JacobTV’s multimedia works spark Fulcrum Point benefit concert

Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 5:57 pm

By Gerald Fisher

Fulcrum Point presented a benefit concert devoted to works of JacobTV Wednesday night at the Cultural Center. Photo: Mark van Vugt

For their benefit concert this year in support of their valuable educational outreach program “Sound Tracks,” Chicago’s ever-intriguing Fulcrum Point New Music Project staged a one-hour mini-festival devoted to the prolific Dutch avant-pop composer Jacob ter Veldhuis, better known by the moniker JacobTV.

Born in Holland in 1951, JacobTV is inspired by American media and pop culture. His music is a personal extension of the early tape-loop works of Steve Reich, where voices and phases are integrated into the rhythm and structure of the piece. In JacobTV’s compositions this is supplemented by live musicians and projected visuals which freeze and unfreeze pulsating images, bending faces, voices, words and music into a unified concept that makes satirical or lyrical statements about contemporary social concerns.

His work has been compared to that of Jeff Koons or Andy Warhol in the visual arena, with his appropriation of kitsch objects and iconic celebrities as subjects to be reworked into a musical aesthetic that comments in sometimes serious, sometimes mocking ways on the foibles and follies of our times. Unlike these artists, however, JacobTV seems to be taking an emotional position concerning the deeper implications of his material. He also employs a lush classical tonality when the context is appropriate.

Of the six short pieces performed at the intimate Claudia Cassidy Theater in the Cultural Center, the first, I was like, WOW! was the most moving, dealing as it does with returning wounded vets of the Iraq wars and their reminiscences of the horrors they experienced. The video cuts are taken from Roel van Broekhoven’s documentary Purple Hearts and proved both disturbing and poignant. The live trombone played by David Jackson was almost comforting, with an ironic reminiscence of Copland’s Quiet City, a commentary on the vast destruction of the war.

The evening’s most lyrical piece, for oboe solo, The Garden of Love, reflects the deep ambivalence of the poem by Blake with a surreal and hauntingly beautiful video by Amber Boardman and a pastoral soundscape, performed by Julianne Skones, that matches the poem’s deceptive simplicity.

Body of Your Dreams cuts and splices video of television hucksters selling grotesque promises of the body beautiful. The music featured the piano virtuosity of Kuang-Hao Huang mirroring the rhythms of the jagged dialogue and turning the whole piece into a keyboard feast.

Pimpin, with Jeremy Ruthrauff, is a jazzy baritone sax score performed to vintage videos of some over-the-top real-life pimps and their girls, and made a compassionate yet ultimately disquieting tribute to the victims of sex trafficking.

JacobTV’s current project, The News, is an ambitious work-in-progress employing an augmented brass ensemble which will be premiered by Fulcrum Point in the spring of 2012.

An excerpt from the piece, Corrotto, was particularly timely as it shows former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi denying corruption charges in videos which are altered into brilliant operatic arias that play off the man’s flamboyance and seeming culpability. Another excerpt from this “reality opera” is a reworking of a TV dialogue between Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin as a duet, which proved surprisingly sympathetic to these two frequently reviled personalities.

The News will be performed by Fulcrum Point at Park West in Chicago on May 4. fulcrumpoint.org.

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