Singing lifeguards, Beethoven, monks and an Irish dancer all on one stage. It’s not the latest Halloween revue at your local theme park. It’s not a play. It’s not a concert. So what is it then?
RSVP XI: Pulse! is a multi-media production that combines performance art with music technology. The show presents a series of scenes in two acts. Each scene highlights a different style of musical composition while illustrating the show’s theme and rhythm. The show implores the audience to examine the rhythm of music, but also some philosophical ideas about rhythm as well.
“It’s a series of vignettes, framed under a larger story, which aren’t necessarily chronological,” said senior music major and assistant director Anne Marie Cordeiro. “They’re organized under the expression of an idea rather than a plot.”
The annual production is the quarter-long project of the advanced sound design class in Cal Poly’s Music department. Sound-design courses instruct students in music technology: digital recording, synthesis, composition and performance. Music professor Antonio Barata, who teaches the sound design courses, comes up with the ideas for the shows, but the students have the responsibility of creating the content. He also directs and produces RSVP.
The name “RSVP” comes from the actual meaning of the phrase, “repondez s’il vous plaArt,” which translates to “respond please.”
Barata said he chose the name because the format of the show is more abstract in order to get the audience to interpret what the show means to them individually, rather than passively watching.
“I wanted people to react, to respond,” he said. “We throw some things out there that people have to think about. We want to challenge people. You make sense of it.”
Students composed nearly all the music for the show. The variety of the music in the show is a result of the varying expressions of the skills students have learned in the courses. The students in the class all participate in various aspects of putting together the production, including building sets, making costumes, and lighting. They even do some acting and singing, though they recruited actors and singers from the theater and music departments to play the roles that required more skilled talent.
Michael Annuzzi, an economics major with a minor in music, acts in the show but also composed the music for some of the scenes. This is the second RSVP show he has worked on.
“Everybody wears all sorts of hats. For most of us it’s the first time doing anything like this,” he said. “It’s a good time getting in front of people.”
Pulse is the first in a three-year trilogy that will present various elements of musical composition. While this year explores rhythm, next year will focus on melody, and the last, harmony.
This year’s show is the most theatrical production by RSVP thus far; previous years have had far less acting involved.
Cordeiro, who has been working on developing Pulse! with Barata since November, said one reason she liked being involved is that she is interested in musicology, the way music fits into society.
“This is just one aspect of how music is encountered by people,” she said.
She also said that just going to the show would be a unique experience because the format of the show varies so much each year.
“It’s never going to happen again.”
There are two performances of RSVP XI: Pulse, Tues. May 30, and Thurs. June 1, at 8 p.m.