Hi folks! At the current time, we’re looking for a dedicated, nerdy, and awesome instrumentalist who plays an instrument in the soprano/alto range to play with the group full time. If you know anyone or if YOU would like to play with us, please send us an email at: email@example.com. Please pass this along!
- Missed out on our “Monsters!” or “Heroes!” concerts ? Check out our Music/Videos section for some live videos! Or check us out on our YouTube Channel, Beta Test Music.
- There’s much more to come, including our next theme concert in July. We’re working on it right now and super excited. Hopefully, you are too! Tentatively, we’re thinking about buttons. Yes, buttons. More on this in the next coming weeks!
- If you can’t get enough of us and want to see us play a short set, we’ll be performing as part of a showcase for LocalArtsLive Young Friends on April 7th. Here’s the info: LYF Classical Music Showcase – April 7th – 7:30 PM, Fisher Bennett Hall at UPenn, 34th and Walnut, Rose Recital Hall – Rm 419. For more details, info, and to purchase tickets, check out the event’s website: LYF Classical Music Showcase Tickets are FREE if you order them in advance. Pretty rocking.
- Lastly, as always, don’t forget to check back from time to time to see what we’re up to! We’d love to hear from you about concert ideas, performances, or anything related to music so feel free to contact us! Hope to see you around!
Below are some of the program notes for our show coming on this Saturday. You can find some more writing on it at Steve’s blog Classical Gaming. Pick up tickets at TicketLeap and listen to some tracks of us playing music from Super Mario Land and Final Fantasy III on Bandcamp.
I Do Believe is built around the primary melody of “We Shall Overcome.” Some elements of the piece were sketched out in 2010, but the piece was otherwise written in 2012 for four wind instruments and tape. Throughout the piece, melody is injected into the music as a way to create tension or a sense of struggle in the music. This sense of struggle, not unlike the themes in the text, resolves at the end as the melody and accompaniment come to a jubilant agreement.
About half the music had been written before I realized that I was riffing on the protest song, which speaks to both its simplicity and strength. The original has a long history which began over a hundred years ago in Philadelphia. Penned as a gospel hymn by the Reverend Charles Tindley along with a handful of other songs, the song was originally called “I’ll Overcome Someday.” Eventually the song found its way into union halls during the 1930′s, taking on some text and melodic revisions. At some point after this, the song exchanged the individual “I” for the collective “we.” Superficially this is a small alteration, but it changes the entire focus of the song’s message. With this change in focus to a collective spirit, the song was adopted as an anthem for the Civil Rights movement. Since then, the song has been used in a variety of protest situations throughout the world.
The music explores the different side of heroism, looking at the courage ‘normal’ people must exhibit to bring about change in the world.
La Bataille was written by the French composer Clement Janequin to celebrate a victory over the Swiss Confederates in 1515. The piece is one of the earliest examples of ‘battle music,’ a popular subject during the renaissance that employed ample onomatopoeia and word painting to illustrate the sounds of war. The song has a loose story that begins with preparations to fight, the battle, and a victorious resolution. In addition to the imitation of battle sounds, there are are descriptions of the the soldiers and the king as noble and lion like.
The piece illustrates the classic ideal of the hero, a soldier charging into battle with weapon and armor shiny and spectacular.
The Hero of Canton is one of many fantastic moments in Joss Whedon’s short lived space western Firefly. The song comes from the episode “Jaynestown” which is set in a town that has canonized one of the main characters, Jayne Cobb. The problem is that the town’s mythical hero also happens to be one of the show’s most selfish characters. The dissonance between the real person and the myth is brought into focus through the plot, a statue in the middle of town, and this faux folk song. The episode raises the point that our culture’s need for stories of heroism is more important than the real life details of those people’s lives.
What are monsters? They are the offspring of our fears and imagination. Zombies can be viewed as a symbol for society’s assault on the individual, or our fear of death, or worry over the apocalypse. Bram Stoker’s Dracula bundled Eastern European exoticism with sexual desire forbidden at the turn of the century. Godzilla was created in Japan to help negotiate the trauma of nuclear attacks. This is not particularly surprising, but our yearly celebrations of these terrible creatures is fascinating.
Monsters exist so we can tell stories about their defeat, but each Fall children costumed as mummies and witches collect candy and dentists decorate their lawn with werewolves and ghosts. People suddenly love the gruesome.
Why do we celebrate monsters? Personally, I like to celebrate the creativity applied towards finding ways to explore our deepest fears. A frightening amount of my shelf space is dedicated towards films, books, games, and comics about evil creatures. This fascination obviously extends to music that addresses the topic, and I’m thrilled to present some of that music to you in our Monsters concert at Moonstone on 10/22.
Two of the pieces on the program are from the classical repertoire. An obvious choice for our theme was Schubert’s Der Erlkönig. The work is a beautiful setting of Goethe’s haunting story of a child attacked by a vague evil spirit. The performance will be an arrangement that replaces the piano with harp, clarinet, and tuba. We’ve recruited Brandon Frumolt to sing the vocal part and the piece should be a treat for all.
Additionally, we decided to explore the music of Carlo Gesualdo; the Renaissance composer infamous for killing his wife and the man she was having an affair with, then displaying their mutilated bodies outside his palace for the entire town to see. Yet this monstrous man’s music is both gorgeous and chromatic in a way that was not seen in Western music again for generations. We chose three madrigals from his many books of vocal music: Non T’amo o voci Ingrata, Itene o miei sospiri, and Gia piansi nel dolore.
New pieces, old instrument
We’ll be premiering two brand new pieces as well at our Monsters program. When Beta Test was first formed, Justin mentioned to Doug that he also played an instrument called the hulusi. The instrument is a Chinese folk instrument with free reeds and two drone pipes. It has an extremely sweet tone. Doug used the first excuse he could to write some music for it which you will hear in “Kezar Lake Siren Song for the hulusi and harp”. Lake Kezar, possibly most famous for being the residence of horror writer Stephen King, is a spectacularly peaceful place in central Maine. Work began on the piece while vacationing there and playing on a very out of tune piano. The image of sirens calling out from the lake became clear almost immediately.
We’re also very excited to play Melissa Dunphy’s ”Under The Bed”. I think the title explains itself, and I can assure you it’s as thrilling as a child’s fear of that hidden place. Melissa is a fantastically talented composer, and I’m really glad she was able to find time between her other awesome projects (including recording her vocal piece Tesla’s Pigeon and work on an opera about Ayn Rand) to write music for us.
Video game and movie music
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Beta Test performance if we didn’t have some classic video game and movie music. We’ve brought back the zany soundtrack from “Zombies Ate My Neighbors” for this show. In a similar vein, we’ve created an arrangement of the theme from Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice”. Both would have you believe that fighting the dead is actually a pretty fun circus-y time. Since I don’t have any personal experience, I really can’t argue with that view.
We’d be embarrassed to put on a monster themed geeky concert if we didn’t include music from Castlevania. For many, the soundtracks from those titles are more memorable than the actual game play. Kinuo Yamashita created the trademark sound for the game, which tried to match the Gothic settings musically. We selected a few of the more famous moments as well as some unique musical moments.
Finally, the music from Chrono Trigger seemed to resonate with our theme in a unique way. Video games are full of villains who have some monstrous qualities, but Chrono Trigger features the apocalyptic parasite Lavos. Sure, to win the game you need to defeat the monster, but its not a diabolical scheming villain. Appropriately, the music for Lavos is not so much sinister as it is overwhelming.
We feel that we found a unique characteristic in each piece that still fits the Monsters theme, and we hope you enjoy the variety. The music represents that fascination with evil creatures that we tend to celebrate once a year. Come join the celebration with us. You can find all of the details of the concert here.
October 22, 7:30pm
Moonstone Arts Center -
110A S. 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
We’ve put together an awesome evening of music for all of you around the theme of MONSTERS. Yeah, that’s right: music about vampires, demons, gigantic aliens that bring on apocalypse, the usual. We’ve even enlisted some of our friends to play and sing along with us the following aural delights:
A new work by Doug Laustsen
Music from Castlevania
Franz Schubert’s Erlkonig (sung by Brandon Frumolt)
Lavos’ theme from Chrono Trigger
Madrigals by Carlo Gesualdo
Save a few bucks and get your tickets before the concert HERE.
Interested in a few snippets for a preview? Here you go!