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Out of this world


Aaron Farnsworth
Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA symphony conductor Jindong Cai leads the orchestra in a practice Friday in the Music building. They will be performing Wednesday at Centennial Hall.

By Graig Uhlin
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
December 6, 1999
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The advent of the new millennium brings with it the promise of new and exciting forms of entertainment.

The UA School of Music and Dance must then be credited with forward thinking because their upcoming UA Symphony Orchestra concert will deliver an innovative new way of experiencing classical music.

The New Century at Centennial: The Planets' Concert will fuse a symphony concert with a movie theater-like visual presentation of planetary images. The presentation will coincide with composer Gustav Holst's orchestral suite "The Planets'," an hour-long piece of seven movements to be performed in the second half of the program.

The movements, like the planets themselves, are named for Roman gods, including Mars, the Bringer of War, and Mercury, the Winged Messenger. Missing from the list is Earth as well as Pluto, which had yet to be discovered in Holst's time. The visual portion will take its inspiration from these movement titles.

On a specially constructed 18-by 36-foot screen suspended above the orchestra, planetary images selected from the slide library of the UA Space Imagery Center will be projected with the help of I-Mag, an image projection company.

The images, multimedia specialist Cynthia Barlow said, are taken from past space missions like the Galileo, Voyager and Pathfinder missions. Many of these pictures have never before been seen by the public, including some images taken by the NASA Mars Polar Lander that landed on the red planet just last Friday.

Barlow and others worked with UA Symphony Orchestra conductor Jindong Cai to match the visuals to the music.

"We spent a lot of time going over the score, finding the climactic moments and the images to go with them," Barlow said.

On the screen, the pictures will fade in, fade out or move across in accordance with the music. The intention is to provide a more interesting, more stimulating musical experience.

And as if this wasn't enough, The Planets' Concert aspires to be more than just another performance.

"This is the biggest event (for the School of Music and Dance) in terms of our reach to the community and music education. I want to have a concert that people will remember on the last days of class before next year," Cai said.

Tomorrow, the concert will be performed for a sold-out audience of 2,500 elementary and high school students. The concert has been turned into an educational event for the students with free T-shirts and an interactive Web site. This is an attempt to reintroduce classical music to a younger generation and generate interest in the orchestra's other performances, which total six a year.

Cai wants to provoke a new way of thinking for the audience about the millennium. Using Wagner's "Overture to Die Meistersinger" and Strauss' "Four Last Songs" (featuring internationally renowned soprano Faye Robinson), both composers of the Romantic era of music history, Cai wants the audience to reflect on the last century. Then, for the Holst piece, he wants to inspire a new kind of thought on the possibilities for the next millennium.

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