September 4, 2009
College students are notorious for pushing boundaries, usually to their elders’ displeasure. Next week, however, the College of William and Mary will celebrate breaching borders when the up-and-coming international rock band NiCad travels to Williamsburg.
Composed of five young musicians hailing from Israel, Japan, Chile, the United States and Germany, NiCad defies traditional musical definitions with its self-made electronic instruments and multinational makeup.
The band’s three day visit to the College — which will include classroom lectures, a catered dinner and two live performances — provides students with an opportunity to experience the intersection of the academic and the extracurricular realms.
“They’re very interesting because they sort of have cross purposes,” music department professor Greg Bowers said. “It’s very strange that you have a group coming that’s a student activity event and an academic event. It’s very cool.”
Students will not only have the opportunity to see the band perform and have them speak, but they will also have the chance to participate in its creative process. NiCad has agreed to lend their new release “In Color” to the College’s third annual Global Film Festival for a music video production contest. The theme of this year’s festival is “Global Film and Music.”
Using footage filmed by the Earl Gregg Swem Media Center during NiCad’s two campus performances or independently-generated images, interested students will submit original music videos of the band’s song. The entries will be screened at the Kimball Theater in February, and NiCad will select the winning submission to serve as the band’s official music video.
“It would be a great feather in the cap of aspiring filmmakers and video music producers,” film studies professor Timothy Barnard said.
NiCad will hold an informal meet-and-greet session in Swem Tuesday.Barnard recommends that interested entrants attend.
“Any student would be wise to meet them, talk to them and pick their brains, because they’re gonna pick the winner,” he said. “The way to win is to know what they like.”
The intersection of music and technology the competition creates suits NiCad’s style well. The band’s forays into the experimental world of electronic music incorporate the latest developments in acoustic technology.
“It’s what I would term ‘experimental digital music,’” Bowers said. “They’re designing computers to do things in ways beyond the boundaries of traditional music.”
Bowers’s computer music class, which teaches students about editing, sound synthesis, interactivity and programming, will welcome the members of NiCad as guest lecturers.
NiCad will showcase their innovative approach to music creation at 8 p.m. on Monday in Ewell Recital Hall. Unlike standard concerts at which musicians perform songs they have previously rehearsed, NiCad’s entire show will be improvised music.
“NiCad is going to employ their computers to create templates from which members of the group can improvise and use the system,” Bowers said. “They’ve designed an instrument, but really an instrument is just a series of parameters, a set of possibilities.”
NiCad’s tour has cross-curricular relevance, as its list of sponsors reveals. Supported by the Wendy and Emery Reeves Center for International Studies, the Roy R. Charles Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, the film studies department, the music department and the Swem Media Center and the Campus Musicians Union, the band’s visit required interdepartmental collaboration to plan.
Troy Davis, the director of Swem Media Center and the person responsible for NiCad’s invitation, said the joint effort corresponded with the Media Center’s goal of supporting campus initiatives across disciplines.
“I think it’s great when you can have that many people involved,” Davis said. “The impact is wider.”
The spirit of cooperation surrounding NiCad also fit the Global Film Festival’s mission to unite the campus community and the wider Williamsburg community by screening movies made beyond America’s borders.
“Our goal is to have the Kimball Theater filled with students and local residents experiencing films from around the world in a dynamic way,” Barnard said.
Because of the band members’ international perspectives, youthfulness and penchants for defying genres, the professors are optimistic that NiCad will resonate with the College’s student population.
“NiCad represents uniquely international music,” Barnard said. “That’s part of their identity as a group of young musicians, that I think William and Mary students can identify with: that they came from all over the world, gathered in The Hague in Holland and created this band.”
“It will be a unique thing for the students because of this divide that they straddle,” Bowers said. “A lot of our music students are straddling the same divide of being artists and also being interested in lots of different types of music.”
According to Bowers, NiCad’s members are in their mid-twenties, just out of graduate school and deciding what to do with their lives.
“They’re choosing to forge their own path,” he said. “And I think that’s a really useful thing for our students to see, that this is one option of what you do with music after school.”
Transcending international borders, musical conventions and the College’s departmental divides, NiCad promises to teach the College something about crossing lines.