My thoughts and out loud thoughts on composition, performance, and many things musical.

Nouveau Classical Project: Sacred Profane

Nouveau Classical Project: Sacred Profane

A great concert, and why it’s great that they’re great.

Thursday, April 9, 2015, 8PM Flamboyán Theater

I have been a fan of the Nouveau Classical Project from afar for a while now. (Now I live in the same city, so I’m a fan up close.) They are an ensemble that plays wonderful classical and contemporary music (really, they just play good music) and incorporate fashion and beautiful aesthetic approaches to their shows. But I’m going to talk about why it’s great that they’re great, later.

Great Concertsacred profane

The first sacred half of the continuous-no-intermission program was arrangements of Johannes Ockeghem’s “Missa Prolationum –  Kyrie” by Marina Kifferstein, with music by Sarah Kirkland Snider and Nina Young as the composer/arrangers. (They’re rad–check them out, anyhow.)

SO, it was beautiful. Every note had such a lovely, delicate touch, and definitely took this guy to church a little bit. In between movements where some musicians did not play, they walked off stage, slowly, meditatively, with their brown and tan long robes (by Jenny Lai) slowly waving back and forth. The simple choreography of leaving stage, putting your focus on the remaining musicians, as they grew notes from nothing, was somehow just as calming as the music.

The vocalist would cut through the room in such a beautiful way, with such finesse, you forgot that later on you were going to hear music about a sorority rant. It was peaceful, lovely, and the perfect sacred one side of a coin.

After the last movement, almost instantly, that coin was flipped to the profane side. The sacred side had ended with the vocalist grunting, stomping, and rushing her way out to the stage toting a bass drum, and immediately channeling a sassy, pissed off sorority sister. We had abandoned the sacred, contextually-tame side of the world, and like a splash of ice cold water to the face, we were thrown into the profane.

First off, all of the kudos to Vin Calianno for writing “Sororitorio.” It’s a song cycle about the Delta Gamma sorority email rant sent a few years back. Read it here if you haven’t, because it’s f***ing hilarious. The music was beautiful and hilarious and SO captivating.

Secondly, all of the kudos to the musicians and director Sugar Vendil. They played with the expression and detail of the high caliber, technical musicians they are, making every passage soar through the space, all the while making the lovely vocalist singing “cunt punt” so enjoyably palatable.

The ensemble sped the lyrical chaos along with intense pounding of instruments, Stravinksky-like-at-times musical jumps, and smearing of their makeup.

When they all smeared their makeup one couldn’t help but feel this crazy tension that reminded you, “Some girl actually wrote this email to her sorority sisters once!” It was a beautiful, eery, Heath-Ledger-as-Joker-esque element of the performance that made every last detail come alive.

The piece ended with a bang as the “sorority sister” lost her shit and knocked everything down. …It was awesome.

A few words typed here can’t do their performance justice, so you’ll just have to go seem them yourself.

That’s why this group is great, and why the concert was great. They’re not just playing music for you, they’re presenting it to you.

Great ensemble

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 12.56.55 PMThe Nouveau Classical Project plays classical/contemporary music, and combines it with fashion, and choreography, and other visual elements. I’ve heard the argument from folks before that “you have to do what it takes to promote classical music” or “do what do other genres do to make classical music more approachable.” There is truth to that. I’ve made that argument before, too.

But I don’t really think that should be the approach, or at least the only approach. I think the approach just has to be, “We’re going to play good music, and we’re going to present it to you.” Yes, a group like NCP could sit still, in traditional formal concert attire, and execute good music. Instead, they give you that giant painting in the museum you have to step away from because there’s so much going on in it, and that’s why it’s great that they’re great.

They are a sort of self-sustaining collaborative nucleus by the means in which they work with designers, artists, composers, and musicians. The best part is that there’s nothing hokey about what they do. This isn’t an ensemble that merits a parody, portraying collaborative art as pretentious. They present you with a good time, no matter what the programmed emotional entreé is.

The entire concert I probably annoyed the person sitting behind me because I was rocking out in my chair. There’s no reason good music like, for example, Radiohead, can’t elicit the same reactions as any new music like, for example, this concert.

Good music is good music is good music. NCP knows that. They are talented, ambitious, and advocates for art and expression. They are great because they don’t just play music for you, they present it to you.

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