Friday, June 09, 2006

Taste the music of The Vegetable Orchestra from Vienna

Rating: 11110
When these people say that they've got taste in music, I can assure you they're not kidding-- It's because the Vegetable Orchestra uses vegetables (and a couple of kitchen utensils) as their instruments and after the show, serves a hot vegetable soup for the audience to enjoy.

After last Sunday's Death and the Ploughman I was lucky enough to get a seat at the sold-out Raffles' stately Jubilee Hall for the orchestra's final performance as part of the Singapore Arts Festival.

Even if I got the cheapest $20 tickets, I think they were the best in the house because to my surprise, there were only 16 of these plush balcony seats which felt very exclusive!

From the moment they started their first piece Ur-Gem-X, i had a funny grin on my face because of the novelty of it all. In a nutshell, these serious looking guys on stage came all the way from Vienna to make funny sounds with vegetables and we serious looking folk paid some good money to hear them do it!

A pumpkin with a mic inside it provided a solid bass beat, carrots were flutes, chopping knives were snare drums and coupled with the crisp successive snaps of lettuce stalks, grated carrots, beans rubbing against each other and hollowed out stalks that were horns-- everything coming together made for an eclectic sound. There was even a soloist using a leek! Eek!

The predominant sound is some sort of tribal house music dominated by different percussion sounds. As expected, not all of what they played are actually "songs"-- they did a piece about the rainforest and if you closed your eyes, it sounded eerily real! The swishing of leaves, gurgling rain, complete with the sounds of fighting primates that escalated into a rousing cacophony of question and answer was pretty intense specially when you realize that all of the sound is produced by ordinary veggies.

The obvious favorite of the night was their house-music inspired (and aptly named) Greenhouse! That distinctive electronic thumping bass of dance music was faithfully reproduced by what looked like an avocado and I was so impressed that i grabbed an mp3 recording of it with my trusty mobile phone. You can have a listen here. (Better quality audio clips of their other music are available at their website.)

No modern concert would be complete without visualizations and the vegetable orchestra is not an exception! The group's video artist, Volker Piringe, combined "live action" of the instruments being performed on top of an overheard projector with some trippy visuals (complete with fog machine!) on a huge screen. Psychedelic beans, thinly sliced carrot slices swirling around and a first person perspective of a camera moving through a sea of lettuce gave me a sense of what it's like to be a vegetarian on ecstasy!

Coming from a third world country, I don't usually approve of seeing so much wasted food but I guess they redeemed themselves because at the end of the hour long show, a hot soup was served so we could "enjoy the instruments a second time around."

Four pawikan points for this unique all-senses experience. You see the trippy visuals, hear the music, taste the vegetables and if you're quick, you can even come up to the stage after the show and bring home some of the musical instruments!

Plus points because as the show ended and most of the vegetables had been crushed, shredded and chopped, I could smell the fresh vegetable aroma and I felt part of the huge caesar's salad of life.


agent a said...

My mom always told me not to play with my food... and to eat my vegetables.


b said...

i'm liking the new layout!