Consider this: What do you get if you cross OK Computer-era Radiohead with a kind of excursion into the mind's inner darkness where things exist that can never be articulated? That is, a journey to the center (and back) of the mind of a stroke victim?
Here's one explanation: a program called Headcase and Radiohead, presented Saturday, June 23, at Orchestra Hall as part of the 8 Days in June fest.
It opens with Brett Dietz's Headcase, a multimedia composition done in the first person that traverses the deep, dark recesses of a stroke sufferer and the slow climb out to a sense of normalcy. Dietz, a composer, percussionist and educator, should know. His stroke left him unable to speak, and it was the power of music that pulled him out.
The piece bestows a certain understanding a certain persuasive feeling through musical (accompanied by visual) documentation.
Dietz's composition, which is conducted by Robert Moody and boasts DSO members and baritone Timothy Jones, mixes in Dietz's prerecorded audio tracks, which are, as might be imagined, unsettling and disjointed often horrific "soundtrack" pieces. Horns, pianos, strings, percussion and voices colored with vague and distant institutional speak, odd chants and non sequiturs (including simple, self-questioning thoughts involving the alphabet, anxiety and God) all rise to create a kind of fractured and hallucinatory opera. Imagine a mash-up of Carl Stalling's early Warner Brothers cartoon soundtracks and Polanski's Repulsion, or something like that. Many of the words used are from Dietz's journal entries, ones he kept during his rehab. MRI images of his brain will screen above the stage.
This is rounded out by Radiohead's "No Surprises," the lovely lullaby of withdrawal and estrangement as a reinterpreted instrumental by pianist Christopher O'Riley. It'll lend an eerie if not challenging glow to Dietz's show. O'Riley's moves much like Radiohead's original, as a tender flight of tentative resignation, of sadness. His piano melodies are hypnotic like organized chimes. But it feels slightly sped-up too, though it isn't it's tension, like a heartbeat verging on rushes. It's a single pop piece that's equal parts languid beauty and tense refrain. In little more than three minutes, we think of stillness and calm, we think of inner conflict and confusion. It's frighteningly beautiful stuff.
Dietz will be part of the performance and will answer audience questions afterward. Brian Smith
More days to think about: The DSO's 8 Days in June fest is nothing if not ambitious. It opens Thursday, June 21, with a multimedia performance that tries to recontextualize the controversy that greeted Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 and the riot the broke out at Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. The documentary film Beethoven's Hair is billed Sunday, June 24, along with a panel discussion, a couple of sonatas and "a famous lock of Beethoven's hair." There's a full schedule at detroitsymphony.org. Here are two more shows worthy of note.
Friday 22: Congo Square
Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis & Yacub Addy and Odadaa!
The Washington Post review of Marsalis' Congo Square hailed it as "likely to become a summer festival season favorite ... a festival unto itself." Congo Square in slave-era New Orleans was where Africans publicly displayed traditional singing, drumming and dancing that were suppressed elsewhere in the States. Marsalis' square is also a space for acting out musical and social connections to post-Katrina America. The program pairs the 18-member Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra with septuagenarian Ghanaian drummer Yacub Addy's nine-member percussion group, Odadaa! In Orchestra Hall at 8 p.m., followed at 10:45 in the Music Box by a Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival presentation of Zemlinsky, Johansen, Ravel and Shostakovich.
Wednesday 27: A Soldier's Tale with Text by Kurt Vonnegut
Detroit Symphony Orchestra plus guests
Kurt Vonnegut used to say that creating a new libretto for Stravinsky's A Soldier's Tale wasn't just about giving it contemporary relevance (with the true story of war-weary Detroiter Eddie Slovik who was executed as a deserter during World War II). Beyond that, Vonnegut thought the folk-tale-based standard text was "a piece of crap," as out of touch with its own time (World War I) as when Vonnegut wrote his (in the 1990s). Actors from this presentation include F. Murray Abraham (of Amadeus fame). It's conducted by the DSO's Peter Oundjian. The actors will stay on for a post-concert discussion. At 8 p.m. at Orchestra Hall. W. Kim Heron