By Lisa Lanzi
What to say about Adam Page? Talent - in abundance, charisma - tick, inventiveness - yes and yes, improvisational genius - no doubt. For DreamBIG 2019 this remarkable musician has created a show for young people where the sounds are created on the spot by the audience then fed into various technological wizardry to create new compositions in real time.
Page is a revered multi-instrumentalist and has written major works for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra (which he has also conducted), New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Wellington and Zephyr Quartet and has collaborated with John Psathas, NZ composer of the 2004 Athens Olympics ceremony music. His other collaborations reach across Australia and the globe - think Slava Grigoryan, Noel Gallagher, Katie Noonan and The Shaolin Afronauts, just to name a few. Page is also giving back to the musical community in Adelaide with the foundation of Wizard Tone Studios with recording and sound mixing facilities and its own label.
To have such a talent hold a performance for youth is both genius and respectful - children absolutely deserve quality theatrical experiences. There is a quiet presence and humble charm about the man as well as his obvious passion for music and creativity. In a room filled with Year four and five students Page held their attention and had them yelling for more. Bringing technology into the mix is always going to be a success with young people but they are discerning. Young people always know when something possesses excellence and do not respond nearly as well if something is average.
On a small stage with various technology we start with just Page and his saxophone. This sound already has the audience’s attention but we are then led to respond to two different riffs with ‘HEY’ or ‘HEY, HEY’ leading to some cool call and response play. Already we are intrinsic to the performance. Page asks “are you ready to have a party?” as he starts to demonstrate his looping skills adding beats, keys and vocals to the sax part. Of course the answer is a resounding ‘YES!’
As the hour progresses we are introduced to the various technologies and Page prowls the audience to record silly or interesting sounds or even, at one point, the ‘juciest, smelliest, most disgusting FART sound’. The students respond gleefully, and much winning toilet humour ensues. Back on stage, Page demonstrates how he manipulates and overlays these sounds using all the technology and creates music from our contributions. A number of times a student is chosen to come to the stage and try their hand at manipulating the sounds, either on the keyboard or on a smartphone application. At the same time, Page jams along on other instruments to create a new composition.
The infectious fun continues when Page asks for someone with an interesting, percussive name. Much noise accompanies the various suggestions and finally a name is chosen. First and last name combine to provide about nine syllables and on stage, the musician starts to play with the innate rhythm. Page continues to lay down any number of tracks based on the name but with rhythm, pitch and dynamic changes plus adds his own rhythm tracks and beat boxing vocals to the mix and we all bop and clap to the new song, everyone in the room fixated on the fun and the amazing sounds.
Page demonstrates the range of sound he can produce on the technology so the audience gets to experience how much possibility there is with these gadgets. So so much fun to be had with a recording microphone and a creative mind!
Possibly, the technological star of the show was the Theremin - an electronic instrument controlled without physical contact. It is named after its inventor, Léon Theremin, who patented the device in 1928, but it was originally an experimental government-funded proximity sensor! The thereminist moves his or her hands in the proximity of two metal antennas to vary pitch and volume. The Theremin has been used in film soundtracks and in pop music over the years including The Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations. One of the teachers got to be the thereminst as Page jammed along with loops and sax.
After one more ‘name -loop-song’, Adam Page bids us goodbye. I am fairly certain the students would have sat there for a whole extra hour, such was their enjoyment and appreciation. Hopefully Page had time for a cup of tea and a big sit down after the energy expenditure it would have taken to work his magic for this ‘in the moment’ performance. As any performer knows, improvisation and working with young audiences is wicked fun but probably requires the most energy! If you haven’t experienced Adam Page and his music, I recommend you find a way to do so, whatever your age.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.