For Gazette music writer Geraldine Freedman’s preview of this show, click here.
One of the more outre performances this season was Wednesday night when the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra made its U.S. debut at Proctors to a large crowd of the curious. It was anyone’s guess as to what that monstrous pumpkin at stage left would be used for.
All queries were answered once the 12 members of the orchestra arrived. The first “piece” was filled with gurgling, wet cucumber sounds, bird-like carrot tweets, thumps, smacks, and clicks. All the sounds were amplified and although there were tones and even some brief harmonies, the momentum was derived from the pounding pumpkin rhythms. It was like a forest jumbalaya at dawn. The crowd was initially cautious but became exuberant as the evening progressed.
The next piece, “Night Shades” involved a turntable with a leek for the needle, which produced an odd foghorn-like sound. Eggplant halves were slapped together rhythmically, a bag of dried beans was shaken, a cucumber/pepper sounded like an exotic oboe and a leek on leek squealed.
Other pieces involved a xylophone made of carrots that had various pitches, gourds used as shofars, a green bean tip on a turntable’s vinyl record that made a shirring, saw-like sound and always more carrots, eggplants and pumpkins.
What was interesting about all this was that the concert was an exploration into the concept of sound. Every vegetable had its own quality. Depending on whether it was slapped, ripped, pounded or blown through, the result could be put into a framework that when coupled with rhythm created a kind of song. The group’s concept is a testament to human ingenuity.
One of the most effective but visually funniest was “Cabbage Rock and Roll.” Four members, each with a cabbage, massaged or ripped the cabbage’s leaves to sound like four electric guitarists gone mad in a frenzy of massed sound. The audience hooted and cheered.
An Indonesian gamalan inspired piece sounded like a Tibetan prayer meeting; and “Brazil” had bubbly, ripping sounds in bossa nova rhythms. In “Spring Massacre” the players rhythmically pounded and warbled, and used a ramp to slide dried Navy beans followed by potatoes, a green pepper and four red cabbages to create a waterfall effect.
After the encore of “Greenhouse,” which sounded like a tribal dance, members of the audience enjoyed a cup of hot curried veggie soup from the evening’s efforts.
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