Flinching Eye Collective Defies Music Conventions, Visits Dallas Friday night

Categories: Music Notes

Fliching Eye Collective
Many years ago something happened that made me question the nature of music, and ultimately all "art" for that matter. I was at a friend's house playing a record (Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music), when his mom complained about the noise. She asked, "what's that sound?" "It's music," we replied. Moments later, my friend echoed his mother's sentiment: "If we can call this music, what is music anyway?" By which he meant, what should and should not be considered music--how can we tell music from un-music? Given that Reed's MMM is what you might call abstract, experimental, or avant-garde -- it's literally just 64 minutes of uninterrupted guitar feedback -- it was a perfectly reasonable question to ask.

Somehow, immediately, an answer struck me: "If someone calls something music, then that's what it is--music. That's all it takes." To my mind, it's a sufficient measuring stick by which to answer the question. A sensible way to account for boundary-defying visionaries like John Cage, Brian Eno, or even Edgard Varese, figures whose music challenges the very concept of creative process, often intentionally favoring chance and accident over control and intent. But, of course, the bigger question here is: what constitutes "art" in general? In truth, ever since Marcel Duchamp -- hitherto disinterested in strictly visual mediums--slapped a urinal in a studio and called it art, it's a question we've had to take much more seriously (Duchamp's answer, too, seems to be: if someone considers an item to be art, then it's art). Now, nearly 100 years later, an entire new generation of artists are learning how to answer the question for themselves.

One such group is the Flinching Eye Collective. Consisting of seven multi-medium artists, FEC is a roaming performance project that seeks to subvert traditional artistic conventions by exploring the connectedness of sound, video and environment. Straddling the fringes of low and high art, FEC's interactive exhibitions provide a complete immersive experience, incorporating elements of improvisation, indeterminacy and philosophical playfulness to fascinating effect. In other words, expect the unexpected (playing drum-kits with live microphones, applying power-tools to running turntables--things like that). In this way, each one of their performances is a true original, a single-use, realtime stick of art. Luckily, with FEC's upcoming three-leg Texas tour, we'll get to experience this art for ourselves. Occasioned by Flinching Eye Collective's performance in Exposition Park this Friday, we spoke with two of their members: Max Berstein and Ryan Ruehlen.

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At Dallas Opera, Salome's Twisted Love Story Is a Bucket List Production

Categories: Music Notes

Karen Almond
Deborah Voigt is fabulous. She's one of those once-in-a-lifetime performers on an imagined performing arts bucket list. Like Alan Cumming in Cabaret, or Joshua Bell on violin (who will be at the Winspear next week, coincidentally). And if you're going to see Voigt, you'll want to see her singing Strauss, or Wagner. Her soprano voice sails as Wagner's Brünnhilde, which she sang as part of the Met's Ring Cycle, resonating with an elegant strength that makes her irresistible. She's been singing Strauss since the early 1990s, and in The Dallas Opera's Salome, onstage through November 8, she sings the titular role with such tenacity that you'll believe her as the cunning vixen, age limitations be damned.

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Dallas Symphony Orchestra Shakes Things Up With Boozy Nights, Beautiful Music of ReMix

Categories: Music Notes

Sylvia Elzafon
"Orchestras across America are having to find different ways to adapt the delivery of their core product, which is live symphonic classical music," says Jonathan Martin. "The traditional concert experience hasn't experienced any fundamental changes in 100 years. What has changed is how the public engages with this particular art form."

For young Americans, that engagement is largely nil. Which is exactly why the Dallas Symphony Orchestra created its ReMix series. Martin more readily describes these concerts as "experiences." The $19 ticket gets you general admission seats to a 70 minute program of music, plus one drink and hors d'oeuvres. And this weekend, there will be pre-concert karaoke.

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The Best Classical Concerts in Dallas this September

Dallas, you can eat, sleep and breathe Beethoven this September. Snake sold separately.

There's a lot of Beethoven in the bloodstream this month. Just in time too. In the wake of summer's blast-furnace oppression, a whole lot of Beethoven is just the ice bath we need to ready ourselves for another season of classical offerings. We have prodigies, a world-class violinist, some Shostakovich, an ambitious composer-in-residence and we use the word Cliburn a lot, so you know it's going to be a good few weeks here in Dallas.

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Memories of the Meyerson Symphony Center, Which Celebrates 25 Years in Dallas

Categories: Music Notes


The first time I remember classical music, I was sitting in Morton H. Meyerson's box. I was staring, wide-eyed at the organ for one of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra's noon recitals. Like most things at eight years old, I was convinced someday I would play that monstrous instrument. But we were not supposed to be in Mort's box in his eponymous Symphony Center. Winding through the halls of the building, we'd separated from our group and when we heard the music my mother just opened whichever door was unlocked. And where should we end up, but directly in the line of sight of the stunning C.B. Fisk, Opus 100 organ.

And though Mr. Meyerson never knew that we'd accidentally borrowed his seats (until now), I'll always have the glassy, childhood memory of listening to music from his chair.

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With 2014-15 Season, Dallas Chamber Symphony Occupies Important Place in City's Arts

Categories: Music Notes


Named Best Classical Music Addition of 2013 by Dallas Observer, Dallas Chamber Symphony (DCS) is gearing up for a new season. At just 4 years old, DCS has quickly become one of the most exciting and innovative professional performance ensembles in North Texas, and a lot of that has to do with artistic director and conductor Richard McKay's foresight. He saw that something was missing from the Dallas music and arts scene, and he had an idea of how to fill that empty hole.

"While most major cities have chamber orchestras, Dallas did not," says McKay. "So in 2011, we started DCS, and by 2012, we were in full operation. Then with the opening of the new Dallas City Performance Hall, we had an opportunity not only to fill a void in the Dallas arts community, but also to present our concerts at a gorgeous new hall."

The goal is to present alternative chamber music events unlike those that patrons are generally accustomed to seeing and hearing, and DCS is well on its way to achieving that mission. First, by creating an orchestra of over 40 musicians; second, by performing standard and underrepresented chamber repertory. This year, DCS ups its game by collaborating with the Bruce Wood Dance Project in September, and enters into a new partnership with the Video Association of Dallas in October.

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The Meyerson Symphony Center Turns 25. You're Invited to the Party!

Categories: Music Notes


The Dallas Museum of Art was first to the downtown neighborhood we now know as the Dallas Arts District. Quickly thereafter, the Meyerson Symphony Center opened its doors, becoming one of the city's most elegant buildings and one of the finest concert venues in the world. Designed by I.M. Pei and occupying the corner of Pearl and Flora Streets, this stunning building is about to celebrate its quarter-century birthday, its managers are throwing quite the bash. And you're invited.

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The Best Classical Concert in Dallas This Month Could Happen In Your Living Room


Any list of the best classical concerts to hear in Dallas this August is going to be a short one. Toward the end of the month, the Fort Worth Symphony is putting on a mini festival of music by Brahms and Dvorák (featuring guest soloist Augustin Hadelich on violin). But apart from those three concerts, classical pickings are slim in this month.

A quiet month isn't a bad thing. It's a natural part of the cycle of how performing arts organizations are generally scheduled; think of it as a lull before busy seasons launch in September, or the only real chance for over-scheduled musicians to take a much needed vacation.

The break does give us an opportunity to look outside the box a bit. Besides the symphony, the opera and established chamber groups that follow regular season schedules, where is classical music happening in Dallas?

Last week, I caught the better part of an episode of the Diane Rehm show on NPR that featured a panel of classical musicians, critics and conservatory administrators discussing the future of classical music. Throughout the hour, several panelists mentioned Groupmuse, a new model for classical concerts that's gotten a lot of press recently. Groupmuse connects classical musicians with local hosts who want to put on a relaxed chamber music concert in their home. Think of it as the Airbnb or Lyft of classical concerts.

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The Best Classical Concerts to Hear in Dallas this July

Thanks to the Fine Arts Chamber Players' annual Basically Beethoven Festival, local music fans can get their classical fix this month in the midst of what is otherwise a pretty quiet summer on the classical calendar. Offering a free concert at Dallas City Performance Hall every Sunday in July, the Basically Beethoven Fest usually draws a pretty big crowd for its eclectic summer series. There's chamber music to catch in Fort Worth too, thanks to the Mimir Chamber Music Festival's enticing offerings at Texas Christian University (July 3-11).

Of course, if you're looking for some celebratory cymbal crashes and horn blasts to inspire a little holiday patriotism this weekend, there's plenty of bang to go along with your boom at outdoor concerts at both the Dallas Arboretum and Fort Worth Botanic Gardens. Here are the best ways to catch classical music in DFW this month:

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At Oak Cliff Film Festival, a Symphony's Creation Documented

Nathan Felix, left, works on editing his first symphony.

Nathan Felix fell in love with orchestral music on the open road. The leader of Austin-based indie-pop band The Noise Revival Orchestra was just out of college and touring with a punk band when he found himself in a moment of musical exasperation. "One night I was just so furious," he explains, "I didn't want to hear anything from anybody, so I just switched on the local classical music station."

He was instantly hooked. It was the orchestration -- the arrangements of the sounds and how they were distributed among the instruments -- that grabbed his attention and held it. Soon, Felix decided he wanted to write his own symphony. Ignoring the fact that he is not a classically trained musician and had never composed for an orchestra before, he got to work, using textbooks to teach himself how to compose as he wrote the music. He composed during his free time late at night and on the weekends and didn't tell anyone what he was doing. It was "my little secret," he says.

The Curse and the Symphony, a new documentary screening at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Bishop Arts Theatre, as part of the Oak Cliff Film Festival, uses Felix's music as both subject matter and soundtrack. In just 20 short minutes, the film traces Felix's often bumpy eight-year journey to not only create his first symphony, but also have it performed and recorded by an orchestra. Scenes of Felix shuffling through piles of rejection letters at the beginning of the film give insight into just how challenging it has been for an indie/punk guy to navigate the unfamiliar territory of the classical music world.

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