Dancers Lauren Baines and Megan Meyer wandered around
Littlefield Concert Hall, stringing themselves along the walls, playing on handlebars as if it were a jungle gym and muttering and rolling around in chairs right next to audience members.
With audience members confused as to whether the dancers were a part of a show or simply disruptive individuals, the performers and dancers joined together on stage. Mixing recordings of nature with voices and instruments, Baines took the spotlight: swift, undulating and focused on the musicians — Baines gave a moving visual for the mix of sounds.
The “Within a Soundscape — Scorned Confusion” performance on Thurs., March 5, kicked off the grand opening of Signal Flow, a four-day presentation of compositions, improvisations and installations from second-year music graduate students.
Stephanie Neumann, second year MA music student, composed the first piece to play in the show.
“I was really in the zone during that time. All I could think about [was] how it sounded,” Neumann said.
Visitor Diego Contreras felt that the mix of recordings and live performance was spot on.
“It was really well done,” Contreras said. “I felt like [the first piece] was ear-boggling. It sounded like you were in a world the composer created.”
The next piece, “Fish and La Resistance,” by composer Matthew Fisherkeller, was performed by a group of 15 musicians. Their music boomed through the hall; singers Kyle Reed, Katie Geyer and Allie Bach’s voices soared over the music.
Mary Bianco, composed the third performance of the night entitled “TRIO: 3 of My Favorites for Your Enjoyment,”
which addressed the audience directly. Her duet between the violin and flute kept to a minimalist approach that reflects Bianco’s style.
The rest of the pieces continued also a variety of instruments and style. “The Abundant’s Eye,” composed by Dan Gottwald, was comprised of instruments that Gottwald had designed himself and filled the room with a myriad of noises like cracking, ringing, clacking and echoes. Matt Driscoll’s piece, “Paths II,” started off mellow, but as the piece continued, the music escalated into improvisational, free-flowing moves. Jesse Austin’s “Pressure Diagram” blended together common instruments with household items that, at times, gave the piece a radical or jarring noise.
Senior music major Rachel Austen found specific moments in the show that resonated with her.
“There was a really special moment when the dancers came up the stairs making chiming sounds; it was beautiful,” Austen said, adding, “there were really special moments tonight. I was so proud of everybody.”
Neumann was thrilled at the reception of her piece.
“Right at intermission people came up to me and told me that they couldn’t tell what was recording and what was instrument,” Neumann said. “That’s what I was attempting to do, and I was so happy to hear that I succeeded.”
Alumna Sophia Colmenarez performed in Gottwald’s piece and loved the variety of pieces that she heard throughout opening night.
“I loved how diverse everything is — not only the instruments but [also composers and performers from] diverse backgrounds and skills,” Colmenarez said. “I think that is what is really unique to the Mills atmosphere, especially the easy conversation the pieces have with each other; the collaboration and communication between pieces really make for a good experience.”
Signal Flow will continue with performances on Friday, March 6 at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 7 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 8 at 4 p.m. in Littlefield Concert Hall. For more information or to stream the performances live, go to www.Signal-Flow.org .