‘Zeitgeist’ fusion five draws a big crowd for coffee concert series

Posted September 25, 2017

The William Abbott Concert hall, in the UW-River Fall’s Kleinpell Fine Arts Building, hosted the dramatic sounds of new music group Zeitgeist this past Friday. The concert, which was the latest installment of the Music Department’s Frances Cohler Coffee Concert Series, featured musicians Heather Barringer, Nicola Melville and two UWRF professors, Pat O’Keefe and Patti Cudd with special guest violinist Marc Levine.

The four musicians of Zeitgeist, according to their website, define their music style as one that “incorporate(s) elements of many different musical genres, including classical, jazz, rock, world music and others.” Zeitgeistnewmusic.com further states that, “In the end, new music is simply that: newly created music written by living composers.”

The first piece performed by the group was a sudden explosion of sound from a variety of instruments that then dissolved into the delicate tinkling of mallets atop the wooden bars of the marimba. The piece, entitled “OCT 21 2015, “sounded tense and frantic and played with the concept of time by using “extreme register shifts and the constant disruption of regular meter” according to the program handed out before the concert. The name, “OCT 21 2015,” takes its inspiration from the time travel of Marty McFly and Doc Brown in the “Back to the Future” movies.

Approximately 180 people, a mix of students, faculty  and community members, made up the concert audience. Like many of the students in attendance, Marissa Altendorfer a UW-River Falls music education major, was there she said because she is required to attend concerts as part of her class curriculum.

The concert finished up with a final work by Cambodian-American Chinary Ung, who according to the program, is a composer who fuses together “traditional Cambodian and Western elements” into his compositions. The piece, called “Nimitta” means a sign or image received through meditation.” This was perhaps the strangest music heard in the concert. Ung, had all of the musicians vocalizing with song or spoken words while playing. The music played during this segment of the concert, aptly described as “thick” by O’Keefe, sounded like all members of Zeitgeist were playing independently of each other and then somehow happened to all be on stage together-there was a lot going on.

Reactions to this style of new music, and particularly the final composition, were mixed. UWRF engineering freshman Judson Hilton thought that this type of music was, “a little bit too creepy, in my opinion it fits more a thriller movie style I’m not really into thriller.”

O’Keefe understands that the type of music the group performs is often brand new and different to people. He says the goal of Zeitgeist and of this style of new music is creation through inspiration and exposure.

“We just wanted people to be inspired to enjoy newly created music, and maybe inspire them to create their own.”