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Englert features experimental music tonight

BY JESSICA CARBINO | DECEMBER 15, 2010 7:10 AM

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At an I Hear IC concert, specators will hear a range of sounds:the voices of singers accompanied with violins, the shaking of maracas, the pounding of drums, fingers gliding along guitar strings as poetry turns to song. Strange sounds of metallic instruments and a hand-cranked Word War II siren overpower the eardrums, while someone plays a wooden board filled with mystery objects, such as a wrench.

The final concert of the I Hear IC series, the Lab Coat Collab, will take place at 9 p.m. today at the Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St. Admission is $6.

The Lab Coat Collab is one of many concerts that have performed as part of the I Hear IC installment, all of which have been part of the series Intimate at the Englert. Jared Fowler, a University of Iowa School of Music graduate student who is in charge of I Hear IC, said the group was started to attract younger audiences to different types of music, such as classical.

I Hear IC involves graduate students from the music school working with artists from around Iowa City. A month before they are scheduled to perform, the students are given the artists to collaborate with and their contact information to create an original piece for the show.

There have been six concerts with around six 10- to 12-minute acts featured in each concert. Each concert has a theme, with the theme of this performance being rhythm, music, and beats found in music.

Fowler had to make quick decisions about performances, and things often changed. On top of organizing and being in charge of the concerts, he was working on his graduate studies and planning his marriage.

For the performances, he starts with one performer or piece of music and bases things around that. He has a top-10 list of musical pieces — modern and classical — that are his personal favorites and puts that list in order of what's the easiest to put together.

He likes to combine numerous worlds in a piece, and his creative mind uses a wide variety of genres. Classical can mesh with the local-band scene, which can mesh with a play or poem.

"These performances are like an iPod shuffle that's been stacked by an ace card-counter turned DJ with impeccable and wide-ranging taste in music," he said.

He talks to many people to find the right performers for the pieces, meeting people from the UI music school, Facebook, and through friends of friends. He also knows a lot of people who aren't students or who don't study music.

"I use it as a way to meet people," he said.

For each show, Fowler has a variety of duties he has to complete. He talks about the theories for all of the pieces and introduces each one to the audience. If there is a show that is a little short on acts, he steps in and plays his double bass.

UI undergraduate Brendan Hanks has experienced being an audience member and a performer for the concerts, and he has enjoyed both. He performed in a few concerts before I Hear IC started at the Englert, and he will perform today as part of the Lab Coat Collab.

"It was nice to be involved in the first one," he said.

Hanks also approves of the format for the performances, and he believes that having people confined to a 10-minute performance is a great limitation for experimental music such as this. It allows audiences just enough time to decide whether they like the individual acts.

And as more people show up, it gets easier.

"Each show is a learning experience," Fowler said.

There have yet to be any major problems with the shows save for a couple performances that could have used more preparation time, he said. And everyone involved has had a great attitude — there haven't been any divas yet, he said.

Overall, Fowler is happy with the quality of the shows and feels the audience has been diverse. One of his goals was to attract diverse viewers so they had a chance to broaden their horizons and experience something new. He plans to continue his series of concerts in the spring with a few changes included.

"Putting together so many separate elements is always an experiment, and seeing when or if they fit together is my favorite part," he said.


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