It seems universally acknowledged that music has a positive effect on people. From Mozart CDs for babies to the music played for the senior residents through the Musicians Care Project at Hebrew Healthcare, society embraces music, and particularly classical music, as a means for improving intelligence, social interaction, and personal development. Although the “Mozart Effect” fad of the early 90’s has been somewhat debunked, there is still overwhelming evidencethat focused participation in musical ensembles and active listening to music has positive effects on the brain.
But can music positively change the physical world? Next month, the HSO will perform a piece that might suggest it can. The work is Alternative Energy by composer and West Coast DJ Mason Bates.
Bates says about this piece:
“Alternative Energy is an ‘energy symphony’ spanning four movements and hundreds of years. Beginning in a rustic Midwestern junkyard in the late 19thCentury, the piece travels through ever greater and more powerful forces of energy — a present-day particle collider, a futuristic Chinese nuclear plant — until it reaches a future Icelandic rainforest, where humanity’s last inhabitants seek a return to a simpler way of life.”
Bates’ takes his inspiration from the things that physically fuel our world today. He walked around a particle collider, recording “huge power surges, epic hydraulic releases, [and] alien-sounding high frequencies,” which are interspersed into the hall in a surround sound like experience for the audience, as if they are inside the particle collider.
Bates also asks the performers to create and play on a drum set made out of foraged car parts. Last week, HSO Principal Percussionist Robert McEwan traveled with the HSO Tech crew to a local junk yard to seek out the pieces he would need to make the drum set.
HSO Percussionist Robert McEwan looking for drum set pieces
They left with a muffler, a tailgate from a truck, a gas tank, a fender and a few other miscellaneous pieces. In a few weeks this junk will be transformed into an orchestral instrument. Not only do we think these pieces will look fantastic on The Belding stage, but with one perfectly timed mallet strike our musicians will turn this garbage into music.
Will our performance of Alternative Energy reverse global warming? Alternative Energy will do what music does best- make us take a step back and think about ourselves and our environment. It suggests a path for the future where we rely on our existing resources, like musical instruments made from recycled junk. Will the audience be inspired to decrease their own carbon footprint, advocate for cleaner fuel sources, and teach the value of environmental conservation to future generations? Here’s hoping.