Triangle Soundpainting Orchestra
The Pinhook, Durham
Saturday, Nov. 1

It seemed like a typical Saturday night in downtown Durham: Smokers huddled on the Federal’s patio. Diners gravitated toward Brightleaf Square. … And a bedraggled troupe of zombies moaned and groaned down Main Street.

I’m not talking about drunk undergrads. No, these were actual zombies, many of them playing drums and horns, in a ragged procession. It was the Scene of the Crime Rovers, the street-art marching band headed by Triangle Soundpainting Orchestra conductor Shannon Morrow, drumming up support for the orchestra’s performance at The Pinhook, the new bar at 117 W. Main St.

I arrived just as the orchestra’s performance began. The back of the room was already dark, as artist Jim Kellough unveiled his work as WINKY. Using six slide projectors to beam overlapping still images onto a screen, creating the illusion of animation, WINKY began as a meditation in light, form and color. Bright lozenges resembled lab slides, or chemically dyed internal photography. Later, the abstract images gave way to imbricate photos and portraits.

The Triangle Soundpainting Orchestra, conducted by Morrow, created an impromptu score for Kellough’s images. Soundpainting is a sign language devised by composer Walter Thompson that allows a conductor to guide structured improvisation. The gestures are open to the player’s interpretation. At first, it was an odd sight: an orchestra comprised of flute, keyboard, clarinet, accordion, strings, guitar and a vocalist, staring raptly at someone who appeared to be doing a cheerleading routine.

Morrow conducted energetically, establishing rhythmic underpinnings, then drawing out sinuous themes. One sign seemed to indicate ghastly laughter, a recurring motif in a piece that most resembled a scary B-movie soundtrack. Morrow’s piece contained a more jarring balance of fluent passages and discordant ones. A second piece, conducted by TSO member Wendy Spitzer, was more staid and less jumpy. It was interesting to see how the conductor’s energy radically changed the performances. Similarly, it should be interesting to see how a bar like The Pinhooka stylish, handmade-feeling room, with high red walls and exposed ceiling fixtures, that seems ideally suited to outsider-art events, similar to Chapel Hill’s Nightlightaffects Durham.