Asphalt Orchestra marches to their own beat at VPAC

Jacqueline Kalisch

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Photo Courtesy: Kat Russell / Multimedia Editor

Unlike most orchestra’s, the New York based Asphalt Orchestra is a collaboration between leaping choreography and visualizing music that engulfs the audience with a personal approach.

Asphalt Orchestra performed fourteen exhilarating songs Thurs. Sept. 13 at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC), with free admission to all CSUN Students. The Orchestra is a 12-piece marching band and their instruments include piccolo, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxaphone, two trumpets, two trombones, sousaphone, snare drum, bass drum and quad toms.

The Orchestra incorporated songs using very dissonant chords,  as well as light hearted melodies. The atmosphere became so eery that the chords made your spine shiver. Whereas the upbeat melodies brought out a little marching spirit in you.

Photo Courtesy: Kat Russell / Multimedia Editor

The act showcased the talents of every member; several executing solos performances. Ken Thomson, who played the alto saxaphone and is also a co-director composed the Introduction song. The Introduction began with dead silence lingering throughout the theater until a light shined and the singing began. Through the pure darkness a small glimpse of light shined from every section as their singing voices grew. An abnormal way to start as a marching band until they all joined together centerstage dropping the vocals to play their instruments with comand.

Playing all instruments with movement changed the vibe instantly. Zomby Woof, composed by Frank Zappa arranged by Peter Hess, is another piece that stood out from the show due to its innovative use of instruments. As soon as the previous song ended silver tin cans fell to the grown from the ceiling. Creating a lingering echo throughout the silence.

The band members steped off stage into the audience acting as though they were confused as to where the noise was coming from. Jas Walton, played the soprano saxophone and  stayed center stage under a solo spotlight. Though the idea of tin cans being used as an instrument is not original, their incorporation into the music gave a different use for it. Tapping to the beat as they circled audience members once again created an elusive atmosphere. Walton played his soprano saxaphone with a peculiar tone as the lighting stayed dark throughout the audience. Until an unexpectedly rude interruption occurred from the trumpet sending it to a humorous tone as the audience laughs.

The interruptions between the members continued throughout the song as the other band members continued to play their instruments as they returned to the stage. It gave most of the members a chance to perform solo as they playfully cut each other off in an unexpectedly. Two Ships, composed by David Byrne and Annie Clark (arr. Ken Thomson), brought a battle between two instruments. Stephanie Richards plays the trumpet solo center left as Nick Jenkin who plays the bass drum, slowly walks in front of Richards as he interrupts her with a bang. They both begin to play as members filled the empty stage.

Photo Courtesy: Kat Russell / Multimedia Editor

The stage presented three chairs as the band members sat down two at a time, just like musical chairs, as they continuously played their upbeat tone in a circle. Teleport 1, composed by Jen Baker, brought an innovative use of stage presence. Baker, who plays the trombone, returns on stage solo with a rope wrapped around her waist. The red lighting heightened the suspense of her rope staying off the ground as it expanded every time she took a step forward.

It was a refreshing use of stage presence for a marching band as they normally would not add such an elaborate use of movement. The hour long performance brought out a unique and unexpected stage direction. It leaves you asking what can they do next? After the applause Thompson asked the audience for even more involvement.  “We’re getting tacos after the show! Join us,” Thompson said.  It was not a surprise to invite the audience as Asphalt Orchestra’s uniqueness is all about involving the viewers in their music.