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DAAP Students Fine-tune Creative Potential
Of Kitchen Appliances

Date: Feb. 19, 2002
By: Carey Hoffman
Phone: (513) 556-1825
Photos by Lisa Ventre and
Andrew Higley
Archive: General News

Combine the TV shows "Junkyard Wars" and "Star Search" with some of UC's most inventive young students, and what do you get? The answer was found the evening of Feb. 7 in an auditorium at the Aronoff Center for Design and Art.

Instrument created by Brittany Weiss of Dream Sequence

That's when 105 first-year students in the School of Architecture and Interior Design put their musical chops on display as part of the program "Rumbles to Make Rhythm."

But this was no ordinary recital.

Complicating factor No. 1 was that the students had to write their own compositions.

Complicating factor No. 2 was the instruments they were writing them for -- parts off of salvaged refrigerators, stoves and dishwashers that were reconfigured by the students for their music-making potential.

Complicating factor No. 3, of course, was that these weren't music students (although some had music experience).

Student Mary Althoff was surprised when first told of the assignment, but a believer afterwards. "Every project we do doesn't always have immediate relevance," she said, "but if you look back, you can see the skills you learned and the correlation becomes really interesting."

"Music has rhythm and sequence, and we deal with some of the same themes in design," said David Lee Smith, a professor in the School of Architecture and Interior Design in DAAP. "Typically when you enter a building, you come through a preparatory space and then move into a grand space. Music proceeds the same way. This is not linear thinking, but critical thinking. We're trying to introduce our beginning students to these principles in a way that doesn't allow them to try to 'play' architect."

The group PHC in performance

Of course, the creative part of the exercise led to high entertainment throughout the program.

Althoff's group, the Brillos, was a nominee for Best in Show at a light-hearted awards ceremony put on by the graduate and teaching assistants afterward. The Brillos punk-influenced show started with a stage diver and ended with the defiant band tossing Brillo pads out at the audience. In between, they delivered their boisterous composition, "Load, Wash, Rinse, Dry, Unload."

"We decided we would go really extreme," Althoff said. "We didn't want to be boring. Stephanie (Winters), our grad student, was apparently a punk at some earlier point, so she had the clothes lying around."

Groups were set up so everyone had at least one member with musical experience. A percussionist would have been ideal. Most of the music went in one of two directions -- either a jangly kind of meditation accompaniment or something out of the percussion extravaganza "Stomp."

Jenny Carl of Datum

For entertainment value, it would have been hard to top Chiaroscuro, the Best in Show winner for its entry - "Cops and Robbers Shoot 'em Up Suite Number Fifteen" from the hit rock opera "Bitchin' Kitchen on the Stormy Seas."

The group realized that their instruments were better suited for sound effects than music, so they created a pantomimed skit. "We realized that lots of the things we were using sounded like gunshots or sirens, so we thought: how about a cops and robbers theme?" said group member Ben Savoca, a high-school trumpeter who combined dishwasher tubing and refrigerator parts to create his "homebone," or home-made trombone.

The Jammin' award went to Grand Master Splash and the funky four for "Flow, Groove & Jam," possibly the most musical performance of the night. They created a wide range of percussive sounds, augmented visually by a black light sequence.

The biggest visual treat might have been the group PHC, whose performance of "Malfunction" was highly theatrical. "We just kept throwing out ideas, seeing if they would work," said group member Ian McCain, who looked half like a hockey goalie, half like the lost member of "Blue Man Group" as he donned blue refrigerator tubs to become the percussion instrument himself.

Josh Mercer of Grand Master Splash and the funky fourBecky Schneider of Rubber BandFaris Al-Mazrouei of Rubber Band

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