Bard News & Events

Press Release


Emily Darrow
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.-The Walter Thompson Orchestra will perform at Bard College on Friday, March 19. The concert is free and open to the public, beginning at 8:00 p.m. in Olin Hall.

The Walter Thompson Orchestra, founded in 1985 as a vehicle for Thompson's compositions and adaptations, explores the interdisciplinary potential of composition through improvisatory works. The WTO includes actors, dancers, and visual artists, in addition to a core ensemble of musicians. Direction is given through "Sound Painting," a physical conducting system created by Thompson that has a vocabulary of over 600 gestures. The conductor/sound painter asks each performer to improvise within the overall composition, stretching the genre boundaries of each "instrument" so that musicians are gesturing, actors are singing, and dancers may be called upon to sample language. The integrated practice of improvisation with interdisciplinary performance sets the WTO apart from other contemporary music, dance, and theater groups.

Thompson has always seen painting and music composition as similar processes. "A painting is full of all kinds of colors, figures, and shapes. That relates to composition. A piece of manuscript that I'm doing some orchestra writing on shows a lot of notes, motion, shape," he explains. "That's how I relate composition to painting-there are so many shapes on paper that deal with how you're harmonizing, what shapes the music's taking, how many clusters you have. It's all very visual." Thompson is the son of abstract expressionist painter Walter Thompson. He spent summers in Woodstock, New York, where he met the painter Phillip Guston and taught at the Creative Music Studio with Karl Berger. His musical influences include Charles Ives, Duke Ellington, and African rhythms.

The Walter Thompson Orchestra has performed in club and concert venues in the United States and Europe, including, in Manhattan at Lincoln Center, The Knitting Factory, La Mama La Galleria, The Kitchen, and Sweet Basil; at Jacob's Pillow in Becket, Massachusetts; on National Public Radio's Fresh Air, and at BimHuis in Amsterdam. Thompson's compositions for theater and dance have been featured in productions in the United States, Europe, and Russia.

In addition to the evening performance a performance is scheduled at 10:15 a.m. on March 19 for the entire Mill Road Elementary School under the auspices of the B.R.I.D.G.E.S. program. Thompson will instruct and then conduct students in creating unique "Sound Paintings." The B.R.I.D.G.E.S. program is a partnership between the Mill Road Elementary School and Bard College, made possible with an Empire State Partnership Grant from the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York State Education Department. The goal of the B.R.I.D.G.E.S. program is to create an arts-infused curriculum at each grade level in which the arts serve as a vehicle for integrating the natural relationships that exist among English language arts, social studies, mathematics, science, and technology.

For further information call 914-758-6822.

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This event was last updated on 03-02-2001