Journalism by Shueh-li
Sonicfreakz  |  11 Aug 2009

RED is the Colour of Permission!

REDCAT/CalArts Theater CA

REDCAT/CalArts Theater CA

I visit the Roy and Edna Disney theater, an adjunct to CalArts in downtown LA at the corner of W. 2nd St. and S. Hope St.

As I wait to the cross at the traffic lights, I gaze upon the swirls of the architectural sails that remind me of the Sydney Opera House, but on a smaller scale.

REDCAT its acronym conjures synesthetic imagery. (#1)

Red is power, passion, prosperity, new life, the colour for stop …

Red is permission says Lauren Pratt, Associate Producer for Music (REDCAT/Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts) who meets me with Associate Director, George Lugg, for a Californian pow-wow.

Lauren: “Artists are given permission to work outside their realm of enquiry and try something they might not have tried before or thought was possible. They feel it is a truly experimental place for them.” To quote such an instance, Lou Reed in the Fall of 2008, worked with Ulrich Krieger to orchestrate a free Improv work in the noise realm entitled ‘Unclassified’. Reed and Krieger first met in 2002 for ‘Metal Machine Music’.

The Cat has an affable nature that morphs to please the personality of its host then is on its way to a new home. A Cat is also known in the jazz circle as a musician with qualities that have earned them a cat card. The Cat is the peripatetic artist looking to find an appreciative audience at The Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater.

REDCAT is the production arm of CalArts, the California Institute of the Arts whose programming reflects the wide range and diversity taught at CalArts, much of which is in experimental areas; aka new music.

In developing new music, ‘cultural-exchange’ plays a very important role in the CalArts educational experience. Citing from that same Fall 08 program, Lauren describes the intriguing work of Indonesian dancer, Sardono W. Kusumo who performed “against music that was through-composed; Western music and free improvisation forms” featuring ethnic and orchestral instruments, and electronic ones.

A treat for those with a penchant for technological wizardry is the upcoming Interactive Opera “AH!” put together by the Dean of the Herb Alpert School of Music, David Rosenboom.

Amalgamating cultural persuasions of the technical kind, “AH!” saw Rosenboom work in Summer of 2008 with ten performer-composers chosen from around the world in a workshop situation; using the Wiki forum to collaborate when remotely stationed until they meet once again in August this year. (#2)

When “AH!” comes together on the 16th September 2009, you the audience, will be given a chance to contribute to the performance via iPhone apps!

CalArts can truly boast of being a practitioner of the Disney motto “It’s a Small World”. Within the school, they have a department of Indian music, Indonesian, African and Persian music, and “pockets of others” say Ms Pratt. It also houses a true community Balinese Gamelan; consisting of students, alumni and people from the community. CalArts has two Gamelans; Balinese and Javanese.

In November of this year, the Balinese Ramayana, never been presented before in LA will be staged by The Music Circle, premier presenter of classical Indian music (SoCal). (#3)

The REDCAT arches its back in anticipative reflex, then relaxes its spine with a look of ease on its face. It has roamed the world, is satisfied that it is indeed small and is ready to come home.

Lauren : “It’s long been the idea of CalArts to have all of its teachers be working artists. The artistic leave policy is very flexible. They don’t just come back to CalAarts to die artistically.”

The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts extols the virtue of having their teachers play alongside their students as an invaluable part of the experience and have had two to three generations of teachers and students on stage in their productions.

“The artist’s vision grows when it becomes obvious what the space allows. (This is) the expanded imagination,” George expounds on the REDCAT effect.

With regards to its programming, REDCAT was to be one third international presenting, one third select projects out of CalArts, and one third LA based artists. Some are commissions through CalArts, some commissioned with other institutions throughout the USA.

As I sail away on Rama’s Journey, I dream of the REDCAT effect. It became clear to me, that there is no other place where veteran Grizabella, young Jemina and their friends could bask in their former glory and yet be an integral part of the development of new, cross cultural music.


Blackbox theater © CalArts

 L-R : Mike Brunt, Shueh-li Ong, George Lugg, Lauren Pratt.

L-R : Mike Brunt, Shueh-li Ong, George Lugg, Lauren Pratt.

1) The REDCAT Performance Space

This is an interdisciplinary contemporary arts center consisting of a 3,000 square foot gallery and a flexible, state-of-the-art 200-seat theater located in the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex

2) How do musicians apply to be at CalArts?

To encourage innovation and experimentation, CalArts’ six schools; Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music and Theater are all housed under one roof. Emphasis is placed on new and experimental work and students are admitted solely on the basis of artistic ability.


I’d like to thank the people at REDCAT/CalArts especially Lauren Pratt, George Lugg and Clara Kim (Gallery Director and Curator) for showing us around.


(#1) Synesthesia

(#2) “Ah!” the Opera

(#3) The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit Epic. It is one of the two great epics of India and depicts the duties of relationships. Ramayana translates to Rama’s Journey


Below is a 6min video of a snippet of our meet.

CalArts • California • cross cultural music • David Rosenboom • Edna Disney • experimental music • Gamelan • Herb Alpert School of Music • Lou Reed • new music • REDCAT • Roy Disney • Walt Disney Concert Hall • world music •

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