Dance: A winter shade of noise

Ran Bagno is quite an achiever, but – pardon the musical pun – you won’t hear him blowing his own trumpet too often.

White Noise 2018 looks at how the individual contends with the tension generated by the overlap of white noise and their inner voices (photo credit: RUNE ABRO)
White Noise 2018 looks at how the individual contends with the tension generated by the overlap of white noise and their inner voices
(photo credit: RUNE ABRO)
When you have a hit on your hands, it is generally a good idea to try to prolong its shelf life, thereby spreading the word of your work as far and wide as possible and, of course, keeping the cash register ringing loudly and heartily. But when you revisit a popular offering a while down the line, a degree of caution is advised. You want to draw fans of the original creation to come to the new version, partly by not straying too far from the initial plot, but there has to be some added entertainment and artistic value to the reprise.
When White Noise 2018, by the Vertigo dance company, is unveiled – at the Opera House in Tel Aviv, January 19-20, and the Jerusalem Theater on January 25-26 – as part of the Israeli Opera’s Dance and Revolution series, dance fans who caught White Noise all of a decade ago will, no doubt, be put in mind of Vertigo founder and choreographer Noa Wertheim’s first rendition back in the day. But they will also get the more expansive take on the source material.
For starters there will be more dancers on display, but they won’t have the spotlight to themselves. They will share the stage with the Revolution Orchestra, with a sizable turnout of around a dozen instrumentalists, with Roi Oppenheim on the conductor’s dais and musical director Zohar Sharon working his behind- the-scenes magic.
Ran Bagno is delighted about the dusting down and reworking of the dance production, and also digs the generous stretch of the lines of thematic thought. Wertheim’s work looks at a range of existential forces and social conditions in which cultural elements clash with Mother Nature’s best efforts, and at how the individual contends with the tension generated by the overlap of white noise and his or her inner voices.
That sounds like a generous conceptual field to cover, and while that gives the composer plenty of room for maneuver, some might consider the field of creative play a little too open. But that suits Bagno to a T. Over the years he has thrust his itchy fingers into numerous sonic pies.
That broad mind-set on the artistic process began when the now 52-year-old musician started developing a nonjudgmental yet incisive approach to the sounds around him. “I really loved hearing music when I was a kid, and I mean really listening. It wasn’t about listening to songs as such. It was about the music.”
Among their other prerequisite gifts, musicians need to be blessed with a healthy sense of timing. Bagno says he got that right in the wider, historical sense, too. “I was born at a good time. When I was growing up [in the Seventies], there was a lot of progressive rock around, with all the strong influences of classical music, in terms of the structures and also the concept.”
There were myriad acts around in the early 1970s that fused classical material with the more feral rock sensibilities. One in particular stood out for the young Bagno. “[British threesome] Emerson, Lake & Palmer is the No. 1 group for me. If there is anyone I really adulated in my life, it has to be [keyboardist] Keith Emerson.”
As something of an ivory tickler himself, Bagno is naturally drawn to his fellow instrumentalists. “There was also [classically trained former Yes band member] Rick Wakeman and lots of others. I also liked [multi-instrumentalist and composer] Mike Oldfield. I was into music with classical elements and electronic stuff, too. I liked Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple; and with the classic music I heard through my father, that left its mark on me.”
That comes across in his soundtrack for White Noise, which roams across wide sonic terrain, traversing mellifluous passages, disharmonious sections and jagged flights of fancy in a seamless continuum.
BAGNO SAYS he caught the alternative bug at an early stage of his musical consciousness. “I learned classical piano, which I liked. But I didn’t enjoy practicing.” That probably sounds painfully familiar to many a former budding musician. Unlike most of us, however, Bagno did not forsake his penchant for generating intriguing sounds, he just took off in other directions. “I liked to take bits of classical compositions, and try to improvise with them,” he states. “It’s basically a matter of using your imagination.” And trying to break free of the mold.
Bagno feels it was just a matter of going with the flow, rather than discovering some built-in genius. “It’s really quite simple,” he says. “That didn’t come from a need to rebel against something. I was just curious to see where it would all lead.”
Mind you, it wasn’t just all plain sailing down the river and ending up in a sea of fascinating ideas. The youngster did get a helping hand here and there. “I took a few lessons with a great pianist. His name is Eyran Katsenelenbogen. He lives in Boston. He showed me chords and stuff. I was always in awe of his musicianship.”
That may tend, somewhat, to the realms of formal tuition, but Bagno says it was more subliminal than a conscious effort to get into the nitty-gritty of music making. “I went through my youth researching sounds without really being aware of it. I listened and played and did all sorts of things.”
He soon got his hands on a concrete means of trying out what he picked up en route.
“When I was quite young, I got a synthesizer – one of the first commercial models around,” he recalls. “That allowed me to explore electronic music and to learn how to use all the buttons and keys. It was a whole new language for me.”
Army service beckoned – not in one of the IDF’s entertainment troupes – but Bagno maintained his exploratory avenue of growth. “I kept on checking things out. It was a sort of twilight passage between youth and adulthood.” The young man clearly made some progress. “After I finished the army, things began to move quite quickly. I was asked to play in all sorts of gigs as a keyboardist.”
Bagno quickly began to branch out into different fields of artistic creativity, including providing musical substrata for theatrical productions. He was well into “university of the street” mode. “There was a musician called Ori Vidislavski, who wrote a lot for theater, and I started working with him. I learned a lot from him. That helped me become a professional. It was work, it was a living. That whole decade between the ages of 20 and 30 was a decade of serendipity.”
Having served his apprenticeship, Bagno was ready to move onto the next stage.
“Everything sort of came to a stop, and after I turned 30, I just decided I was going to compose music,” he says. “I didn’t even know what that entailed,” he chuckles.
True to Bagno’s ethos, that entailed getting down to work with people in the musical know. “I spent a lot of time in recording studios. I learned from the most talented people I know. It was all a matter of chance. I just happened to come across Ori [Vidislavski], I just started to produce music without planning it.”
Surely, he must have had some proactive part in the welcome flow of events? Not so, it seems. “I didn’t initiate anything,” he protests. “But I did decide, in my thirties, that I was going to write music.”
Bagno’s so-called stream of unconsciousness eventually led him to Wertheim’s door, and the rest is history.
“Noa and I hit it off from the start,” he says. “We have this great chemistry.”
Bagno is quite an achiever, but – pardon the musical pun – you won’t hear him blowing his own trumpet too often. He does, however, revel in his confluence with Wertheim et al.
“There are very few things I have done as a composer that I am really impressed with. But I really love the things I have done with Vertigo. It has allowed me to express myself, not in a premeditated way, but as part of a process. It is going to be great, seeing my music performed by the Revolution Orchestra. It’s a great ensemble, and there will be so many players on the stage, playing the score. I’m really excited about that.”
Fans of Vertigo, and those with fond memories of White Noise, are no doubt up for it, too.
For tickets and more information: (Tel Aviv) and (Jerusalem)