It”s the modern opera, multi-media, dystopian drama premiere of “vidGod.” It”s a great collaborative work between staff and students of the music, art and engineering schools. It”s conceptual designit”s something I can”t name with a noun because it”s so neat and new.
“vidGod” is a new operatic work with staging and book by Art Professor Michael Rodemer and music by Music Professor Stephen Rush, that will premier in the Video Studio at the Media Union this weekend.
At a musical rehearsal and warm up Monday night, a red-haired dancer moved around the set counting to herself: She wore a robe and slippers. The ovular, black room filled with deep red and blue lights. A screen at the room”s center displayed a large city image that served as the backdrop of the set. In front of the screen lay a sparse landscape of wheel chairs, milk cartons, lifting crates and bags strewn about that constituted the playing area. Behind the screen a table of electronic equipment projected images onto the screen. Computerized figures danced across the bottom of the screen, while icons of hand tools and one large triangle with an eye at the center occupied the top. In front of the set and screen sat a row of chairs, behind the chairs along the back wall technicians occupied a control station, with computers and hardware as they worked with the images on screen. To their left, curving around the back wall sat the band.
The ten (or 11) piece band included lots of boys who played synthesizers, samplers, turntables, keyboard, amplified trashcans, hubcaps, break drums, electric guitars and a cello. On time and in tune they started to play at conductor Stephen Rush”s ready. The sounds were beautiful.
In the first piece, noise stretched out and climbed above a modulating tempo. The second piece got lighter, an organ sound played with a bass beat, and other noises entered in. The third piece danced like frantic objects in a pocket: buzzing dental tools wind-chimes a hollow tube a whistling boat a saw cow bells. The last song was a rhythm beat out of hubcaps, trashcans and break drums, “like street people do sometimes when they”re beating on things at hand,” Rodemer said.
Rodemer also pointed out five surveillance cameras that taped images of the room and set space, which were displayed on four TV monitors mounted next to the screen.
“We”re using these to give a first hand impression of video surveillance but also to give the audience different views of the performers on stage. This way you”ll be able to see the singers from the side as well as the back and front,” Rodemer said.
As the actors appeared on the set, costumed in long dirty coats and scarves, the mood of a dystopian story took shape. Following Rodemer”s libretto, the scene conjures up a future in a not-so-distant situation. Street people populate a city that employs video surveillance cameras to keep an eye on its citizens within this world the people become desperate and hungry for meaning. From among the street characters, a charismatic man called CharisNut organizes a cult around the surveillance cameras, which have taken the place of conscience. This takeover then makes the return to child-like subservience and opportunism possible.
“The play isn”t just about the omnipresence of technology, it”s also about the way civil liberties are violated,” Rodemer said. “If God is dead, who is watching us to make sure that we”re good?”
A group of engineering students helped build the scenery on 3D Studio Mix, adding in textures, light, shadow and reflection through took a long time to complete. Anton Francesco, a recent graduate from the dance department, used the program Life Forms to create the moving dance figures on the screen.