“Do you realize it took us an hour and a half to break down?”
Joshua Machiz asks this of his fellow Philadelphia musicians Isaac Stanford, Andrew Mars and Rosie Langabeer as they walk down a hallway at South Philly’s Rock School for Dance Education. They’d just packed away the last of their gear – several curious contraptions of spinning metal circuits and intertwining cables home-fashioned by Baltimore experimental artist Neil Feather, along with three prepared speakers the instruments were connected to. These are normal speakers that have been augmented with various objects to alter their sound, making them more resonant, or maybe more percussive.
“A speaker cone vibrates, and when you put things in there, they rattle,” explains Langabeer. “Or if you put a big drum overhead, it changes the tone. So we’ve experimented with different ones, found combinations we like.”
They all have different names, too, like Trampy and Ping Pong. Or Mr. Coffee, which actually has a can sitting and pinging from atop the middle of the speaker.
“This is definitely the skilled labor part of being a musician,” says Langabeer.
“Something like fifty inputs into the board,” adds Stanford. “It’s insane.”
“It’s the blessing and the curse of being the most complicated show any of us have ever worked on,” admits Machiz.
The show in question is called Sunset, o639 Hours, the centerpiece of BalletX’s Fall Series, opening tonight and running through Sunday at the Wilma Theater on Broad Street. It is a collaboration between the contemporary ballet company, choreographer Matthew Neenan, and these four musicians, led by Langabeer; together they interpret the true story of Captain Edwin Musick, a pilot charged with the first trans-Pacific airmail flights in 1938, whose plane tragically exploded mid-air before reaching its final destination in New Zealand. Continue reading →