You can’t put your arm around a memory, nor would anyone want to put his or her arm around Michael Jackson as urban myths surrounding the man have fermented every year since the 80s, especially with comically strange tales, such as his nose falling off during a performance.
Electro-savants, however, quiver with delight as they wrap their heads around Jackson’s music and reinterpret choice songs through their art of sound recording, which will be featured Nov. 23 at USF’s Music Recital Hall.
“It’s the Michael Jackson you know and love, except we do his songs our way,” said John Russell, a SYCOM music student whose work will be featured at the “Jackson Jamboree.”
SYCOM is a suite of electronic music studios that has been housed at USF since the late ’60s and is the program behind the compositions that will be featured.
What can attendees expect from these reinterpretations? SYCOM student Wil Pertz answers: “Quirky? Yes,” in reference to his rendition of “Thriller.” Pertz, who is a bass player, picked up on the versatility offered in the beats of the song.
“I used multiple styles, including reggae and modified jazz beats that meets with bluegrass … I also have a [Frank] Zappa influence,” Pertz said.
Drew Cutler, another student of the program, expressed the value of the equipment available to students for his Jackson song “Heal the World.”
“SYCOM has vintage synthesizers, and I can change the song’s chords for ironic meaning with digital media and analog recording equipment,” Cutler said.
The set-up of the event is like any held at the music hall: The audience is asked to turn off cell phones.
SYCOM has kicked around the idea of the audience turning up their cell phones because the composition’s volume “will be so high that it won’t matter,” Pertz said. “We do things unconventionally around here,” he explained.
The SYCOM events of years’ past have offered eclecticisms from other art departments such as interpretive dancing and film to accompany the music.
Other spontaneous shenanigans have entailed guys with spotlights who follow people walking the isles with their beam during the event. Yet the unconventionality is implied from the nature of the event with guys known as “Shaggy” (a.k.a. John Russell) covering songs by The King (or Queen, if you like) of Pop.
Lovers of absurdist, avant-garde perspectives will dig this synthesis of mass cultural appeal and camp-or-kitsch reflection necessary for music students when covering the dubious fame of Michael Jackson.
The Jackson Jamboree will take place in the Music Recital Hall (FAH 101) Tickets are $6 for adults or $3 for students and seniors.