Theater of Organized Sound draws full house
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Theater of Organized Sound draws full house

by Lauren Viera

"Warning: The Theater of Organized Sound involves the use of the following: strobe lighting, water, sexual content, high amplitude sound and audience participation." These were the only clues given to last night's Fairchild Chapel's audience, a group of 60 or so who blindly followed their instincts after seeing posters for the performance displayed throughout commencement week. Mixing elements of TIMARA, spoken word, live performance and romantic song writing, The Theater of Organized Sound, created by double degree senior Nick Hallett, was no typical Con concert.

While the Theater began almost like a typical musical performance, what with Hallett's Organ Prelude in neo-Bachian style, it was used more as a decoy; the rest of the performance led its audience into the deepest realms of its artist's mind, no matter how odd its content.

Most of Hallett's compositions had that effect: often a paradox unexpected, Lenny's Theme, for example, demonstrated this balance appropriately. While Hallett's voice was strong and confident and at first lounge-like, accompanied appropriately by his piano arrangement, the lyrics were nonsense. "Do de do," he sang, and the audience was in an uproar. Sarcasm and mimicking were what first defined Lenny's Theme, what with Hallett's exaggerated vocals, but shortly later, the schizophrenic side took over, melding the melody into screeches, which finally ceased when the singer banged his head frantically against the piano. It was quite a performance.

Other numbers, though in different mediums, followed the same formula of conversation between the serious and the silly. Cantata was an elongated effort of collaboration with Hallet on vocals, accompanied by both live instrumentation and audiotape. Hallet expressed his voice like a preacher, literally at the pulpit, while conservatory junior Tommy Joyce modestly added his two cents on the organ. This was the supposed "serious" part of the song. Then, Hallet would cue conservatory junior David Haiman to chime in on the mandolin, and the preacher would turn mambo, snapping his fingers and whining incomprehensible words.

The real comic relief came when the audiotape simulated an electronic failure, and Hallett waxed electronic shock to the audience's over 15 minutes long (or at least it seemed like it), was not a great attention-holder.

There were, however, a few crafted exceptions to the mass of lengthy formula pieces in the Theater. Telegraph, for example, demonstrated Hallett's keen sense of the machine aesthetic. He was joined by conservatory senior Monica Bafetti, conservatory senior Callan Barrett and double-degree fifth-year Aaron Travers, eerily illuminated by a wavering strobe light. The sound hardly resembled human voices at first.

The quartet was like a rhythm section, chattering with articulation into faux-digitized versions of their own voices. Gradually, however, the chattering went melodic, blending harmoniously, ringing throughout the dark chapel with sublime acoustics. The odd lighting interplayed with the motion of the song, making for a haunting affect.

Counterpoint with XDR cassette leader was the standard TIMARA inclusion to the Theater. Based on those cute little beeps at the beginning of old cassette recordings, the piece explored different keys of the recording, eventually overlapping them into a collaboration of crystalline clarity in the top registers with deep bass back up.

While Theater was often long and reiterated single ideas too blatantly, Hallett's creativity and guts to do something different made up for the droning confusion of his odder numbers. The works were eclectic and varied, and the crowd was supportive throughout. Backed with the closest thing to a live band for his last number, Darling Nicky, Hallett splattered the audience with a Super Soaker™ and received a standing ovation before the performance was even through. Glowing in his fame and the positive vibe from the audience, he asked, "Would you like to hear another song?" He then went into his encore, Fire, in the typical Hallett style: simultaneously creative and perplexing. Following the performer's request that no applause follow, the Theater of Organized Sound ended quietly.


Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 125, Number 25, May 23, 1997

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