AQurld Waves: St. Louis' First Underwater Multimedia Concert

van-mcelwee-art.jpg
Courtesy of Hearding Cats Collective
Artwork by Van McElwee
When did you begin rehearsing for the performance, and what obstacles arose throughout the creative process?

In the symphony, when you're interpreting music, you're rehearsing. The idea of what we do is free improvisation in which you respond to the environment around you. It's present time music. We don't rehearse, but we each spend many hours crafting sounds we can use. I've been in pools 4-5 times experimenting with and rejecting things. When we create the event, the audio and video reacting is all improvised. There are all kinds of improvisation from classical East Indian ragas to jazz. Some are based on structures that are understood, but in free improvisation, we don't have that. We form the structure as it goes. Form becomes a verb, not a noun for us. People have to be very creative and very knowledgeable about structure and sound and how it goes together. When it's with the right people, it works beautifully.

The biggest obstacle we encountered was feedback. Sound travels five times faster than it does in the air. We have hydraphones picking up the sound and broadcasting it back into the water. I was surprised at how readily feedback occurs, like a loud squeal on the stage at a concert. The microphone and speaker loop is quite annoying, and in the water, it's magnified many times. I had to find ways of getting around that and creating an air buffer.

Positioning ourselves in the pool area was always open to experimentation. We had to listen carefully to underwater ranges and program best to how underwater speakers respond. Every step of the way was forging something new. Especially in my case, I failed a lot, but I believe in failure. That's how you progress -- try something and say "I'm not going to do that." If you're not failing, you're not trying. I always encourage my students to not be afraid of failure. It's not devastating, it's growth.

What other sorts of inspired performances can we all look forward to from the Hearding Cats Collective?

This one is the big one. There's nothing in September, but on October 22, we're bringing a group from New York of some of our favorite improvising musicians: Konk Pack. In November, we're bringing in some of our favorite composers in music including Morton Subotnick, a master of analog and digital synthesis who will display a lot of the more sophisticated techniques used in electronic music over decades. I encourage anyone who's interested to keep abreast of what the we're bringing in and to look up these artists. It's an exciting ride.

Hearding Cats Collective presents: AQurld Waves
Saturday, August 31, 8 p.m.
@ Webster University Pool - free

Note: With a capacity for no more than 150 in and out of the pool, plan on arriving early to ensure a spot. Admission is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

Follow HEARding Cats Collective via its official website and Facebook.

Follow RFT Music on Twitter or Facebook. Follow RFT Music editor Daniel Hill on Twitter too, if you are into that sort of thing.

Location Info

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Webster University Student Center

175 Edgar, Saint Louis, MO

Category: General

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