Music collective combines classical, electronic

The Quux Collective rehearses “Music for Pieces of Wood,” by Steve Reich for their concert at the Sonia Vlahcevic Concert Hall on Feb. 22. Photo by Julie Tripp.

Maya Earls
Spectrum Editor

An upcoming performance at VCU will blend classical and electronic music on a variety of instruments for audience members of walks of life.

The Quux Collective, made up of VCU faculty and alumni, will perform a free concert in the Sonia Vlahcevic Concert Hall on Feb. 22. Formed in 2007, the group uses a mix of acoustic instruments, CD soundtracks and computer programs. Sheri Oyan, saxophone instructor at VCU, will play the saxophone along with Roland Karnatz (clarinet, Kyma, theremin and didgeridoo), James Oyan (percussion), Brian Cruse (bass), Ivy Haga (bassoon), Anthony Smith (piano and flute), Paul Deiss (piano and vocals), Peter Martin (percussion), and Ed Fraedrich, Steve Bider and Michael Straus, (saxophones). While forming the group, Sheri Oyan said she recruited musicians she knew from her college years.

“One of the members is actually my brother, so that was easy,” Sheri Oyan said. “Most of the people I met in college along the way.”

Originally, the ensemble was a saxophone quartet. The group went by the name “The Collective” temporarily, but as new members joined, the quartet started to search for a new name. Oyan said she used an online thesaurus as a source for ideas.

“I came across the word ‘quux’ which was the definition for a meaningless name, the least important thing,” Oyan said. “I picked it because I was, kind of, making fun of the pretentious names of saxophone quartets around.”

Oyan said the idea to play in an ensemble with a variety of instruments began while she was still in college. Spending her free time in the library as a student listening to recordings of large music groups, Oyan wanted to play with many different-sounding instruments.

“These groups all had unusual instrumentation and it’s something I always wanted to do, but I never really had the resources,” Oyan said.

Another hurdle Oyan faced as a student was organizing people from long distances who would not get paid regularly for performances. After graduating, Oyan said she was able to connect with college friends who wanted to join her on stage.

“Now I find the more we play and the more people we meet, the more people want to play with us,” Oyan said.

The group’s first performance took place at Longwood University. At the time, the acoustic performance was split into duets and trios, with the group only playing one piece as a whole. Now, they use video, electronic accompaniment and the Kyma, an interactive computer program. Oyan said there is a healthy balance in each performance with acoustic and electronic instruments. Because the group is so large, Oyan said they have more flexibility to play unusual sounding pieces. For the concert at VCU, they are currently rehearsing “Music for Pieces of Wood” by Steve Reich.

“It was originally written for five claves, but we’re doing it with literally boards of wood,” Oyan said.

The ensemble is also scheduled to perform an arrangement of “The Feeling Begins” by Peter Gabriel and a few original pieces written by members of the group. Music from live concerts are available on Soundcloud, but Oyan said a CD is still in the planning stages.

The concert will be held at 8 p.m. on Feb. 22 in the Sonia Vlahcevic Concert Hall at the W.E. Singleton Center. Admission is free.

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