Oct. 24--Sometimes you just have to make a bold assertion and let someone else prove you wrong. And this is one of those instances, so here goes:
There is only one place in the known habitable universe where this weekend you can participate in a country line-dance to Igor Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" dressed as a vampire (or zombie or naughty nurse) in front of a paying audience, next to guy playing the accordion while dressed in Spandex.
And that place is Santa Cruz -- or the Rio Theatre, to be exact, the site of Saturday's pagan extravaganza "Halloweenworld," presented by New Music Works.
The Stravinsky dance, which will feature as dance leader Santa Cruz icon The Great Morgani, is only one of a number of, uh, unusual artistic set-ups at what is surely the most out-of-the-box Halloween party in town.
New Music Works, under the direction of composer Philip Collins, has owned Halloween in recent years with concerts featuring original music to serve as the soundtrack for seminal silent-era movies like F.W. Murnau's "Nosferatu" and Fritz Lang's "Metropolis."
This time out, NMW is going for more a variety show vibe, with the NMW Ensemble perform works by Collins, Charles Ives, John Zorn and others.
"At our other (Halloween) concerts, people were seated for two hours or more in one continuous concert," said Collins. "In this case, people will be participating in the show more and the Rio is so malleable to different types of seatings and arrangements, so we'll be opening up things a bit."
The composer inspired by "Nosferatu" and "Metropolis" will not, however, resist the urge to use film as a medium this time. The Rio's movie screen will be used to show a landmark, if rarely seen, film adaptation of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein," made by none other than Thomas Edison in 1910.
The Edison film, which will be accompanied by a new score composed by Collins, is about 12 minutes long and is the first ever cinematic version of "Frankenstein," and is widely considered cinema's first horror film. For many decades, the film was thought to be lost. Then, it resurfaced in the 1970s. Now, the film can be downloaded for free on the Internet.
"Composing music for a silent film that was created during the most rustic stage of cinematic technology brought up some unusual considerations," said Collins, in a written programming note. He pointed to the contrast of his role as composer to Lang's "Metropolis" where he was compelled to create "larger-than-life soundscapes that corresponded with the epic themes and scale of the film." In Edison's "Frankenstein," the opposite approach was required. "Sometimes a simple atmospheric touch -- an occasional note or chord -- will complement the director's intentions better than ongoing music."
Because of its age, the film's original print is not in good condition, which visually adds to its eerie quality. "It looks like it's been through a war," said Collins, adding that Edison's "Frankenstein" -- which predates D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation" by five years -- features many of the elements that came to represent the vocabulary of film.
"This film has a way of being a prototype of a lot of things," he said. "There's some vaudevillian style comedy, for instance, in it. And that humor really planted some levity is what is otherwise a scary story."
"Frankenstein" isn't the only film being show at the "Halloweenworld" event. The 1916 animation "How a Mosquito Operates" -- a bit more than six minutes long -- will be shown to the accompaniment of a new composition by Katrina Wreede. A short film by the well-known avant-garde filmmaker Man Ray will also be part of the evening.
The evening, billed as "Pagan Fun for the Whole Family" will also consist of a strong visual arts element as Halloween-themed art work from Santa Cruz schoolchildren will be presented, along with interviews with costumed kids from the audience, and a big-screen presentation of Halloween costumes from around the world.
All of this is prelude to the show's ambitious musical vision, with the NMW Ensemble, a string trio -- performing off-stage on the floor of the Rio, but projected onto the big screen -- performs Halloweenie composition such as an excerpt from Collins's own "Metropolis" score titled "Yoshiwara," Christopher Pratorius's "Black Widow Diaries" and John Zorn's "All Hallows' Eve."
Before the audience settles down for the musical show, however, they will be encouraged to participate in both the evening's big costume contest -- audiences are encouraged to come in their best trick-or-treat outfits -- and the Stravinsky line dance to be led by the Great Morgani and long-time Tandy Beal dancer and acrobat Saki. The selection from Stravinsky's great balletic work "Rite of Spring" -- marking its centennial this year -- is called the "Dance of the Adolescents."
"It's one of the most exciting points in the whole piece," said Collins. "It's really the first time the piece gets its feet moving after a slow opening."
He found that the "Adolescents" selection from "Rite of Spring" worked well with a popular country line dance move called the "Electric Slide." As a result, a hand-picked number of audience members will be taught the rudimentary steps of the Electric Slide via an instructional video and then it's on to the performance itself with the NMW Ensemble tackling the Stravinsky piece.
"It's a party," said Collins, who for years conducted a concert series with the Halloween-ish title "Night of the Living Composers."
"This is really kind of our holiday," he said of NMW's habit of producing big shows in the Halloween season. "It's one of the first things my imagination starts working with."
(c)2013 the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.)
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