DENVER- The Nebula Ensemble performed at the Lamont School of Music on Sunday night. The Ensemble featured 16 musicians, performing four acts titled Earth, Air, Wind and Water, drawing on the elements for inspiration.
A smattering of notes filled the auditorium as the lights dimmed and refocused on the three onstage musicians. Julia Emery, a cellist, Samuel Liddel, a bassist, and Kyle Hughes, a percussionist, performed their interpretation of Water through music. The sound was halting and disjointed, but the collection of notes worked to convey their message.
According to the program, this message was to “take as its starting point the concept that the heart rate determines the way in which time is experienced”. Time was indeed experienced, slowly, at the musicians played sequentially.
According to one audience member, Amir Luria, 19, this act was “weird, but enjoyable”. He said that he “didn’t know if he grasped what the musicians were trying to get across, but it was still interesting”.
The next act was the most avant-garde. The spotlight was on percussionist Hughes, who, for what I can only guess was about 15 minutes, played three surfaces.
The intention of this act, entitled “Earth: A Treatise on the Ordinance of Mohs”, was to “expose that which is already present in a new light”. The sound was rhythmic and circular, at times confused, and overall, just that: sound.
Hughes described this act as “elemental, and eclectic”. Eclectic was spot-on, as the music unlike anything I’d ever heard. The sound hybridized a pre-recorded track and what sounded like a rock scratching on a plate.
The unorthodox nature of this act caught my attention, but the talents of Hughes were lost in the music. It was repetitive and long, and though it worked with the theme of the ensemble, it did not work with me.
The third act, Air, was directed by Sarah Perske. A talented young performer, she acted as both the director of this act and the public relations director of the Nebula Ensemble. Young, slight, and nervous, Perske attempted to “Find the Soul of Physical Space” through this performance.
Perske drew her inspiration for the piece by “drawing on music forms she learned in class.” Perske said that she “started composing the piece outdoors, and was inspired by the sounds of the birds, wind, leaves, and people talking”.Perske described her act as “spacious, and colorful”-and so would I. The act incorporated two Kathak dancers into the ensemble, who used “ghungroos”, or bells attached to the dancer’s ankles.
The rhythm was mesmerizing, and the bells worked to accent the talents of the musicians while also providing another element of excitement to the act.
Perske asked for audience engagement in this act. The program requested that the audience “listen with their eyes, and watch with your ears”.
When asked what this meant, Perske explained that she wanted that audience to “watch the dancers with the idea that the sounds they produce are just as important as the movements they make.”
She furthermore said that the intent was to make the audience “watch the musicians to understand what their movements are producing”. Overall, Perske did the best job of blending the music with the dancers.
The Nebula Ensemble tried something new, and for that I laud them. The end product was interesting, weird, fresh, and novel. The next time they perform at the Lamont School of Music, I hope to get a better sense of their musical ambition.