Here is a snippet of conversation I had with my wife earlier in the week.
“Hey, we’ve got review tickets to see the Village Orchestra at The Artesian this Thursday.”
“What are they playing?”
“A fusion of classical and hip-hop.”
Then she expressed her opinion of what such a fusion would sound like.
I won’t tell you what her opinion was (she can do that herself), but she will readily admit that she was wrong. This is probably the greatest gift that the Village Orchestra could have given me; I won an argument with my spouse without even having to voice my opposition. The music was the argument. And it won.
The first half of the concert was the world premiere of Epochs, a suite by composer Jason Cullimore that takes you, if you’re so inclined, through the entirety of Creation, from primordial soup to industrial murk. Cullimore himself provided the minimal context for each movement, at one point getting ahead of himself and mixing up the order of his work. Score one for live music!
Epochs reflects the composer’s enduring interest in biology and music that combines a grand sense of scale with relatively modest instrumentation.* A series of brief movements with titles like “Primordial Forest,” “After the Cataclysm” and “Birds and Mammals” dip the listener in orchestral soundscapes; minor and major chords clash nicely, and throughout the work a beat surfaces and submerges, a kind of insistent tread down evolution’s pathways. Cullimore’s style is modernist but accessible, and so cinematic that it seems drawn directly from visual art (Cullimore takes much of his inspiration from film composers); in pieces like “Hatchlings,” which depicts two young dinosaurs exploring their world and encountering a Tyrranosaurus, pizzicatto passages give way to roaring notes from the brass and double bass. If Epochs needs anything, it’s a multimedia component to accompany its highly suggestive sounds.
The second half of the concert was about as different from a modernist tour of history as you can get. Featuring Hugo Guzman (aka Myth Rhythm) on vocals, along Nat Bowen of the Nancy Ray-guns on drums, the Village Orchestra performed a half-hour suite of hip-hop influenced music. Guzman apologized for his rusty delivery, but the performance sounded like a well-oiled machine to me. At one point he did a five-minute beatboxing session, which pretty much had the audience bouncing in their seats. Which was kind of funny to witness.
I expected the fusion of classical and hip-hop to sound strange or jarring, but I shouldn’t have been surprised that the two go so well together. When not stripped down to beats, hip-hop tends towards the grand and the orchestral. The musical arrangements veered away from classical as well, with blasts of strings and horns that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Coolio track. I especially loved the flute and horn flourishes that suggested gritty ’70s soul on some tracks.
My wife recorded a bit of the concert on her iPhone. Here’s a sample of the beatboxing session that she managed to capture. The sound simply can’t do justice to the live performance, but it’ll give you an idea of what we saw.
Epochs & Mythology plays tonight at The Artesian on 13th Avenue at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are only $10 (I think).
*I’m totally basing this off the snatches of music from his web site.