Borscht, Lutherans, and a Knife Wielding Maniac |
A Bewildering Look at Performance Group
The Pointless Orchestra.
Pointless Orchestra is an experimental music group that has been shrouded in mystery for nearlya decade. O.K., these may be strong words to use. Maybe it is better to say that they have languished in obscurity for the last nine or ten years. Their CDs have been released on a number of different labels. They have also received volumes of airplay and critical praise since their conception. Still, unlike Britney Spears and The Backstreet Boys, they have consistently failed to win the loyalty of that elusive 12-16 year old female demographic.
We're really broken up about it, says longtime Pointless Orchestra member, Mark Allender. We went out to get trendy haircuts and everything but hardly any junior high school girls buy our CDs - I really don't get it.
Why has Pointless Orchestra failed to score a hit on the pop charts
Maybe it is because they combine instruments from several different cultures (koto, guan, kulintang, gu zheng, cello, viola da gamba, sitar,
dumbek, tabla, harp, gender wayang etc, to create weird hybrid music that doesn't fit into any particular marketing niche. Maybe it is because they sometimes add additional sounds by bowing pieces of scrap metal, splashing water, tapping on glass, and beating on steel springs.
Maybe it is because some of their more abstract CDs sound like the music in an experimental horror film.
No,insists member, Mike Hovancsek, I'm pretty sure it's our haircuts.
Whatever the reason, Pointless Orchestra's audience is limited to a devoted circle of art professors, punk rockers, classical musicians, college radio DJs, and filmmakers. They even did a performance for a group of elderly Lutherans a few years ago. The Lutherans kept coming up to the stage and talking to us right in the middle of the performance, complains Hovancsek.
They wanted to know the names of our instruments. We were trying to answer them and play music at the same time. After a while, we started having fun with them by making up fake names for the instruments. When they asked about the koto we told them it was a banzaphone from Ancient Tamboria.
The group's elaborate multi-media performances often attract large audiences. They have packed theaters on many occasions over the last ten years. In one performance they combined live music, projected artwork, spontaneous drawing, and a modern dancer who climbed into a vat of beet juice in the course of the performance. At the end of the event they served borscht to the audience.
There is always a group of people who hang out after each show to ask us about our performance, says member, David Badagnani. They ask things like "Why did you throw that asparagus at us
Despite the large showings at Pointless Orchestra performances, CD sales have not generated enough money to support the group. They have had to supplement their incomes with outside employment.
At one point David took a job at a factory, said Hovancsek. He had to stand there all day and glue styrofoam Ross Perot ears onto plastic headbands. For the last couple of years he has been teaching ethnomusicology at Kent State University but I think he really misses his job at the ear factory.
Mark Allender used to work in a group home for mentally disabled adults. Pointless Orchestra had to interrupt one recording session when Mark's pager started to beep. There was a 300-pound man with a knife on the roof and the people at the group home wanted Mark to do something about it, explains Hovancsek. I remember wondering how often Garth Brooks had to subdue knife wielding maniacs during recording sessions.
The group has seen numerous line-up changes over the years. Mike Hovancsek and David Badagnani were two of the founding members. The third founding member (whose name we cannot print for legal reasons) quit the group after becoming a Born Again Christian.
He really freaked out on us, says Hovancsek, He even threatened to sue us if we released any of the recordings that he played on. You really don't want to get into a legal battle with a guy who is using Jesus as his legal advisor.
The most recent group member is Stefanie Workman. Like Mike Hovancsek, Stefanie works as a therapist when she isn't making music. This is a bit of a theme in the group. Occasional member, Jen Singleton, recently received her Master's degree in Family Counseling.
We try to make sure that at least 50% of our members are mental health professionals,
explains Mark Allender.
How do the members of the group get along ?
Like a family, says Hovancsek. We blame each other for our personal problems and only get together on holidays. This, or course, may lead a person to wonder what the future holds for Pointless Orchestra. Without Fear Recordings will be releasing a bunch of our CDs some timethis year, assures Hovancsek. We are pretty sure these will do well on the pop charts. After that, we will probably go on tour with The Backstreet Boys.
The upcoming CD releases include multi-cultural chamber music, film soundtracks, ominous meditation music, experiments that combine spoken text with abstract music, and a dadaistic radio assault that was originally broadcast live on WCSB FM. Expecting major successes with the upcoming releases, David Badagnani warns, Britney Spears had better start looking for a day job.
This is sound advice indeed.
© 2002 - Maxwell Edison
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