Photo Credit: ©UC Regents, UCI Claire Trevor School of the Arts

I suspect that most readers have never attended a performance (or have even heard of) UCI’s Experimental Media & Performance Lab. It’s one of seven separate performing arts theatres on campus and it’s by far the most unusual.

Recently, my wife and I attended, “Listen to the Motion” at this unique venue.

Entering the theatre, you seem to emerge into a dark cavern.  With reconfigurable seating, the entire 4000 square foot space can become the stage.

The production we attended featured a motion sensor system called MUGIC TM.  All performers on stage are equipped with fingerless gloves.  The gloves contain advanced sensors, which transmit data via Wi-Fi to multiple routers and onto laptops.

Retransmitted back at the violin or piano, this abracadabra modifies the tones that emerge along with the interactive graphics projected onto a 40’ x 40’ screen beyond the stage, and, a fraction of a micro second later, broadcasts to the audience.  That’s when the magic begins.

Photo Credit: Will Tee Yang

The show opened with Solitude, a Duke Ellington original, with pianist Mark Micchelli and electronicist (I never heard of this either) Alex Lough.  Tones of Tibetan bells swirl Mark’s composition.  Like a sorcerer, Alex weaves his gloved hands up and down in midair as if sculpting an invisible figure.  Gradually, the lyrics emerge, echoing in-and-out, haunting and smoky.  No vocalist is on stage.  A tingle ran up my spine as I can’t imagine a better opening piece for this troupe of conjurors.

Next up was, “The Lily I Gave You In April,” with Alex Lough playing a set of tuning forks. (Tuning forks?!)  Wearing the gloves, Alex strikes and weaves the forks in front of a microphone which include hyper-sensitive direction and motion pick up.  Together with Luke DuBois at a desk above the audience, they project striking graphics.  I’m not sure how you make a concert with tuning forks, but with the genius of these artists, it works.  The sounds and graphics are extraordinary!

The next two sets included dancer Jacob Machmer.  First was “Tune In” with Tomoko Ozawa on piano, followed by “CetaceAria” with Mari Kimura on violin.

Jacob’s a very good dancer (I’ve seen dancers).  More than acrobatic, he’s often liquid.  Sweeping the air with those magic gloves, he metamorphosed real-time sounds wafting from either the violin or resounding from the piano, along with a ripping light show, aided by Luke’s collaboration.

The closing number, “Donnaleelannod,” derived from a Charlie Parker composition, with Mark Micchelli at the piano, was a tour-de-force!

Fingers prancing across the keyboard, flying those gloves in bold gestures, his artistry pretty much summarized all the alchemy we’d witnessed.  The piece was reminiscent of Professor Kei Akagi’s original jazz compositions.

At the finale, Mark stands, thrusting his hands and arms, grasping empty air in the space above the piano, palms out, fingers extended, while a monstrous crescendo vacuums away the entire theatre like a tropical storm.

It was a phenomenon, and, open to the public, at no charge.

I highly recommend checking this venue out.

For a list of upcoming performances at the Experimental Media & Performance Lab, click here.

Next up is “Your Ocean, My Ocean” which will run February 6-9, 2019.  You can also catch “Parliament Square” March 9-17, 2019.

In addition, Mr. DuBois has an upcoming solo show at the Beall Center for Art + Technology.  For more information, click here.

Hope you can join us in the audience!

Terry Schilling

Terry Schilling

A resident of Irvine since 1983 and recently retired from a career in software application sales and marketing, Terry has developed a passion for the performing arts presented at Irvine’s colleges and universities.

Although he is neither a musician nor a professional critic himself, Terry is a great admirer of the arts.   He's a self-described, "seat in the audience," who enjoys attending and promoting the immensely talented students and creative live entertainment events available at little to no cost to our community.
Terry Schilling