On Oct. 30, the Improvisational Group of Lawrence University (IGLU) had their first performance of the year in the Esch Hurvis Studio in the Warch Campus Center. IGLU is an ensemble on campus that focuses on improvisational work, usually by means of music and sound, utilizing instruments, vocals and other collected objects to create a desired audial experience. This term, the group collaborated with Instructor of Dance Margaret Paek, as well as their director, Instructor of Music Matt Turner. The ensemble also added dancers from Dance Collective Ensemble. Combining the forces of music and movement created a new creative force to behold, one that pushed the boundaries previously set by IGLU.
Once the room reached a lull in noise, the ensemble took formation in front of the audience. A few students stood with instruments, an accordion and cello most notably, but most students just stood alone, staring blankly forward. Then there was a collective hum that started to fill the space. The resonance from all the voices felt like a warm embrace. This was followed with slight movement as bodies turned left just slightly. As the low hum continued, there was a slight variance in the timbre of vocals, constructing a unique texture, not unlike a didgeridoo. Once they were all facing the windows, the volume rose, escalating the built tension. Each person rotated until they had come full circle back to the front, eventually ending the hum and falling silent.
Then, with a sudden clap from the ensemble and their directors, the performers dispersed to the side chairs of the room as Paek and Turner called out members’ names to make their way to the front. From that point, the students who were called either decided to bring their instruments or just themselves to perform a short improvisational piece with their fellow selected members. This resulted in a number of very unique performances from each small group. Each time there was a different atmosphere created, depending on the movements from dancers and sounds from instrumentalists. They were ominous, worrisome, angry, intense, curious, eerie and just about anything else depending on the interpretation of any audience member. Improvisation allows a creative role from the watchers in this way. They are not prepared in the same way that the performers are; they can take and interpret the performance into whatever they believe it should be.
The end of a piece was signaled by a count off and a collective clap by the performers, when the directors would then call off the next section of people to present their improvisation. After a few segments, Paek and Turner began giving the students parameters for each performance. This constrained and shaped what the students could bring into the space. These constructions included “start together,” “ together with constant motion” or “solos.” How these parameters were met led to interesting ways of how students moved themselves, played their instrument or, in many cases, moved while simultaneously playing their instrument.
The final short piece included all of the members of the ensemble. This powerful performance resembled a bizarre wasteland of sorts. It felt like the room had been transformed into its own world apart from Lawrence. There was conflict and stillness put together in a peculiar way that struck the space.
IGLU only has one performance per term, so the next time they will be performing is Winter Term on Feb. 19.