The Nouveau Classical Project (check their blog and Facebook page, too) has the ironic, tongue-in-cheek slogan, “Classical Music is Dead.” You can even buy a t-shirt (I don’t see how to directly link to the t-shrt page; click on “Media” then “Stuff”).
Here’s their self-description:
The Nouveau Classical Project (NCP) is a group that reimagines the classical music concert, creating a place where fashion and music converge. In a time where audiences tastes have grown more diverse, we offer a fresh and exciting way to experience art music that will satisfy cultural omnivores.
We provide a platform for emerging composers, fashion designers, musicians, and artists to showcase their talents to the creative and curious listeners of New York City. We achieve this with our concert series and events, where we create opportunities for contemporary composers to have original work presented. At NCP we also do not take the visual element for granted: fashion, informed by a modern perspective, matches the music. Musicians garments (our ensembles ensemble) are styled by fashion designers, who base their inspiration on the music we program.
Our events take place throughout New York City (until we conquer the universe). Other activities include fashion shows/presentations and events, operas, art exhibitions, and more.
Since most concert dress is so dull, combining classical music with fashion is a fascinating idea, especially to someone embracing the reinvent-classical-music zeitgeist. Men in particular, whether traditionalists or progressives, seem to go with uniforms that require no advance planning. Those of us who’ve put our white ties and tails, or black-tie tuxes, in the back of the closet (or sold them on Craig’s List) usually appear in the new default setting: black shirts and pants (black jeans if we are young and/or slender enough to pull them off).
So with the reimagining-the-classical-concert idea, and the music-and-fashion element, I was excited to attend their February 13 performance at [le] poisson rouge, and almost got a friend in a very successful new-music group to come along. He thought it sounded exciting, too, but was too zonked from rehearsing to make it. It was at LPR, after all, where everything is cool, and where he hadn’t been for quite a while.
The program itself turned out to be a fairly traditional classical-music concert. It was the fashion/costumes–far indeed from the same old boring stuff–and presenting it in a bar (the LPR Gallery Bar [bottom two photos in that link], not the main space), that made it unusual.
The first half (or maybe first third) had at least a touch of the shuffle energy I wrote about in my last post: the first movement of the Górecki Second String Quartet was followed by three unrelated (except by programming concept) songs. “Peneolpe to Odysseus,” by the young composer Tervor Gureckis was followed by Wolf’s “Verborgenheit” and Schubert’s “Gretchen am Spinnrade.” The Gorecki was played with very effective, contemplative and understated energy by violinists Josh Henderson and Patti Kilroy, violist Meena Bhasin, and cellist Mariel Roberts. Amanda Hick, the soprano, is a wonderful singer who was effectively accompanied by pianist Walter Aparicio.
An MC read explanations of how the interpretations of the music had influenced the fashion designs. I’m not into fashion, I don’t know fashion. My fashion opinions, if I had any, would be uninformed and irrelevant. That said, I really didn’t get the fashion at this show; much seemed like somewhat silly costumes. And some of the performers seemed uncomfortable in them as they walked past me at the bar (as I explain below, many of us couldn’t see the actual performance), or I projected that. But I’m a middle-aged guy from Indiana who owns way too many clothes bought at Wal-Mart. Musicians in all black with a small parasol on their head, or melting clocks (cool) draped on them, or an array of gold bulbs (which looked like a bunch of Christmas tree ornaments to me) fixed about them might be really stimulating to others, and I just have a blind spot. It certainly wasn’t boring.
The great thing is that these people have an idea, are committed to it, and are experimenting.
And Mariel Roberts is an awesome cellist who will have a big career, I’m sure. She did a stunningly good performance of the Britten Cello Suite No. 3 which was worth the trip and the $20 cover charge. She then played the notoriously difficult opening artificial-harmonics passage of the Shostakovich Piano Trio as accurately and assuredly as I’ve heard anyone do it. (The rest of the performance could have used another rehearsal or two.)
So kudos to the Nouveau Classical Project for their adventuresome spirit, imagination, and risk-taking. I’m looking forward to seeing how they develop and if they do indeed take “conquer the universe.”
I’d love to experience another of their performances, especially in a different space. The LPR Gallery Bar, where this event took place, is spiffy but narrow, with no raised platform for the performers. I’d taken a seat at the bar, where I thought I’d have a great view, but there were so many people standing that I could only get the tiniest of glimpses as I craned my head this way and that. The videographer, ironically, was blocking the view of a number of us. Posterity may see what many of the live people didn’t.
It’s also a pretty dead space, acoustically. It would have been a less-than-optimal listening environment even with a silent sonic background. There was a very loud group in the adjoining main space, so the thump-thump-thumps of the bass and drums seeped in, despite what is supposed to be soundproofing between the rooms. (Someone–I think Justin Kantor, one of the LPR founders, but I’m not sure–from the club kept checking doors to make sure they were shut.)
Anyway, universe, beware. The Nouveau Classical Project is out to get you. Before you know it, they’ll take over the main space at LPR and then nothing will stop them. Classical music is dead! Ha!