Song / Book: Grapes of Wrath vs. 1984: Rob Halverson and his friends wrap live music in heavy fiction – Arts
It might sound a little odd, comparing our tainted Trump train wreck from a 2017 to the climax of the 1984 Spandex-bending DayGlo, right?
But, when you talk about George Orwell novel, well, things can get very insightful very quickly – and pretty scary, too. And about – hello climate change – what about that of John Steinbeck Grapes of Wrath?
What if “to speak of” meant to stage a night of sound and literary exploration punctuated by music, by artists like Thor harris, Gretchen phillips, Jonathan horne, Carrington MacDuffie, and other local but fierce talent on a global scale?
Because that’s what happens at The Museum of Human Achievements this Friday night: a sort of orchestrated explosion of electronic instruments and percussion, wielded by these artists as a sort of classic Austin “Hoot Night”, using songs, lyrics and live performances to contrast the two powerful novels and their resonances with the modern world.
Austin Chronicle: Why this novel in particular?
Rob Halverson: The Grapes of Wrath 75 project began a few years ago when I partnered with the National Steinbeck Center to create new media to explore modern themes such as peoples’ rights, the banking crisis, immigration issues. and climate change – “Dust Bowl Ogallala” is a song! – and all this while looking through John Steinbeck’s lens on the 75th anniversary of his Great Depression era novel. We have held annual concerts locally and have been fortunate to have some really great artists and writers involved – like Thor Harris, Abra Moore, Sara Hickman, Amparo Garcia-Crow, and many more. Gretchen Phillips and Dickie Lee Erwin – I mean, come on! The project has proven to be a great way for artists to create and perform together and connect with audiences in a cool and unique way. And this season, we decided to mashup with another novel, Orwell’s 1984. So here we are!
THAT : And why this Orwell novel?
HR: Well, a question might be: “Are the ideas in 1984 resonates with what preoccupies many people these days? Â»You bet they do. We’ll be loudly playing things called “Evaporating Facts” – reflecting the “fake news” phenomenon – and “Telescreens Now” – aka “I have a” Google Home “in my house!” Another, “Drones”, is a most harmonious affair with circuit-bent synths and found percussion. There is plenty of room for interpretation by bringing 1984 up to date, and we plan to explore this space. Moreover, where can we 1984 to be better explored but in the rooms of the Museum of Human Achievement?
THAT : I see the show’s poster qualifies the event as Grapes of Wrath versus 1984. Same goes for the winner of this match – well I’m thinking of the Texas Cage Match here – does the winner end up fighting another work of fiction in an enhanced sound event like this?
HR: You bet!
In which case, even after the Friday show, you better keep an eye out for that Grapes of Wrath 75 project, Citizen. Looks like they just might have booked the coming apocalypse.