Just before you find yourself at the little crescent of Butterfly Beach in Montecito, you’ll see the lovely historic Music Academy of the West. The Academy sits on the former estate of John Percival Jefferson, and has an interesting history. At the heart of the estate is Hahn Hall, exquisitely remodeled in 2008 at a cost of 15.5 million dollars. Every seat is a perfect seat.
So one has to wonder what the hell a bunch of guys in jeans were doing in Hahn Hall making music and orange juice at the same time. When I write “guys”, I am using the gender-free Southern California definition, meaning some of the guys were gals. In fact, more gals than you can shake a stick at, as my dad would say. And my dad was there, so he should know. In fact, my mom was there too, and that’s why she’s actually writing this for me. Because I missed one of the best concerts of the year.
The nicest part of the entire adventure was that if you bought your tickets on line last week (before everyone who had been at Colburn’s Zipper Hall for the last wildUp adventure started talking), you didn’t have to wait in line at will call. If you just heard about wildUp this week, sadly you waited in a long-ass line for tickets. Hahn Hall was pretty full, and I don’t think they turned anybody away, and everyone who bought a ticket in advance showed up, so there were none of those unfortunate empty seats staring at the conductor. (er, JuiceMeister as he likes to be called now). Hahn Hall seats 350, and almost every seat was full. Let me tell you how it got that way.
The arriving audience was treated to wine and orange juice as we performed our usual pre-entry milling around. The grounds are lovely, even the restroom is lovely; but wandering guests were drawn back to the patio in front of the Hall as a lonely guitars called into the night. JuiceMeister Christopher Rountree would later comment that he was surprised that everyone stopped to listen. He’d expected the audience to treat it like background music. And we would have, had there been an open guitar case seeded with a handful of change and a fine green fiver. But we were at a concert, so we did what we dutiful audience members do. We watched, we listened.
Eventually, some of us were poked into entering the hall and found musicians interspersed with the audience. So it was a dichotomous experience. Those who remained outside heard a differing introductory piece. The people around me were confused. Some of them were in hush mode, and others were like, “Hey! There’s a horn guy in my seat! Look Mildred, a horn guy!” Of course, there probably were no Mildreds because Mildred is an old people’s name, and the usual 100% antique audience typically found at classical music concerts had been about one-third body-snatched and replaced with twenty and thirty-somethings, including members of the Los Angeles music community, and the UCSB family. I sat next to a lovely woman who had come from Ventura with her daughter. My impression was that they had come to be in the beautiful Hahn Hall for the same reason I had: To pretend for just a few hours that they actually live there. (I might add here that I didn’t attend with my mother, and am terribly ashamed.)
At this point the concert really began, and due to the lack of program notes and a very poor memory, I have no idea what was played, or who played it. And that’s fine, when you realize I know absolutely nothing about music. (Remember that’s my mom)
But here is what I noticed: WildUp is expert at exploiting dynamic tension. And they trust the audience to bring interpretative skill and personal life story to their pieces. The concert was called Pulp, and as the concert drew to a close, Christopher Rountree explained Pulp in terms of a high fiber diet with a little Pulp Fiction thrown in. What you get out of the concert is a direct result of what you put in. And it’s ethereal because our base life story changes. You can’t listen to Pulp for the second time and bring first time experience to the table. It’s already been digested.
That’s the audience point of view, at any rate. At times, I thought I knew where the music was headed because I have experience-based expectations. Sometimes I was very surprised, yet often I was dead-on when I predicted to myself where the music would go. But Wild-Up wants to break even that. To shake us, wake us, hurt us. That’s the Pulp Fiction part — the part where we are reminded again and again that we really need to pour ourselves a pretty orange pair of earplugs from the liter carafe that is being passed around because something very bad is going to happen to our ears before we leave. And we watch, and we wait for blood. Cinéma vérité and splattered OJ. This is the thing we call wildUp.
What wildUp learns from their experience is that an audience may not behave in exactly the way they expect. We’ve been trained. I was horrified when people laughed. I waited for the conductor to put his arms down before I dared clap. I wouldn’t accept that there was an intermission until the words were spoken. Those responses have and will evolve as I hear more and more avant-garde music of this caliber.
In closing, I absolutely have to mention a couple of issues:
- I love harps, and I couldn’t hear the harp much of the time. The audience demanded more harps. At the end of the show, the entire audience stood up, stomped their feet and clapped their hands for a long, long time, obviously protesting that there was just the one harp. The JuiceMeister was force to bow again and again acceding to our wishes. In the future, there will be two harps, his bows avow.
- I think that the program would have benefited from a few more violinists. I say that because I (and by that, my mom means me) am a violinist, and I will work for brownies.
- Finally, I really wish I had program notes because I heard the most amazing cello composition, and I have nothing to Google™.
Orange you glad I didn’t say apple?
I guess you had to be there. I was not.Views: 2926