Brook show causes a trance
The Conservatory is full of rebels these days. Last Friday night was a perfect example, as Eric Brook and several accomplices hijacked Kulas Recital Hall for the evening, presenting over an hour of Brook’s original electronic trance music, complete with choreographed digital visualizations and glow-stick performances. The concert marked the release of Brook’s second CD, Shaking a Tower.
Brook kept the doors of Kulas closed until about ten minutes beyond the show’s 8 p.m. start time, as a large crowd assembled in the lounge outside. When the audience finally entered the recital hall, the lights were quickly dimmed. Then, the stage lights went off, leaving the spectators in pitch darkness. The dark transformed the hall into a deep, intimate theater.
Then, in the dark, the music began. An opening section based on a short, memorable motive led into a funky drum loop, which was when the visualizations started appearing on the screen. Psychedelic and imaginative, they provided a good complement to Brook’s equally creative music. As the music continued, a strange, thoughtful sense of compositional structure, motivic development, texture and orchestration emerged in the midst of hip, stuttering drum loops and synthesized sounds.
When visualizations were not playing, various human silhouettes periodically appeared onstage, performing poi, a kind of glow-stick twirling. While more than a few glow-sticks became frustratingly tangled on stage, the audience, in true Oberlin fashion, applauded enthusiastically anyway. The best poi performances were those that mimicked and reacted to the changes in the music’s tempo and mood.
The project operates under the alias of “DJRJ,” which, Brook notes, is not really a DJ name. “DJRJ is a hybrid of progressive trance and art music,” he says. “I wanted to take trance to a different level.” Brook, a senior composition student of Professors Randy Coleman and Ross Feller, started experimenting with trance music when a friend from his native Louisiana showed him a computer program.
Brook said, “It was a joke at first, but I started realizing I could do some really cool trance stuff with it. I wanted to do something that was totally different from anything else you’d see in the Conservatory. With a classical concert, you go in and the lights are all up. But I wanted people to really be entertained. It’s about arousing the affections.”
A highlight of the visual aspect of the performance was when a naked, dreadlocked individual prowled out into the abyss and began experimenting with a set of glow-in-the-dark body paints. First, the creature examined the paints curiously, and then he smeared a large quantity of glowing blue material onto his face, leaving only his eyes and mouth as pockets of infinite black depth. He continued to cover his arms, legs and torso with the substance, and then he began to dance, a strange, expressive consort of disembodied members reaching and stretching in the dark.
This performance brought out a surreal quality in Brook’s music that had before been subdued. These visualizations revealed that Brook has created a type of music that really does, as he says, “arouse the affections.” His sensibilities as a composer have enabled him to use electronic music to create a very powerful theatrical effect.
“[My music in relation to popular trance music is] more complex, mainly because you’re getting more information than you do with most trance. I wanted to up the ante. It makes you think.”
For more information about DJRJ, visit