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'Changing Tides II' Has Musicians Respond To Climate Change

Technical rehearsal for "Changing Tides II — A Telematic Translocational Concert" at the Conrad Presby Experimental Theatre at UC San Diego.
Michael Dessen
Technical rehearsal for "Changing Tides II — A Telematic Translocational Concert" at the Conrad Presby Experimental Theatre at UC San Diego.

Find out what a 'Telematic Translocational Concert' is

Changing Tide II, A Telematic Translocational Concert

Changing Tides II


Stephanie Richards

Mark Dresser

Wilfrido Terrazas

Michael Dessen

Joshua White


Yoon Jeong Heo

Jean Oh

Aram Lee

Min Wang Hwang

Bae Il Dong

Jungpyo Lee

Director in Korea: Jungung Yang

Directors in San Diego: Mark Dresser, Michael Dessen

Event produced in collaboration with Seoul Institute of the Arts and CultureHub NY

UC San Diego is hosting "Changing Tides II — A Telematic Translocational Concert."

Last week I attended a rehearsal at UC San Diego’s Experimental Theatre for a "Telematic Translocational Concert" because I had no idea what that was. But UC Irvine professor Michael Dessen was happy to explain the collaboration.


"We came together to do what we call a 'telematic project,' meaning that there are musicians in different geographic locations performing together in real-time, making a concert together, sort of like a composite ensemble, but located on different continents," Dessen said.

Dessen and UC San Diego professor Mark Dresser have re-teamed to create "Changing Tides II." The first concert was in 2016 in partnership with South Korea’s Seoul Institute of the Arts. The purpose was to get musicians to respond to the idea of climate crisis, of tides and shifting climate patterns.

'Changing Tides II' Has Musicians Respond To Climate Change
Listen to this story by Beth Accomando.

"We are, as instrumental musicians predominantly, we don't often engage directly with political sentiments and it's not that we don't feel them, but instrumental music outside of having a title usually is more abstract," Dresser said. "And there's some issues going on, climate change affecting us all, that you can't ignore it."

Dresser and Dessen are also musicians creating compositions for the concert and playing instruments. Dresser plays bass and Dessen the trombone. They were eager to mix traditions of the Korean musicians with their own jazz and improvisational backgrounds. The concert also includes a Korean pansori singer. That sense of collaboration across culture, language, continents and even time is key.

"That's actually, for me, a powerful part of this work," Dessen said. "Because I think that a lot of the speaking of climate crisis, a lot of the crises that we face, we need to figure out how to collaborate better across not just cultures and languages, but space and times. So it's an exciting kind of capacity building project even beyond the artistic content."

Mark Dresser on bass at a rehearsal for "Changing Tides II — A Telematic Translocational Concert" being held at UC San Diego.
Michael Dessen
Mark Dresser on bass at a rehearsal for "Changing Tides II — A Telematic Translocational Concert" being held at UC San Diego.

For the concert, the audience in San Diego will see images of the Korean musicians streaming live.

"You're going to see a visual design of the stage space," Dessen said. "It's really unique and was designed originally for this concert. We're going to be displaying each of the musicians in Korea on different screens, sort of hanging, floating in space a little bit, sort of interwoven with. So you'll see a whole bunch of people performing together and half of them will be live in front of you and the other half will be live from Korea."

As you might expect there are a lot of challenges to staging a concert like this.

"You want a list, you want a spreadsheet?" Dessen said.

The night I was at the rehearsal there was supposed to be both video and audio streaming between the San Diego and Seoul sites, but it wasn't working. So a lot of time that could have been spent working on the musicians improvising and getting to work with each other was lost as computers had to be rebooted and messages were exchanged across various apps.

"The challenges are just expanded versions of the same things that probably most people have with technology. Right?" Dessen said. "They're just more complicated when you're dealing with a dozen computers and projectors and lots of hardware and software and a lot of complicated high-end tools for networking audio and video. So there's endless potential for things to go wrong."

But technical problems were fixed or worked around and musicians on two continents got to rehearse their original compositions that also allowed for considerable improvisation on such ideas as "Sounds of the Universe."

But technology wasn't the only challenge.

"The other challenge for me is really trying to figure out how to get our head out of that," Dessen said. "And remember that we're making art. One of the biggest challenges is that kind of mental switching from spending three hours trying to troubleshoot cable and projector problems and then suddenly I have to pick up my instrument and play music and connect with these amazing musicians in Korea and really make something happen."

But when it all comes together the results can be amazing.

"Changing Tides II - A Telematic Translocational Concert" takes place at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 13, at the Conrad Prebys Music Center Experimental Theater on the UC San Diego campus.

UC San Diego is hosting Changing Tides II - A Telematic Translocational Concert in which musicians respond to issues of climate change. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando speaks with UC Irvine professor and musician Michael Dessen to explain what audiences can expect from this free multimedia event Feb. 13 at 7:30pm at the Conrad Presby Experimental Theater.