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Digital Music Ensemble
Shapeshifter Lab
Brooklyn, NY
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Digital Music Ensemble

a premiere of

Digital Music Ensemble is a 20-year-old experimental class at the University of Michigan, conceived from the aesthetics of John Cage, the ONCE Group, Laurie Anderson and Brian Eno.  It could be described as Multi-Media Theatre, and projects tend to focus on the use of experimental electronics, exploiting sensor technology and electronic alteration of traditional instruments or appliances (such as USB phones and televisions triggering video or DSP's).  As such, it was recognized with a "Computerworld" (formerly Smithsonian) Award for Advances in Computer Technology.
It's performance history is wide and varied.  The annual installation, called "Gypsy Pond Music" is in its 13th year of incarnation, using touch/movement sensors, outdoor speakers, outrageous site-specific sculptures (20-foot floating monoliths or burning 5 gallons of kerosene)  all on a enormous pond at the University of Michigan.  The DME has performed as an ensemble in Europe and throughout the United States, presenting both original works, including those by its director, Stephen Rush, as well as music by legendary avant-garde American composers.

The DME has collaborated, performed and recorded with Pauline Oliveros and "Blue" Gene Tyranny, given premieres by composers including John Cage, La Monte Young and Philip Glass, and performed works by Cornelius Cardew, Harry Partch ("Barstow") and Robert Ashley.

The current ensemble will present Robert Ashley's first opera, "Kit Carson" (performed twice already by DME at a barn near Ashley's childhood home).   The work features 8 people, and their companions, "acting as naturally as possible  in front of an audience".  In this version of the piece, the DME utilizes talking and blinking TV's to act as "companions" to the actors, and features a USB-driving telephone to trigger multi-media events.  The actors are participants at a Surreal party, where things get progressively more serene, and then deeply poignant. The work is thoroughly modern, innovative, and completely entertaining  it is pure Robert Ashley.

The second work on the program (both works are about 40 minutes in duration) is a new opera by the director of DME, Stephen Rush. This is his fifth opera, and is deeply influenced by the Fluxus movement and John Cage.  Called "U.S. Grant  a FluxKit Opera", Rush devised a board game, the playing of which determines all the actions, music, staging, and even audience placement for the piece.  The music is all arranged from Civil War era tunes (thus making it extremely "audience-friendly").  However the tunes are set to either "Memoirs" by U.S. Grant or  text  by Gertrude Stein weirdly discussing Grant as a religious leader.  Video projections of Grant's paintings or what Rush humorously calls "Grantecdotes" pepper the stage, while the audience is manipulated by the performers,  re-enacting (somewhat) the staging of principle battles of the Civil War.  The effect is deeply moving often, and sometimes utterly comic and chaotic.



Shapeshifter Lab (View)
18 Whitwell Pl.
Brooklyn, NY 11215
United States

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Music > EDM, Dance, Rave
Music > Experimental
Music > Jazz
Music > Symphony

Non-Smoking: Yes!
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!


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