Last Friday night, a very unique performance took place in Mason Hall Performance Center. Led by Dr. James Woodward of the David L. Walters Department of Music, Jacksonville State University’s very own Q Ensemble was the accompaniment to the classic 1920s silent film, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
The Q Ensemble is a group of students that specializes in contemporary music performance.
“There’s always been a contemporary music ensemble at JSU,” says Woodward, and their purpose is just that – to promote unique, contemporary music.
When approached about his vision of the performance, Dr. Woodward explained one of the many connections between film and music. “I chose the medium and the film in general because it is easiest to improvise jazz (that’s what jazz musicians do) and horror movie sounds.”
“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde provided lots of scenes in bars and clubs for jazz and lots of terror for horror movie sounds,” says Woodard.
Dr. Woodward was very pleased with the outcome of the performance. “My favorite part was the really creepy parts of the film because it made the instrumentalists think about the sound that was coming from their instruments,” says Woodward. “Instead of just playing pitches and rhythms, they were playing screeches and scratches and other things that can’t even be written out on staff paper.”
When asked about their favorite parts of the performance, the students were just as enthusiastic about the performance as their instructor. “Just getting to uncontrollably hit instruments and do things I don’t really practice doing on a daily basis was pretty entertaining,” says percussionist AJ Chandler.
The Q Ensemble made their entire performance – the improvisation, the horror movie sounds, the scratches and screeches – look incredibly easy. However, every performance has its own challenges.
“The most challenging part was getting the instrumentalists to abandon playing a melody and instead getting them to play a horrible, wretched sound to depict Mr. Hyde terrorizing people,” explained Woodward.
“It’s pretty difficult to play your instrument poorly after you’ve learned to perform so well,” agrees bassist Nick Staff.
The Q Ensemble presented a truly unique and inspiring performance; the most impressive part being that they improvised in their minds what they felt was happening musically in each scene and manifested it in a way that made the film much more comprehensible to their audience.
Music helps us to understand a little bit more about ourselves and the world around us and the Q Ensemble has certainly brought a new taste of understanding to the city of Jacksonville.