ELECTROSHADOW FIELD TRIP NO. 4

Editor’s Note: Our resident contributor, the lovely Marie B, is back with a report on her recent experience at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas. Our very own Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra performed music from the works of one of the world’s greatest animation studios, and we were there to soak in the magic… 

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The MPO’s previous proposal of Michael Bay In Concert was rejected due to fire hazard & excessive noise concerns.


As a contributing writer for Electroshadow, it seemed wrong of me not to cover “Disney’s Pixar in Concert”, a performance by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra featuring the musical scores from Pixar’s treasure trove of movies. By virtue of the role thrust upon me by the reading public and my ties to this site, it was imperative that I attend this concert. It was my responsibility, nay my duty, to see this performance. The fact that I’m a die-hard Pixar fan had nothing to do with it. Really. *wink, wink*

So on June 8, I tidied myself up, put on a dress, heels and some make-up and, with my Editor-in-Chief in tow, made my way to the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas for the chance to hear some of my favourite themes played live.

The first thing I noticed upon arrival was that the culture of dressing up for the theatre has faded. There used to be such romance and elegance in attending these events. It was sophisticated and refined. Now, the attitude towards these performance arts has become more casual. Gone are the coats, gowns, suits and ties. They’ve been replaced by sneakers, khakis, casual dresses and sometimes, even jeans. I suppose in a way it means that the arts have become more accessible to the public. Still, one can’t help but yearn for the genteelness of before.


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Well, that rules out most Malaysians. And your average tourist.


But I digress.

Having never attended an orchestral concert before, I had no idea what to expect. Apart from cinema, musical theatre and straight plays were more my thing. Imagine my surprise when I walked in and saw an open, fully-lit stage even before the show had started. There were even one or two instrumentalists practicing their parts. The occasional boom of a horn and the ring from a clarinet were like unspoken words of welcome to a waiting audience. Soon enough more and more musicians took their place on stage and when finally they were complete, Australian conductor Nicholas Buc made his entrance and led them into their opening number, the Pixar Overture.

I was so happy.

That afternoon the MPO took the audience on a cinematic adventure, performing for us beautiful scores created by some of the industry’s best composers: Randy Newman (the “Toy Story” trilogy, “A Bug’s Life”,” Monsters, Inc.”, “Cars”, “Monster’s University”), Thomas Newman (“Finding Nemo”, “Wall-E”), Michael Giacchino (“The Incredibles”, “Ratatouille”, “Up”, “Cars 2”) and Patrick Doyle (“Brave”). Together with the music an overhead screen played scenes from the films, from their earlier classics like “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo”, to their newer titles, “Brave” and “Monster’s University”.


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The chandelier designers were big fans of Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.


One of my first realisations was that stripped of dialogue, music becomes the voice for the movie’s visuals. The rise and fall, the tempo, the simplicity and the complexity of music all directs an audience’s focus, letting them know the emotions of the scene and at times even heightening it. It is the wonderful result of the skilful interplay of the different instruments in a philharmonic orchestra.

For example, add the joyful lilts of the wood winds and suddenly the piece is whimsical and playful, the perfect accompaniment to Nemo’s first view of the world outside of his home. Accentuate the material with the deep beats of the percussions and it becomes majestic and grand, like the entrance of the top Scarers of “Monsters, Inc.”. It’s easy to take music for granted when it seamlessly blends into the background, mixed together with dialogue, sound effects and great visuals. But as I watched the scenes accompanied only by the music, I began to appreciate and understand more the nuances and layers music brings to a film.


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It was all going so smoothly until that guy in the wind section decided to have curry and beans for lunch.


That led me to my second realisation: performances like these are about the ensemble, not the individual. In stage shows, there is always a focal point. There is a form of staging shorthand that lets you know where you should be looking, helping you identify what important point is happening at the moment. It could be a monologue, or an actor standing in the foreground, or how a certain part of the scene is lit. But in an orchestra, there is no spotlight. There is no one person driving this performance. And even if an instrument should be having its solo, they are never singled out. Each instrument is part of a bigger whole, and each solo is a fraction of a grander piece. I was always trying to find which particular instrument was making a particular melody or sound and often not succeeding, so harmonious was their blending. Or perhaps it was simply the fact that I had untrained ears. Whichever the case, I now have an even greater respect for the talent of those who can write such powerful, moving and remarkable themes. To bring together over 40 instruments to create aural art is no mean feat.

Finally, it made me realise how special these films are to me. I have laughed, smiled and even cried (hello, “Toy Story 3”) with these movies. My DVD collection of these movies, although incomplete, is one of my prized possessions. And as the show came to an end, all I wanted to do was go home, pop in a Pixar DVD and get lost in that world all over again. But this time, I knew the viewing experience would be richer. Thanks to the magical performance of the MPO.

 

3 comments

  1. Selma

    July 8, 2014 @ 7:13 pm

    I love love love going to the MPO. What’s great about them is they have programs that go beyond just chamber music, like the Beatles. That was my last visit (it was great) and I regret not making it to see this show. Thanks for the writeup, your love for Pixar was infectious.

  2. Pacman

    July 9, 2014 @ 5:29 pm

    I go to the MPO regularly. But I didn’t go to the Pixar concert as I wasn’t sure (MPO’s programming last season was crap and their tickets are too pricey for a punt). After reading your write-up, crap, I’m sure I should have gone!

    P.S. You should check out MPO’s programming in August this year… they are doing the music of Final Fantasy and (thunderous drum roll please)… Led Zep!

  3. Marie B

    July 14, 2014 @ 2:33 pm

    Hi Selma! Thanks for enjoying the piece. It’s great to know that the MPO has a varied program and are brave enough to explore pieces beyond chamber music. Perhaps I should check them out more. Thanks for writing!

    Hi Pacman! MPO doing Led Zep sounds like a lot of fun. It’s great to know that people like you regularly patronize these kinds of performances. Long live the art! Thanks for writing!

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