Alumni collaborate on transcontinental Olympic event

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Photo by Amanda Pitts
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As college students, Adam Cuthbert and Daniel Rhode had always wanted to compose music with electronic influences for a symphony orchestra. Now their collaboration will be part of a transcontinental project in honor of the Olympics.

Cuthbert, a native of Farmington, and Rhode, of Grosse Ile, met as music students at Grand Valley State University. Both have since graduated with bachelor’s degrees in music: Cuthbert in 2010 and Rhode in 2012. Cuthbert now lives and works in New York City and Rhode is in Grand Rapids. Most of their collaborating for this project was done online via Skype and Dropbox.

Their collaboration, “Bodies in Motion,” is part of a larger Cultural Olympiad project that will take place over three days, July 9, 10 and 12, in Allendale, Amsterdam and London, with simultaneous interactive performances captured for live webcasts, viewable each day at http://research.kingston.ac.uk/bodiesinmotion.

On July 9, at 2:30 p.m., and July 10, at 1:30 p.m., Grand Valley senior student dancers Judi Jaekel, of Montague  and Jessica Loosenort, of Cedar Springs, will perform at Grand Valley’s Allendale Campus to music from student ensembles performing at London’s Kingston University and the Amsterdam Conservatory in the Netherlands. The dancers will wear special costumes that contain Wii controllers to allow their movements to trigger specific pre-recorded music events. The dancers kinesthetic performance incorporates the athleticism of the Olympic games while integrating modern technological advances.

The reverse will happen July 12, at 12:30  p.m., when the Grand Valley Symphony Orchestra will perform the music written by Cuthbert and Rhode in Allendale as dancers from the other two universities respond to the music. Fully embracing today’s technology, Cuthbert and Daniel Rhode composed new work that combines traditional orchestra instruments with a solo electric violin and several iPad performers.

“We were asked to compose music for orchestra that related to the historic work of the Kingston-born photographer Eadweard Muybridge, who was fascinated with movement and technology, and is noted for his stop-action photos used to study the movement of horses,” said Rhode. “We decided to make a study of the orchestra through the lens of electronic dance music.”

It isn’t the first time the duo collaborated. In fact, as students they wrote music for many of the student ensembles and curated a concert series called Sight/Sound that put on six concerts of more than 70 works. “It gave us a context in which to write more experimental music that was less ‘classical,’” said Cuthbert.

The Cultural Olympiad celebration of the 2012 London Olympic Games through dance, music, theater, film and digital innovation is the brainchild of David Osbon, head of Collegiate Music at Kingston, and will be the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic movements. The collaboration is also in celebration of the 25-year partnership between Grand Valley and Kingston University, which has provided international opportunities for hundreds of students, faculty and staff members.