Immersive Faculty Recital Leaves Viewers Confused But Intrigued

On Saturday February 26th, bassoonist Dana Jessen and electronics engineer Eli Stine showcased their faculty duet at Stull Recital Hall. The performance was a cavalcade of lights and sounds designed to immerse the audience in a visceral journey. 

Rather than featuring multiple works, the performance consisted of a continuous experience lasting forty-five minutes. Using a projector, abstract animations of continuously shifting shapes and colors provided a stunning backdrop for the supernatural, ethereal electronic tones. The electronic beats were interwoven with a mysterious sounding bassoon. Jessen wove her lines in and out of the texture with suspenseful crescendos and diminuendos coupled with staccato blasts of deep bass notes. The experience was reminiscent of walking through a dark, eerie forest late at night. 

As the piece progressed, it shifted from a musical journey into a sonic one, showing the audience how the sounds of everyday life are deeply interconnected with the harmonies of music. For this portion, Jessen stepped back, allowing the multimedia aspect to shine. Sounds of waves, animals, rain, and people conversing were blended seamlessly with the previously established electronic sounds and animations. At this point, the tone of the music changed into a positive, enthusiastic mixture of electronic percussion and irreverent chords. It was as if one emerged from the dark, eerie forest onto a beautiful white-sand beach teeming with life.

In the final sequence, the animation turned into what appeared to be a ball of dark shapes held together by a bright light. The form was like a planet or star, either being destroyed or in the process of being formed. These images were accompanied by an angelic chorus of electronic vocals. Here, Jessen played some unique sounds on the bassoon, breathing deeply and quickly while aggressively gasping for air like a person in deep distress.

There were moments where creative liberties broke the spell of the performance. Jessen segued into the first shift from bassoon to electronics by playing what looked like a bird-calling whistle. She continued to make bird and other animal-type sounds for a couple of minutes. If this was meant to smooth over the shift into the sounds of everyday life, all it really did was to introduce the sounds of dying birds — not sonically pleasing and incredibly sharp to the ear.

Later in the performance, the high-pitched electronic sounds became somewhat annoying. Certain frequencies got to a point where the sound was piercing, which was very unpleasant in contrast with the bassoon.

In spite of this, the performance was exceptionally creative and succeeded in immersing the audience in a unique multimedia experience. The emotional journey was compelling, and it will be exciting to see what this talented faculty duo will create in the future.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s