Go Deeper

Avant-Garde Chamber Music Group thingNY Play Their First Philly Show Ever

Posted June 10th, 2010

Paul Pinto wants you to know that avante-garde chamber music is not an oxymoron.

The classically-trained singer and founder of the theatrically-charged ensemble thingNY established the group in 2006 as part of a plot by him and his fellow PhD students at the Royal Scottish Academy to take the chamber music world by storm. The members of their successful group, Ensemble Thing, planned to return to the corners of the world they came from and start offshoot groups under the banner of Thing, creating a “worldwide collective.” But, upon returning to New York, the idea fizzled out as quickly as the Scottish accent Pinto had picked up; he was the only one to continue the legacy, and out of it thingNY was born.

The rotating collective of composers and performers are all classically trained, and since their inception they have been performing what Pinto describes as very theatrical, improvisational, Fluxus-inspired classical music that “questions the boundary between music and sound.”

ADDDDDDDDD, their new opera which they will perform on Saturday, June 12th at 7 PM at the La. Va. CafĂ©, explores excess, inspired in part by Pinto’s favorite opera, Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.The opera’s five collaborative composers spent a year writing and rehearsing the libretto, and improvising the music.

“We’re very aware of the physicality of the show,” says Pinto, an element which he feels is a void needing to be filled in the chamber music world. Their attention to the opera’s visual aspect manifests in the minimal staging, video (including an infomercial-inspired song about an auto-tuner), and musicians playing in all different spots in the venue, with a momentum that Pinto compares to “switching channels.” Even the title, which is a play on Attention Deficit Disorder, was chosen precisely.

“We ended up with nine Ds because it would be too many Ds to actually look at comfortably, and then it would be a nine Ds/nineties opera,” suggesting America’s decade of excess.

A recorded version of the opera is being released this month as the group’sfirst album, and comes with a libretto in the form of a comic book designed by at least 12 different artists from all over the country, including a sculptor from Arizona.This wasn’t the first time thingNY had opened up their work to outside participation–last year they created SPAM, in which they e-mailed everyone they knew and asked them to create a work for thingNY. The interactive, three-hour result was a blend of images, e-mails, video, and the occasional unavoidable “don’t bother me again” reply. Let’s hope thingNY doesn’t listen too carefully to them, and will continue to “bother people” with their innovative approach to chamber music.

–Ellen Freeman