A Soundtrack for Houston, Texas

Categories: Art of Sound

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A project ordered up by Holly Clapham-Rosenow and the Greater Houston Convention and Visitor's Bureau has resulted in a grab-you-by-the-throat, beautiful and original short film by Zenfilm.

Set to a score by Jeff Walton, performed by Houston Symphony and conducted by Brett Mitchell, the film starts with some of our famous people and branches out to show us moving about the Bayou City.

A Soundtrack For the City from Zenfilm on Vimeo.



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Our Annual Thanks to the Houston Arts Scene

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Photo by Jann Whaley
Venus in Fur with Nicole Rodenburg as Vanda and Michael Bakkensen was just one of many endeavors that fired up the Houston arts scene in the past year

It's become a tradition to ask our Art Attack bloggers what they are thankful for in the Houston arts scene this year. Here's this year's reaction:

Think of our performing arts scene as a grand banquet, a great groaning board full of savory dishes. Just since the official opening of the current season, look upon the entrees we've already tasted: classic fare like Main Street's The Real Thing; Houston Ballet's The Merry Widow; the Alley's You Can't Take It With You; Houston Grand Opera's Aida; A.D. Players' Arsenic and Old Lace, all prepared by the finest of chefs.

Then there were the mouth-watering side dishes, like TUTS new underground series that began with the grunge musical Lizzie; GEXA on Broadway's Peter and the Starcatcher and Chicago; and the Alley's Venus in Fur, the flavors were tantalizing. And let's not forget the highly spiced appetizers: Music Box Musicals' Avenue Q; Mildred's Umbrella's Carnival Round; Catastrophic's The Pine, Bayou City Concert Musicals' The Pajama Game. The food never stops, it's finely served, and just makes you hungry for more.

Not satisfied yet, just wait. Look what's in store for the next seating: 50 Shades of Grey; Wagner's Das Rheingold; Other Desert Cities, Aladdin, The Diary of Anne Frank, Vera Stark, American Idiot. The banquet in Houston never stops. Go gorge yourself, giving thanks all the while for Houston's performing arts bounty which is, as we all know, food fit for the gods. - D.L. Groover

I've written several Creatives profiles this year and I am so grateful to see so many people in Houston making a living (or at least a go) at a lifestyle that does not require sitting inside a cubicle. It gives me immense confidence in the creative diversity of this city. It's also so inspiring on a personal level to talk to people who are overwhelmingly passionate about what they do. That makes me want to be a better writer. - Brittanie Shey


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HSPVA Sends Out Jazz Ambassadors, Ready to Do Thelonius Monk Proud

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Photo courtesy HISD
From left to right: Adam DeWalt, 18; Jyron Walls, 18; Jalon Archie, 18; James Francies, 17; John Koozin, 17; Jeremy Dorsey, 17
A group of students from Houston ISD's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts is now on a weeklong tour, representatives of one of only two schools in the country chosen as ambassadors of jazz and bound for the famous Jazz Kitchen itself.

Houston's own: Drummer Jalon Archie, 18; trumpeter Adam DeWalt, 18, guitarist Jeremy Dorsey, 17; pianist James Francies, 17, bassist John Koozin, 17 and saxophonist Jyron Walls, 18, are in the Indianapolis public schools this week, presenting "jazz informances." They'll play along their counterparts in the Indianapolis schools, both learning from each other.

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Nazi Deception Leads to Rediscovery of Venetian Jewish Artifacts

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MFAH Houston
Torah Crown, mid-19th century, parcel gilt-silver, Collection of the Comunita Ebraica de Venezia (The Jewish Community of Venice)

As Germany's Nazi soldiers invaded countries throughout Europe during their height of their powers, they would - like armies throughout the centuries - also plunder. So it was not uncommon for families or institutions to frantically try to hide items of financial or sentimental value, in the hopes that they could be reclaimed one day.

Now, thanks to the foresight and clever deception of two elderly Jewish worshippers as the Nazis invaded Italy in 1943, a trove of ornate silver and bronze objects from the 17th through 20th centuries will be on view in the exhibit Lost Treasure of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice/ Restored by Venetian Heritage Inc. Hidden away for more than 60 years, the items were discovered by accident.

Among the primarily liturgical works are silver Torah crowns, lamps, plates used during ceremonial functions, Torah cases, finials, and other pieces of incredible craftsmanship and beauty, restored by a company called Venetian Heritage.


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Taikoza Performance at Miller Outdoor Theatre: Rolling Thunder

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On Taikoza's website, the drums or taiko that the group performs on are described as: "a large, barrel-like drum that can fill the air with the sounds of rolling thunder." What perfect timing it was, then, that Taikoza performed this past Saturday, a day filled with rumbling thunder of its own as sporadic showers swept through the Houston area.

Taikoza was founded in New York in 1995 by Marco Lienhard, a member of Ondekoza, the group that originally popularized the art of taiko drum-playing in the '60s.

It now has six main members: Malika Tasuko Duckworth, Marguerite Bunyan, Chikako Saito, Yoshiko Canada, Kenji Nakano and Mashayo Ishigure. Taikoza has performed all over the world, from Russia to New York (and Houston), and for all sorts of audiences: the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, ESPN S.U.M.O.: The Battle of the Giants, Dell Computers, Merrill Lynch, etc. They also perform philanthropically, teaching students in schools in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Philadelphia and Virginia to play drums as part of Young Audiences and Symphony Space program.

Though designated in name as a spotlight on the large drum, there were smaller drums present during the performance, including a portion where the group members patted on what appeared to be snare drums, making thrumming heartbeat sounds with their sticks. We would begin to notice that the drums would come to represent the blood-pumping organ throughout the night.

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Brave New Waves Celebrates Electronica

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Distorted Light by cosmic_omar
If Brave New Waves were a picture, it might look something like this.
Whether you know it or not, Houston has a thriving electronic music scene. The fact that this genre is relatively unrecognized is what has been bugging composer Paul Connolly for a while. So, he decided to do something about it and that something is called Brave New Waves, which is a monthly music series focusing on electronic, electro-acoustic and other music forms, now in its third month.

We spoke with Connolly a few months back when the series launched, but it's gone through some growing pains with a new location and a brief hiatus.

Connolly is a music man through and through. Hailing from Calgary, Connolly has studied music composition and recording since he was just a wee lad. He traveled around much of the globe and eventually planted roots in Sugar Land. In his seven years in Texas, the rich and varied musical talent in the city has continuously blown him away, specifically pertaining to his own passion of incorporating technology into music.

"With electronic music," Connolly says, "the possibilities are limitless." He is a music-boundary pusher and enhances his compositions with modern-day techniques.

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"Blues in All Its Colors" Brightens Up The Heritage Society

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Trudy Lynn sings the blues at last night's opening reception.
Last night, Art Attack swung by The Heritage Society for the opening of its latest exhibition, "Blues in All Its Colors." The exhibit is a collection of art and artifacts chronicling Houston's colorful blues history.

The moment we walked through the door, we were struck with the sweet sounds of Trudy Lynn wailing into the microphone. Lynn is a staple in the Houston blues community. She's been singing since the late '60s and, as we witnessed, still has got it going on. Milton Hopkins and the Hit City Blues Band backed her up, and a nice-sized crowd tapped their toes and sung along to familiar blues hits.


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Local Artist Pen Morrison Celebrates Guitar Pickers and Their Guitars

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One of the most pleasant discoveries at last weekend's iFest was the guitar sculpture of local graphic designer and political junkie Pen Morrison. A Yankee who came south to college and fell in love with all things Southern -- especially blues and gospel music -- Morrison began the "Guitars" series with a piece she contributed to a benefit auction.

That piece led to her first commission.

"Someone from Whole Foods saw the piece I did for KPFT. In fact, Sandy from the "Dead Air" show bought it. So suddenly I found myself looking for a perfect subject for the new Whole Foods store."

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Tango Master Hector Del Curto Plays iFest

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Voted the best bandoneonist (player of a type of small accordion) under 25 in Argentina when he was only 17 years old, Hector del Curto is today a world-class musician. He has played with most of the biggest names in tango, from pianist Osvaldo Pugliese to fellow bandoneonist Astor Piazolla. Representing this year's theme country Argentina, Del Curto's current project Eternal Tango will perform at the Houston International Festival on the Center Stage April 21, 22 and 29. We caught up with the 41-year-old maestro at his home in New York City.

Art Attack: We are always fascinated by people who decide very early on what they want to do, then stick to it and master it.

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Hector Del Curto: [Laughs] It was not my decision. I never thought, "I will be a famous tango musician" or anything like that. I started learning guitar when I was five, and switched to bandoneón when I was 11. But I just liked to make music. The other kids thought I was odd because I would stay in and practice when they were outside playing.

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An Experiment in Sound at the Orange Show

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Can you immerse an audience in sound? Can you turn a musical composition into an experience akin to something visual, such as a painting or film? Houston-based composer Robert McClure thinks that you can and to prove it, he is premiering his latest project, "Untangle My Tongue," this Friday at the Orange Show.

"Untangle My Tongue" will consist of three pieces of music that celebrate both the "Orange Show's unique space and Houston's natural soundscape." The methods McClure has used to create this work certainly go against the grain. He took some recording equipment and walked around the city capturing all that he heard. Cars, traffic, the MetroRail and the buzzing of wildlife are all incorporated into the piece. The Orange Show itself was another inspiration. "While my sounds were deliberately ordered, Houston, a character in itself, will provide an improvisatory element for this performance," says McClure.

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