Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hemming and Hawing

I was all set with an idea of what I wanted to post about today (thrilling revelations, I assure you)… until I came across these videos today from one of my favorite composers on the scene at the moment, Ryan Scott Oliver. I already had him on the brain after receiving an awesome Christmas gift of tickets to Rated RSO at Joes Pub in January, but recently uploaded, incredible videos, teasers for 35 MM, also feel like an unexpected present.

According to the information in these videos, "35MM is a multimedia 'musical exhibition' in which photographic images inspire music and lyrics, and inversely music and lyrics inspire photographs." The photographic inspiration comes from Matthew Murphy, and the songs that result from the collaboration of text/performance/image is absolutely stunning and uniquely twisted and gorgeous in a way that I only seem to find in RSO's work.

This song in particular really struck a chord with me, with its dark, haunting, but gleeful energy that is reminiscent of an Edward Gorey cartoon:

I've heard a few RSO songs that are meant to be stand-alone, but an aspect of his work that I've always been in awe of is the fact that his music is always so theatrical. I don't mean this in a way that implies that his songs are flamboyant or epic, but that they always move a story forward, seamlessly combining emotion and musicality with the practicality and enthusiasm of storytelling. I feel like his work is incredibly generous to book and back story, a truth that is evident in his contributions to musical web series "The Battery's Down" in the way that it defined Jake Wilson's character's story arc in two songs book ending the three seasons of the series, perhaps more than any of the plot twists in any of the episodes. There's poignancy and matter-of-fact wicked humor that runs through any of the works in his song book that implies strong characters and a whole world unto itself, a reason why I can imagine people latched on to "This is Your Life" from TBD's inception or why Cait Doyle's theme song for "Hot Mess in Manhattan" is so endearing.

If I had to describe Ryan Scott Oliver's work in one word, I would have to say: compelling. Not only in the sense that it's moving and encompasses many layered emotions, but also in the most literal sense of the word. His music is a call to action, a moment in motion, and it sweeps through a story as though music is the only way of expression in that instance. My most vivid example of this was when he closed his set at SPF's lounge concert this summer with "Song of the Dead Fairy," and within the first chorus, I felt compelled to clap even though no one else was. I held back, but then Ryan actually looked right over at our table and kind of gestured as if to say, "Why the hell not?" Needless to say, that's all it took to really get into it.

Also, as a last note, can I just comment on how amazing the combination of Ryan Scott Oliver and Alex Brightman is? I've seen Alex in a few readings and performances now, but there's something about the energy and sincerity of the way he approaches the genius twist of a troubled Peter Pan or a love-crazed student that really makes for a stellar performance.

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