‘Badstar’ offers an immersive, experimental, and visually rich concert
The Virginia Tech School of Performing Arts will present “Badstar,” a one-of-a-kind musical and visual experience, in the Cube at the Moss Arts Center on Oct. 11–13 at 7:30 p.m.
The collaboration for the performance began in 2017, when violinist Charles Nichols, an assistant professor in the School of Performing Arts, and video artist Zach Duer, an assistant professor in the School of Visual Arts, began improvisations in Blacksburg with guitarist André Foisy and architect Jon Rugh. Banjoist Holland Hopson joined telematically from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Shortly after the start of rehearsals, Foisy moved to Albany, New York, and the three musicians continued to rehearse weekly through the internet. Recently, percussionist Denver Nuckolls, a senior majoring in music at Virginia Tech, joined the project.
The group has not been in the same rehearsal room since 2017. Using JamKazam, a software that allows musicians to rehearse and collaborate in real time, Nichols, Foisy, and Hopson were able to compose an hourlong musical piece.
The collaborators were influenced by fusion, old-time, and metal-inspired music. Their final movement is what Nichols calls “drone metal” — the heavy, amplified vibration you feel when you experience the sounds of electric instruments synching and diverting from leads, repetition, and virtuosity.
Rugh and Duer used the musicians’ improvisations and rehearsal recordings to develop the architecture and video projections for the concert. Rugh’s architecture, which resembles a stalactite cathedral unfurling from the ceiling of the Cube, and Duer’s videos, which are projected onto the architecture, both complement the music.
The audience will congregate beneath the massive cut-cloth hangings and be circled by the musicians to enable a thoughtfully crafted immersion of sounds and visuals.
During the live performance, Duer will activate three projections with visuals he created in response to the music. The audio will also control aspects of the video interactively.
Nichols said “Badstar” is an apt name for an immersive concert experience. He took his inspiration for the name from a comment Neil DeGrasse Tyson made on the television series “Cosmos.” Tyson was speaking about primitive interpretations of astronomical phenomena. An event in the sky, such as a comet, was thought to predict a calamity. The word “disaster” has its root in the Greek words for “bad star.”
Duer summed up the concert experience with one word — spectacle — and added that the Cube is an ideal setting for such a display.
Located in Virginia Tech’s Moss Arts Center, the Cube is a four-story-high, state-of-the-art theater and high-tech experimental space. Its highly adaptable design can accommodate theater, musical concerts, immersive environments, intimate performances, audio and visual installations, and experiential exploration of all types. The Cube’s 150-speaker system and multiscreen display capabilities give artists and programmers a unique capacity for achieving such ambitious projects as “Badstar.”
The “Badstar” performance is supported in part by a SEAD (Science, Engineering, Art, and Design) Major Initiative Program grant from the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology.
Tickets for “Badstar” are free on a first-come, first-served basis. To guarantee your spot, register through the Moss Arts Center box office.
Parking is available in the North End Parking Garage on Turner Street. Additional parking is available after 5 p.m. on weekdays on Alumni Mall; in the Squires Lot, located at the corner of College Avenue and Otey Streets; in the Architecture Annex Lot on Otey Street; and in the Perry Street/Prices Fork lots. Find more parking information online or call 540-231-3200. Additional downtown Blacksburg parking information can be found online.
If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please call Susan Sanders at 540-231-5200 or email her during regular business hours.
Written by Amy Baldwin, a graduate student in directing and public dialogue in the School of Performing Arts.