Article by Lauren Lyman
Following the first annual Voyager Music Festival, the VoyagerFest organization began coordinating a series of events during the year, which are intended to help build interest, awareness, and a broader audience for the next festival. For the first event, we could not be more excited to have Ponytrap perform a new experimental production entitled Promethean Waltz. The group will headline the event on January 24, 2016 at the Stateside Theater.
The overall intent of the work is to influence society to find human connection in a world overrun by technology. The artists wish to convey this using video projections (by RECSPEC) string instruments, robot drummers (including one that is larger than life) vocals, theatrics, and more. At the core of Ponytrap are husband and wife, Quentin Thomas-Oliver and Hilary Thomas-Oliver, the former performing on viola and the latter on cello.
“The theme of the show is around the search for home and belonging, ” Hilary said. “In a really direct way, the show is about us building the robots, and we built the robots because Quentin had, for a very long time, he had a vision in his head of this musical project, and he couldn’t find the right drummer to participate so he turned to technology and built the drummer. So, it is the story of us coming to that realization-we can just build it.”
The vision began about twenty-five years ago, during Quentin’s music training. He wrote the music for Promethean Waltz at that time.
“At my very first ever recital, one of those tunes-the Waltz-is from that, from that far back,” Quentin noted. “That’s how deep it goes. It is the realization of something that goes back that far. One of those tunes, which ironically for us is one of our newest tunes, is the very first thing I ever wrote for this project. Again, pushing twenty-five years ago.”
Hilary adds that there is a search for each other in their personal relationship, in their project, and then in the poetic sense-a search for everyone’s own tribe and where we can be ourselves. The metaphor of “home” is what drives the mentality behind the production. It is interesting to note that while we live in a society that is saturated by technology, and by now, in almost everything we do, that Ponytrap’s music is built upon technological grounds.
“For us the technology angle has a lot to do with somewhat making our life easier,” Quentin said, “but in the same way that that’s kind of a frightening thing.” Quentin remarks sometimes Ponytrap will get a negative response on the fact they are using a robot drummer.
Hilary continues, “Ironically enough, our relationship to technology is in defense of the technology of music, even though the theme of the show is sort of like ‘how do you connect on a human level in this world overrun by technology,’ and really it’s about the application of technology. Is it helping you or is it coming between you?”
One way to find that human connection is through creativity. Actor Charles Peter Keichline will be the voice of that creative spark in this show.
“He is the voice that kind of narrates the struggles and the successes that we have had in trying to make this project work,” Hilary added. “It’s kind of Quentin’s inner voice, as he’s tried to get this project off the ground, voicing his frustrations, and also kind of narrating, again, the metaphor on all those different levels.”
Additionally, Voyager Fest introduced Ponytrap to Laurel Barickman, who is the founder of RECSPEC-a visual arts production company. Hilary and Quentin are thrilled to have such fantastic visual work for this event, as well as the other elements combined. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own percussion, to participate, and hopefully achieve an aesthetic and musical synchronicity with the audience.
The music will start at 6 P.M. The electronic artist, eBurner, will be the opening act: http://www.eburnermusic.com
All ticket information can be found on this event page: https://tickets.austintheatre.org/single/SYOS.aspx?p=933
Visuals for the event: http://recspec.org/
Photo credit: Katie Cowden Photography