Friday, May 25, 2018

Music department showcases Malcom Moon’s senior thesis



This past weekend was a musical one. Quite literally so, as the Music Department showcased two excellent senior thesis projects by Malcom Moon ’15, and Marisa Tornello ’15. Despite the freezing temperatures and the snow outside, members of the Trinity community braved the weather to attend the sold-out shows on Friday and Saturday — a decision that they definitely did not regret.  While both projects took on different approaches and addressed entirely different themes, they truly represented some of the best talents at Trinity. It was also quite amazing how the intimate black-box theatre, Garmany Hall in the Austin Arts Center, was transformed to serve as a space that conjured the perfect atmosphere for two different performances on the same weekend.

Moon’s project titled “Jumping Trains,” featured a live performance of original music, in collaboration with other vocalists, instrumentalists, and a dance ensemble. Quite appropriately, Moon described his show as a “musical experience,” rather than merely a cabaret or concert. His music project relied heavily upon choreography, multimedia, lighting transitions, and text, reflecting his firm belief that “music is not just about listening—it is a synesthetic experience.” The combined elements within the piece definitely echoed this idea and made for an extremely engaging and enjoyable performance. While the vocals throughout the show were strikingly pleasant to the ears, the visual elements screened on the two televisions, as well as on-stage, complemented the song lyrics and melodies to entice audience members to embark upon this journey.

The music in the show, as the title metaphorically evokes, centered on an individual’s journey through life, acknowledging the trials, tribulations and difficult choices along the way. Moon expressed in an interview that most of the songs throughout are extremely personal to him in the way they reflect his lived experiences or observations. He was first introduced to the metaphor, ‘jumping trains,’ as it was the title for one of pop-singer, Jo-Jo’s unreleased albums that dealt with the subject of transitions and making difficult decisions. Given the assorted subjects of most of his songs, and their connection to his own current phase in life, this metaphor was a fitting theme. Moon’s track list was ordered to reflect a coming-of-age of sorts, where after numerous encounters and experiences, the individual is able to finally make a choice between two distinct paths. College life in particular marks a transitional period for most individuals in terms of personal life, career, and exploration. The project addressed the relatable conflicts surrounding the lives of young adults, which deal with concepts such as spontaneity, heartbreak, faith, perseverance and honesty. The theme of movement throughout the show was evident in the way each experience conveyed through a particular track, seamlessly transitioned into the next.

The show opened to the track, “Wait and See,” that echoed a more youthful phase in the life of an individual who is about to set off on a journey. The song was sung by Moon and backed by an a capella arrangement featuring The Accidentals. Not only was it an interesting choice to begin the show purely with vocals, but the singular presence of Moon on stage as he sang against the harmonious backdrop of his a capella brothers seemed to instantly symbolize a solo journey even through the suggested presence of others.

This was seconded by “Right Now,” which depicted an interesting dialogue between Malcom singing, and his collaborator and close friend, Connor Kennedy ’16, rapping on stage. While the transition from an a capella piece to one involving electronic beats and rap was already an exciting one, the next song “On the Run” definitely evoked even more awe. The song introduced gifted pianist, Davis Kim ’15, and supporting vocalists, Mattea Bennett ’16 and Preston Carey ’15, on to the stage. As they sang about one of the darker themes in the show- addiction, the incredibly fluid dance movements by Glory Kim ’17 and Christa Prophete ’17, stole the audience’s gaze. While the song itself was beautifully sung, Prophete and Kim’s choreographed movements very convincingly portrayed this theme, allowing the audience a visual experience of the manipulative effects of addiction.

“Suspended,” a duet sung by Moon and Nicole Muto-Graves ’15, was not only lyrically moving, but was able to mesmerize the audience through the complete and beautiful intertwining of their voices. This piece was followed by “You Broke My Heart,” where Moon confronted the audience very closely, allowing members to take note of his arresting expressions. The piece also delightfully highlighted Bennett and Carey’s own vocal talents in the way their riffs beautifully catapulted across the room. Kim’s live piano accompaniment even through all of this could not have gone unnoticed.

The next three pieces, “Running Out of Time,” “Withdraw,” and “OJ” featured Moon’s collaborations with two extremely talented musicians- Malibongwe Thala ’17, and Ebban Maeda ’16. Moon acknowledged how humbled he felt to work with such artists who not only have excellent vocals, but are also some of the best instrumentalists that he has encountered. These interesting collaborations that also featured choreographed dances by Prophete and Hunter Lindquist ’16 provided yet a few more jaw dropping moments for the audience. The impeccable timings, and evident skills that every performer possessed translated into exceptionally entrancing pieces. The following piece, “Takeoff” also highlighted featuring artist, Kim’s vocal skills. The final track “Jumping Trains” brought Kennedy back on stage for a song that was definitely the catchiest.

Ultimately, the project was not only successful in revealing Moon’s musical talent, but it also reflected his diverse interests through the tactful use of visual media, voice overs, and choreography. Moon expressed his gratefulness and pleasure in being able to work with some of the people on campus that he finds most inspiring and acknowledged the significance of his collaborators in constantly challenging him to improve himself and effectively the project itself. Down to the last detail, even every photograph (captured by Abbey Schlangen ’16) projected throughout the show, and used for promotion, echoed the meticulousness and talent that every individual involved in the project possessed. At the end, the audience was definitely left wanting more.

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