Recently, Sound ExChange received a grant from the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation to produce its "01X Project," a series of concerts that aim to integrate the audience into the performance through technology and visual art. The group -- an artist collective that formed at the Eastman School -- partnered with RIT photography professor Susan Lakin and computer science professor Joe Geigel, and Katie Verrant, a new media design student at RIT, to really push "01X" into new interdisciplinary spaces. It's also worth noting that "01X" includes a great residency with ROCmusic.
From the start, this project piqued my interest -- plus, Sound ExChange has put together some really innovative, exciting performances in the past. I had high hopes.
Sound ExChange's Saturday night performance at Geva's Nextstage -- part of the launch of the "01X Project" -- simply blew me away.
A string quartet -- violinists Molly Germer and Lili Sarayrah, violist Alexander Pena, and cellist Nadine Sherman -- was joined by percussionist Kurt Fedde, and Matthew Cox adding electronic aspects to music. Layered and evolving, each song in the group's set really stood out as a beautiful work. The performance's first piece, "Roulette," was haunting and dark, while the second song, "Nasty Vitamins," written by Fedde, started out slowly but continued to build and shift -- the result reminded me of a ticking clock and how time seems to just accelerate the older we become.
But it was the third piece, "For Melissa," also written by Fedde, that really put this performance over the top for me. In a brief introduction, Fedde explained he was inspired by the voicemails his friend, Melissa, would leave for him. Though the two were separated by distance, they were still always connected, always able to hear one another's voice in a funny, exaggerated message. As the group launched into the song, voicemails from Melissa and others were played over the music, resulting in this incredibly touching moment. It started to sink in that most of the voicemails we leave for our friends are intensely personal -- sometimes using humor only the other person would understand, or leaving an urgent message to talk about a dramatic problem. As the song progressed, audience members were prompted to hold up their own phones to play their voicemails, ending the piece in a chorus of disjointed voices. The whole display of private moments accented by the emotional, swelling tune was striking.
Before the performance, audience members were handed a sheet instructing them to use their smartphones to visit project01x.com (which is still live and gives details on the members of Sound ExChange), where they could upload voice files of their name and first memory of Rochester, and the first street intersection they crossed on their way to Geva. The information was used during the Matthew Cox-created piece "Interscape" as video projections of hyperlapsed videos taken from Google Maps' street view. Each video showed an individual's journey to Geva, while audio of their Rochester memory played. It was an interesting integration of the audience into the performance -- reminding us that we may come from different places, but are all together in this particular space.
Directed by Emily Wozniak, this performance of "01X" was tight, beautifully performed, and over far too quickly at just 50 minutes.
Though "01X" is over for now, you can still catch Sound ExChange on Wednesday, September 24, and Friday, September 26, at Rochester Contemporary. Both shows are at 7 p.m. and are free.