Tutti festival enamores audience with lively music and dance

Hosting a wide variety of musical performances, the TUTTI festival at Denison last week featured acts and collaborations that truly blurred traditional genre lines.

Ching-chu Hu, a music professor, curated the sixth iteration of the festival: he expressed that this year’s focus was to include artists in many disciplines.

Tuesday, the first concert of the week, was a major highlight and featured two performances. International digital performance artist Miwa Matreyek awed the audience with an animation she created projected onto a screen from the front and back allowing her silhouette to reside inside the projected images.

Set to electronic music, Miwa’s body movement guided the audience through the animation themed after the origin and development of life on Earth from the humble beginnings in the ocean to the industry of human existence today. Music, animation and performance melded together in this display of artistry to create a truly unique spectacle.

Following Miwa’s excellent act, Denison professor and poet David Baker teamed up with the River Song Quintet from Los Angeles. The quintet featured players on guitar, trombone, cornet, voice and the violin. Guitarist Gregory Uhlmann began writing music to accompany Baker’s poetry when they met through Uhlmann’s mother some years ago. Now, Uhlmann has composed a score for “Scavenger Loop,” a 30-page epic pastoral poem of protest, death and nature from Baker’s latest book of the same name, coming out in May.

“I found it relieving to experience Dr. Baker in an outside setting,” said Joey Holbert ‘16, a student of Baker’s. “Usually it is us sharing our work and he’s evaluating, but here we were able to see his work and reverse the roles.”

Each member of the band showed off their own dynamic range of talents for the piece and the score fit the poem like a glove, which also varied tremendously in style, form and metaphor. From minimalism and silence (all instruments were hushed when Baker trudged through a rant about seed giant, Monsanto), haunting vocal echoes to full segments where Baker would fall silent, the performance indeed crossed lines in both poetry and ensemble to generate something completely one of a kind. It is collaborations such as this that defined the TUTTI festival, but it was just getting started.

On Thursday, Denison alumna and art educator Mad Mohre (‘08) collaborated with resident Vail series ensemble, ETHEL, to compose an interactive installation at the Bryant Fine Arts Center. In a truly random and state-of-the-art manner, the score was composed based off of the spatial location of every person in the room, giving the performance a beautifully fleeting and unique presence.

Afterwards, Slayter hosted Denison’s second-ever TEDx series where students, faculty and the community shared keynotes to this years theme of “Creative Destruction.”  ETHEL also made another appearance and performed after the talks that ranged from topics of art and self-care to the mercenary trade.

Friday featured a showcase of Denison student and faculty talent that led to a performance by the Denison symphony Orchestra with percussionist Ian Rosenbaum in Swasey Chapel. On Saturday the fun continued with Sandra Mathern and the Dance Department’s first contribution to the TUTTI festival. Later in the day, they collaborated with Rosenbaum’s percussion performance for another concert. To end the festival in style, Swasey again hosted ETHEL along with Rosenbaum for the final event of the week on Saturday night.

Along with the performances, the week was stuffed with artist talks and open forums with the performers. It allowed students to pick the brains of the faculty and guests in an intimate but casual way.

The TUTTI festival is just another reason why Denison is one of the coolest places to be in the liberal arts game right now.

“Of the many arts events on campus,” Emily Short ‘15 recalled, “these collaborative performances were truly unique – both artistically and emotionally engaging.”

Indeed it was an incredible experience to see what artists can achieve through collaboration and the synthesis of diverse artistic media and styles.

Photo Courtesy of Linh Nguyen