This weekend we got a rare experience to get up close and personal with the art we present. Folks who attended the Paul Dresher Ensemble Schick Machine performances were invited to cap off the show by taking a hands-on tour of the eponymous machine from the production.
And I mean hands-on. The creators refer to this moment as “The Petting Zoo.” They not only allow, but encourage eager hands to pick up mallets and bang on implements in this crazy sonic laboratory. Dresher and Schick and members of their crew were on hand to offer suggestions and instructions of how to make sounds and to explain how all the pieces work.
I attended the Sunday matinee with my significant other, who is something of a sonic tinkerer himself, (mostly in a playground called Abelton), I could sense his wonder and desire to crawl inside this glorious concoction on the stage (which kind of is what I imagine the inside of his brain looks like).
We immediately lined up, eager to get our chance inside the machine, along with about a third of the audience from the performance, many of whom were young children who excitedly chattered with their parents about their favorite parts of the machine and how they might build their own.
Steven Schick himself came out and chatted with a few of the kids for a minute, asking “Are you ready to go in and bang on some stuff!?”
The answer was a resounding “yes.” We all were ready, and we were not disappointed. Up close, the Schick Machine was cleverly ingenious and delightful to experience as a group of curious amateurs collectively provided a soundtrack of dissonance that was somehow just as engaging as Schick’s charming and meticulous theatrical stage performance.
Of course, few of us were able to extract the same quality and precision of sound as the mastermind himself, but that is as it should be.
Paul Dresher, composer of the piece was staked out on the stage to help answer questions and guide interested audience-goers through the elaborate inner workings of the device and how it all comes together in live performance.
It was a moment of incredible generosity from a group of passionate artists that I have no doubt left a powerful impression on the imaginations of all those who got a chance to experience it with us.
If you were one of those people, thank you so much for leaving your own stamp on the machine and helping invent this performance for CAP UCLA.