Dropp Ensemble | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Dropp Ensemble

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Local musicians Sam Dellaria and Adam Sonderberg originally conceived the Dropp (pronounced "drope") Ensemble as a way to work with players from around the world without leaving their studio. They asked Parisian sound artist Eric La Casa, Australian electronic musician Brendan Walls, and Viennese guitar-turntable duo Das Fax Mattinger to mail them raw material for the sound track they were assembling for Sense of Urgency Theatre's production of The Empire Builders, a play by French absurdist Boris Vian. Joined by reed player Aram Shelton and percussionist Steve Hess, the duo added live performances to their manipulations of recorded material; the result is a haunting blend of acoustic and electronic textures. Swelling feedback and low clarinet hums erode the groaning cymbals and skittering drums of the 26-minute "Introduktion" as inexorably as an advancing tide, while the amorphous roars of "Gra (1-3)" buffet each other like crosswinds. And on "Dessutom," floor-rumbling reports resembling distant artillery fire represent "the sound" that sends Vian's panic-stricken characters scuttling from one apartment to the next. The play, which opened April 18, uses the recorded sound track, just released on Sonderberg's Longbox Recordings as The Empire Builders (Music for Theatrical Performance). But now the ensemble is taking their music to the stage for the first time: cornetist Josh Berman and bassist Jason Roebke will join Hess, Dellaria, Shelton, and Sonderberg for a performance after the play. Friday, May 9, 10 PM, the Viaduct, 3111 N. Western; 773-844-4603. If you want to see the play as well, show up at 8.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Cali Ryan.

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