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Music meets world of the art gallery

By Hallie Jordan     4/4/12 7:00pm

Looking for a new experience and hoping to better engage an audience, Shepherd School of Music doctoral composition student Robert McClure will bring a music composition to a gallery art space, in a non-traditional performance held at the Orange Show in Houston next Friday, April 13.

The performance will include three pieces, one of which McClure wrote specifically for this show.

The Orange Show is located in east Houston and is a venue for shows and art that was founded in 1956 by Jeff McKissack, who built the art space by hand from found materials.

"The Orange Show Monument lends itself to unique, immersive exhibitions where performers can utilize all of the different spaces to create something completely original and where the monument itself is a character in the performance," Orange Show Consultant Jonathan Beitler said.

McClure approached the Orange Show earlier this year to see whether he wanted to put together a short concert for the venue. McClure decided to turn working with the Orange Show into an opportunity to create a kind of music he has never done before.

"This was a great opportunity to do something a little bit different and write a piece that wouldn't need to be in a concert hall," McClure said.

The event will feature three pieces: "Untangle My Tongue," "In Steel" and "Music Box 9." McClure composed "Music Box 9" specifically for the Orange Show.

Instead of being performed on stage, "Music Box 9" will be played in two ways. First, as audience members file in through the maze of the Orange Show, they will encounter musicians in groups of two or three who will be playing segments from "Music Box 9." Then, they will sit down at a stage at the end of the maze and listen to the three pieces played in full.

"I've always been fascinated by the art gallery and wanted to create an alternative concert experience for people," McClure said. "This was a great challenge to write a piece that was site-specific."

Since the 20th century, composers have branched off in the way they compose compared with earlier music. This change in style makes it more difficult for an audience to understand the music style since they all vary, McClure said.

"A big problem with modern music is that the audience doesn't understand it, so I wanted to teach the audience what was important," McClure said. "Once is not enough to understand it."

McClure's compositions, combined with the unique structure of the Orange Show, will give the audience an experience unlike any they have had before that blends music and art into one, Beitler said.

"This composition posed new challenges, making me adapt as an artist and to keep thinking," McClure said. "I just hope the audience will have a positive experience."

McClure started composing in high school after playing percussion for the band. When he was 18, his band director died, and he wrote a piece for both the orchestra and band to play together in the director's memory. After that, he went to Bowling Green State University to study music education and then to the University of Arizona, where he earned a masters degree in composing before coming to Rice.

Currently, McClure is in his third year of the doctoral composition program and is teaching a class about analyzing Radiohead and Bjork.

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