesterday, I had a new kind of experience in which multimedia elements came together in remarkably logical fashion. I was accompanying several young cellists at my son's teacher's studio recital, held in the living room of an elegant Harvard Sq. home. One of the pieces I accompanied was the Squire Tarantella, which I hadn't thought much about since I learned (and loved!) it back in my cello days. As part of the Suzuki repertoire, it's a widely played piece, although I have to admit I don't know anything else by Mr. Squire, an important English performer and pedagogue. I was surprised to be handed, for accompanying purposes, an entire book of Squire's pieces for cello, but for now I only know this highly entertaining little solo.

It begins with a dramatic 8-bar intro featuring varieties of octaves: 5 ff sets of A's, followed by a twisting harmonic minor figure and a menacing rising bass line that leads into the cello tune. Just as I started in with those accented A's, the lights went off. (I'd like to think my stunning sense of style startled someone into a switch, but in retrospect, it looks like the lights started off just before I did.) Fortunately, it's a pretty easy bit of music to remember since it's all in octaves, but I can recall wondering if I should stop. I was vaguely aware of people springing into quiet action, but I knew the cellist was using music and it didn't seem fair to have him start in the dark. Honestly, it felt like 10 seconds or so of processing all of this, but the lights did come on in time for the cello to make a particularly dramatic entrance.

As it happened, Son of MMmusing had been the previous performer, so I still had the camcorder running on a tripod, which means I have a document of this whole thing. It was quite a surprise to watch it today and realize how beautifully the "lighting design" synced up with the music. The lights fade to nothing during those octave A's, it stays dark during the twisting, searching 8th notes, and the lights come back up as the bass line ascends, just in time to light the way for the star. (The switch was turned on less than 5 seconds after it had been turned off.) It really does look like it could've been planned this way - especially with that one lonely outdoor light framed through the window. I wish I could've enjoyed it more in the moment!

[I've anonymized the cellist here and faded out at the end, but I promise no other FX were applied. Technically, if I'd been the lighting designer, I would've brought the lights up a bit more slowly. This looks like a rush job.]

1 comment:

Ab said...

This was hilarious and amazing. Thanks for sharing! As a former Suzuki student and current teacher I definitely identify!!

P.S. Loved the "Make it So" post too. :)