Saturday, October 19, 2013
Blue Man Group Performance
On September 26, 2013, I had the opportunity to attend the Blue Man Group performance at McCain Auditorium in Manhattan, KS. It was an incredible experience. It was unlike any other performance I had been to! I was really glad to be taking Ethnomusicology when I saw this performance because it touched on material we had discussed in class. We read in Thomas Turino's book, Music As Social Life, that there are four types of music-making: participatory, presentational, high fidelity, and studio audio art. The reason the Blue Man Group, in my opinion, is unlike any performance you will ever see is because it encompasses all the music-making types!
It is evident to the audience that the Blue Man Group would be classified as a presentational performance. It is highly rehearsed, showcases individual artist's abilities and promotes innovation. As a part of the audience, I thought that was all I was going to experience--a presentational performance. I was quite surprised to find it was the opposite. I wasn't the only one who was surprised. At the beginning of the performance, the audience was supposed to recited words that came across the screen. Initially, only a portion of the audience participated, but after a few recitations, the majority joined in. In today's society, we are used to attending performances that are solely presentational. The audience doesn't generally participate in any fashion.
In addition to having to recite lines, if we did not actively respond or participate in the performance, the performers would often stand still. This part reminded me a little of the commedia dell'arte. In commedia dell'arte, it was the duty of the performers to keep the attention of the audience. If they were losing it, they had to improvise their performance a bit to gain it back. The Blue Man Group did this often. When we'd go silent or have long pauses between reactions, they would stop what they were doing or do something rather extravagant to regain our attention. Some may consider that odd or a negative of attending such a performance, but it was a nice change. We, as the audience, had some say in how the performance went.
Not very often does an audience experience high fidelity and studio audio art at the same time. The Blue Man Group was able to do that! The sounds and quality of music-making were representational of a presentational performance. Even though I was at a performance, what I was hearing sounded like something I would hear off a CD (minus the audience noises). Additionally, there were many sounds that I don't typically hear in other music-making types. The Blue Man Group had a lot of studio audio art music-making. To me, it was almost galactic! There were lots of weird sounds being made either through computer generation or intensive manipulation. Much of the studio audio art that I've heard I have not been a fan of, but I really enjoyed the Blue Man Group's take on it. It didn't seem out of place in their production.
I really loved this performance. I'm glad that I had the opportunity to go! It was so amazing that the Blue Man Group was able to intertwine participatory, presentational, high fidelity and studio audio art into their production. The best part was not only were the able to complete such a feat, but they provided the audience with a live dance party at the end involving huge light-up balls, disco lights, and flailing air tubes.