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'Changing Tides II' Has Musicians Respond To Climate Change

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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.

Speaker 1: 00:00 UC San Diego is hosting changing tides to a telematic, trans locational concert in which musicians respond to issues of climate change. KPBS aren't reporter Beth OCHA, Mondo speaks with UC Irvine professor and musician Michael decen to explain what audiences can expect from this free multimedia event tonight. Explain to me what changing tides is and this is going to be the second iteration. So what is this all about?

Speaker 2: 00:27 So the first, uh, changing tides in 2016 was a collaborative project with several different sites, but one of the main ones was this site in Korea. They were working with, uh, artists in Seoul and at the soul Institute of the arts. And 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. And the concert four years ago, just like this one, was named changing tides because we wanted composers to respond to the idea of the climate crisis, to the idea of, of tides and shifting climate patterns. So we're featuring new work by a series of composers, again in this case, six different compositions by six different composers that all are individual composers' responses to that idea. And there's also a director in Korea that developed a really elaborate visual concept, which we're trying to emulate here as well at our site in response to that idea. So it's a lot of different artistic responses to the idea of climate crisis and both through the music composition and through the visual composition of the event.

Speaker 1: 01:42 So how would you describe this for someone in the sense of what can they expect when they come here to watch?

Speaker 2: 01:49 Right. That's a good question. So what you're going to see is a musical performance. Just like any other concert you've been to, except there will be people in Korea as well as people right in front of you performing together. So that's on a musical level, that's, that's an unusual thing. And the quality of sound is very good that we're working with these really high level tools so that we can really hear each other well. In addition, you're gonna see a visual design of the stage space. It's really unique and it was designed originally for this concert where we're going to be displaying each of the musicians in Korea in different screams, sort of hanging, floating in space a little bit, sort of interwoven with us. 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. But the idea is that the projection design, the senior design will sort of blend everybody together in a way so that they're all part of the same ensemble. And there's also a whole nother layer of visual content floating above the musicians and also some on the side coming from visual artists in Korea. So it's a, there's a lot to look at and a lot to listen.

Speaker 3: 03:02 And what about this collaboration excites you as both a professor and as a a musician yourself?

Speaker 2: 03:08 A lot of things musically, I would say I really love the musical traditions that these Korean musicians are coming from. And there's a really interesting connection with the jazz and improvised music traditions that were coming from one of the musicians, for example here that will be featured on the concert in Korea is a pun, sorry, singer who is PON story is kind of like it will, it's a sham monic tradition in Korea. So, but we think of it as having a lot of parallels to kind of blues

Speaker 3: 03:35 and very emotionally expressive music,

Speaker 2: 03:40 a lot of interesting musical connections. And so we're trying to write for that. So composing for this kind of intercultural collaborative music making is very interesting. The other part of this work that really actually weirdly excites me is that when we're collaborating with people across culture, across language, across time zones, you know, it's tomorrow they're, um, they're literally in the future. It's a really interesting skillset that we're, we're learning and developing all the time. Each. Each time we do one of these things, we sort of go for bigger things and it, the planning gets more complicated, the logistics, but it's always really fascinating to figure out how we can pull off a big complicated artistic and technological event together with people who are on the other side of the world working in real time. So that that skill set of learning how to do that and speak across all those differences and collaborate, use things like shared docs and all of these tools over a year or more of planning. That's actually for me a powerful part of this word because I think that a lot of the, speaking of climate crisis, you know 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 time zones. So it's an exciting kind of capacity building project even beyond the artistic content, which is exciting also.

Speaker 3: 05:03 And we are here on a rehearsal of the performance. So what kind of challenges are you facing at this point? Whereas

Speaker 2: 05:11 you want to list, do you want a spreadsheet of Joe? It is endless challenges. It's so hard to get everything working right now we're, we're, I would say we're about three quarters of the way to getting everything kind of working. Uh, we've been planning for months and you know, the challenges are just expanded versions of the same things that probably most people have with technology, right? They're just more complicated when you're dealing with a dozen computers and projectors and you know, lots of hardware and software and a lot of complicated, uh, high end tools for networking, audio and video. So there's endless potential for things to go wrong. But the other challenge is really trying to figure out how to get our head out of that and remember that we're making art, that we're trying to figure out how it feels where it's not just a matter of getting it all to look good and sharp images.

Speaker 2: 05:59 But then when that happens, you have to be able to deliver with, with what you're doing artistically. And sometimes it's hard. For me, one of the biggest challenges is that kind of mental switching and 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. So it's that kind of a Headspace shifting challenges is often intense, but that's again, a capacity we're really working on. And did you compose one of the pieces? I did and yeah. And Mark also composed a piece, my co-director, definitely Richards, who's a professor here at San Diego. We're also feature featuring with Frito [inaudible], who's a flute, a professor here in the department and Joshua White, who's a fantastic pianist in town that we've collaborated a lot with for many years.

Speaker 2: 06:51 How would you describe the piece that you've created for this? Well, it goes through a bunch of different spaces and it has it, I gave everybody a chance to improvise a little bit. So there's solos and duos with all the different musicians that are featured at one point. And I sort of set it up so that at any given moment someone is improvising. There's a kind of a wavy line that goes through the score, uh, that shows who's improvising any moment. And then I compose textures to sort of have people interact with. And at the end there's a very dense space featuring the singer I mentioned in Korea with a lot of layers and sort of to generate a big energy at the end. So each piece is different and that the visual team in Korea has also prepared a lot of really complicated and beautiful imagery that they're mapping onto our pieces. So there it's also been a collaborative project in that sense. We gave them scores and ideas about our music. They came up with visual designs to sort of tag on to different parts of the pieces in response to what they felt coming from the pieces. So it's been evolving over the past few months. All right, well I wanna thank you very much for talking about changing tides too. Thank you, Beth.

Speaker 1: 07:59 Changing tide to a telematic translocation locational concert takes place tonight at 7:30 PM at the Conrad previs music center, experimental theater on the UC San Diego campus.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.