Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bionic Symphony

Given that Sympho's Bionic Symphony is coming up on June 6 at 8pm in NYC, I wanted to let our readers know what it is and why it's going to be so special. (Click here to buy tickets.)

This concert started in my mind with the idea of alternating electrical current, or more specifically the notion that extreme energy, and ultimately power, can be generated by alternating differing signal types in rapid succession. A quick glance at the program notes shows that this idea – switching back and forth between old (Classical) and new (Neo-Classical) music – is still very much alive.

Then I began to think about the very “Sympho” idea of using that generation of power to create something new and very large-scale, something specifically inspired by human aspirations.

Bionic Symphony is a large-scale work, composed of four “bionic symphonies” (Parts I, II, III, and IV in the program order), connected by interludes. The music in these “bionic symphonies” alternates between Classical (in this case by Mozart and Haydn) and Neoclassical (music that uses Classical forms and conventions as a starting point for the creative process) movements or short pieces.

What is a Symphony? In Reader’s Digest terms, it’s a musical piece of Classical origins, usually but not necessarily in four movements, where those movements were typically in the order fast-slow-dance-fast. (The dance movements could be slow or fast but were usually in triple meter.) The first movement is typically in sonata form, where (after an optional slow introduction) initial material is presented in an “exposition”, then toyed with in the“development”, and finally re-presented in more final terms in the “recapitulation”.

More importantly, and in terms we can all understand, a Symphony is a journey contemplated and then travelled, a problem encountered and then solved. As we progress from the Classical into the Romantic period, especially with composers like Beethoven, Schubert, and Brahms, we start to encounter thematic and other organic links between movements. In some later instances (e.g., Sibelius’s Symphony No. 7), there are no breaks, yielding a Symphony in one movement.

Our “bionic symphonies” are designed to integrate the feeling and sweep of a Symphony: in either two, three, or four movements, they have their own journey to travel or their own problem to solve. Indeed, the evening as a whole, if you look at it carefully, is itself of Symphonic proportions: four movements, each with its own flavor, and designed with a forward momentum from beginning to end.

In the end, though, you'll be able to put all of that in the background, because this evening has been designed to transport you into an exciting, emotional space: a movie-length, nonstop, century-hopping smorgasbord of great music.  I can't wait to share it all with you!

(Again, for tickets, click here.)

Friday, February 10, 2012 review

OK, we at Sympho are pretty happy with this one. The Green Lama was, according to, "a mixed-media sensory experience that was like nothing I’ve seen before and, dare I say it, it even bordered on the spiritual." To check out the full review, please click here.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sold out!

Just got back from the Green Lama concert at the Rubin Museum. Absolutely incredible performance by all, and I've gotta say...I really loved the experience. Creating sound effects and composing music, as well as choosing music by (mostly contemporary) composers and, uh, mashing it all up proved to be great fun. It didn't hurt that we had stellar performers, both musicians (MAYA) and actors (including Linus Roache as the Green Lama and Brian Cox as Willie the Sleeper). Food for thought - it certainly was a new direction for Sympho, and the audience was really receptive to it. Very happy.

Green Lama today!

Today's the big day! Yesterday all the actors came together, Elliott Forrest and I coached them on their roles, and we put it together with the soundtrack. Amazing. Everyone involved in this, from the musicians to the actors to the tech crew, is incredible, and the whole piece is wildly exceeding my expectations. If you're reading this, please help me spread the word. This is a one-time event and seriously not to be missed. If you want to link to the Facebook event page, here's that link.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Too much fun in Green Lama rehearsal?

Well, I'm a big believer in accomplishing a lot in rehearsals, and also in highly-detailed time management. That said, I love it when you hit a rhythm in rehearsal and have a great time. Today was one of those days: MAYA and I rehearsed The Green Lama for four hours this afternoon, and we had a blast. John Hadfield (percussionist) had worked with me earlier to set up our electronics, and today was the rehearsal where we put the "soundtrack" together, playing all the musical snippets and various electronica elements in order, along with a reading of the script from the Green Lama comic book. I'm not sure what it was about this piece - perhaps it's just such a crazy mish-mash of styles, times, and places - but we were, ahem, ROFL the whole time. MAYA plays brilliantly, and it's incredibly rewarding to be able to work with them on such an intimate level.

The actors are WQXR’s Elliott Forrest as narrator, with Law and Order's Linus Roache as the voice of the Green Lama, and Brian Cox—who opens in "Coriolanus" this week opposite Ralph Fiennes—as master crook Willie the Sleeper. Darrell Larson will also be joining us.

Tomorrow we put together the entire Green Lama multimedia project. We'll do a tech run-through with the video projection element (devised by Elliott Forrest), and then the actors will join us for a full-cast rehearsal and then run-through. Should be a great day!

Then Sunday's the big day. Dress rehearsal at 2:30, and the performance at 4pm. Get your tickets here.

Monday, January 23, 2012


In just under a week (Sunday the 29th at 4pm, to be exact), Sympho will be collaborating with the extraordinary MAYA Trio (Sato Moughalian, Bridget Kibbey, and John Hadfield) to create a somewhat composed, somewhat improvised soundtrack to a screening of panels from the 1940's cult comic book "Green Lama". Yes, that's with only one "l". A superhero who spends time in Tibet, amassing mysterious powers during his sojourn...not your typical comic book, but certainly a fun one.

I'll be working with MAYA during rehearsals starting this Wednesday, putting it all together, and then we'll join with a wonderful group of actors (Linus Roache, Brian Cox, Darrell Larson, and WQXR's Elliott Forrest) on Saturday to put it all together. This is a first for me, because I'll be performing on laptop instead of conducting. It'll be a wonderful chance to hear some live chamber music in a crazy mash-up of artistic genres (visual art, music, and theater, to be precise). The "soundtrack" portion will be about 15 minutes, followed by an artist discussion. The remainder of the concert will be a mixture of chamber music and electronica, primarily composed of source material for the soundtrack in extended form.

Should be a good one, and I'll hope to see you there! Details here.