Thursday, November 08, 2007

Multimedia concept marks final Ebb & Flow concert

Multimedia concept marks final Ebb & Flow concert
By LIZ JANES-BROWN, Staff Writer


Ebb & Flow Arts pulled out all its multimedia stops for the final concert of the North South East West Festival.

Held Friday evening at the Seabury Hall Performance Studio, the program consisted of two major original works: Emile Richards’ “The Eyes Hear, the Ears See” and Tony Walholm’s “Thief of Fire.” Richards, a noted percussionist who has performed all over the world with musicians from Igor Stravinsky to Frank Zappa, played vibraphone, heading up a musical ensemble consisting of John Zangrando on woodwinds, Bob Harrison on bass, Paul Marchetti on percussion and Ebb & Flow founder Robert Pollock on piano.

The other half of the equation was Maui artist Piero Resta. During the first three movements, Resta’s work on a large three-panel canvas was not visible to the musicians. The concept calls for the artist to be influenced by the music as the painting emerges. During the final movement, “Seeing with the Ears,” the canvas was revealed and the musicians responded to the painting while Resta continued to add to the image in a kind of visual/auditory jam.

Just as the musicians had structure in Richards’ composition (the first three parts were “Melody,” “Rhythm” and “Harmony”), Resta began with a plan for his painting. The colors and textures emerged as the work continued. The textures of the music were transformed by the imaginations of the players as they were inspired by each other and Resta’s colorful, swirling visual images.

Especially when executed by such consummate artists, the work resulted in a sensory experience that transcended music and art and became something else, something richer and more involving in the process of creation itself.

In his exploration of the parallels between the demigods Maui and Prometheus, Walholm made use of music, dance, chant, video footage, lighting, literature, narration and aerial work. The Ebb & Flow Ensemble, consisting of Walholm, Pollock, Zangrando, Harrison, Marchetti and dancer Lisa Gagnon, was joined by a group of performers who illustrated the story.

The primary color throughout was the red of fire. In the program notes, Walholm noted “fire is both creative as well as destructive. . . . As light is it the external light of flame and the inner light of the psyche and spirit.”

The blowing of the conch, the ethereal melody of the nose flute and the rhythmic slap of the ipu spoke of Maui as cosmic visions swirled in the background on a video screen.

Caleb Rhodes as Prometheus writhing on an aerial swing was particularly effective as the suffering deity, chained to a rock in the Caucasus. Rhodes’ performances created a graphic reminder of the fate of the fire-bringer, whose liver was daily torn from his body by an eagle only to grow back, creating eternal torment.

Walholm ’s comparison of the two deities showed Maui as “embodying both intellect and compassion, not in contention with the gods nor with nature but a participant with them in his role as champion of humanity’s struggle for success,” while Prometheus represents “humanity enslaved by technology and arrogance.”

Although the concept is a fascinating one, the vision needs more clarification in the performance. Combining many art forms, from modern technology to ancient chant, is exciting but can also be confusing.

That said, “Thief of Fire” was an intriguing and brave experiment providing images, sounds and ideas that resonated long after the performance was over.

Ebb & Flow Arts tried something new this year. Instead of mounting two weeks of intensive performances, the group spread the festival out over several months with events on Maui and on Oahu. It was a good idea. Performances were well-attended and audiences had the opportunity to enjoy and digest each one.

Pollock and Ebb & Flow Arts are to be commended for their vision, their willingness to experiment, their commitment to new music and their intellectual curiosity. Every Ebb & Flow concert gives the audience something brand new, something to think about and another reason to be grateful for the rich diversity in the Maui community.


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