The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, in conjunction with their Distinctively Dutch Festival, the Off the Wall Series of the Andy Warhol Museum and JacobTV bring to Pittsburgh “The News” – a “provocative reality opera, synthesizing speech grooves, live music and video, remixed from international media footage.” This world-premiere “reality opera” will debut at the Byham Theater April 27. According to the Trust’s website, “JacobTV finds common ground between Andy Warhol’s pop-art and the minimal art of the 60s. In this regard, his work is a form of musical pop-art.” We had a chance to explore the themes and inspirations behind “The News” via a conversation we had with the man himself, Ter Veldhuis Jacob AKA JacobTV. He holds an interesting perspective on his work and its international context. If you’re interested in avant-garde social commentary, challenging the status-quo or current events, this show is for you.
JacobTV utilizes music to shine a critical spotlight on world events. Jacob claims, “Music itself obviously does not mean anything. It is abstract, so I use ‘ready made footage’ to portray the world around me.” He cites two past examples of his work which inspired his most recent piece:
JESUS IS COMING
“Not so long after 9-11 I came back to NYC. I saw this angry street evangelist on Times Square, who shouted his lungs out: Jesus is coming!…God kills! Although I am not religious myself I was deeply moved about the role of religion in our modern world and what people do in the name of God. Is Jesus really coming? It is about time. And so I decided to write a piece based on that footage.”
“Is about the madness of war.”
JacobTV’s latest reality opera “The News” challenges the human condition, political leaders and cultural dynamics. Jacob finds the most important world event of the past decade to be 9-11, “with all its consequences, like indirectly the 2008 credit crunch and the economical decay of the western world.” The perceived ideological biases Americans posses are harsh, but in many instances very accurate, which lead me to wonder how American audiences interpret Jacob’s work versus the rest of the developed world.
“You’d have to ask Americans. I have the feeling that being an outsider, I can look at the fascicating American culture from a distance, and give my impressions in sound. European audiences tend to find it more difficult to understand what I am doing. Our world is becoming more and more a global place and I find that young generations in places like Tokyo, Amsterdam or NYC have much more in common than ever before. Cultural differences, at least in the western world, seem to vanish, and the nature of my music is benefiting from it. I am a globetrotter and feel like a world citizen more than say, Dutch or European.”
Jacob cites early influences such as Warhol, Kerouac, and Dylan as being inspirational to his work, as many of his pieces contain an abundance of blatant pop culture references. Musically, he cites many: “A weird combination of Bach, Beethoven, Bartok, blues artists like John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, but also Beatles/Stones of course and later on: Steve Reich.” And as far as electronic music (which he studied) is concerned, “I ‘knew’ it as a little boy. When I was about five, a few of my earliest memories – the barrel organ or the marching band in my village overwhelmed me, made me cry, just because of the beauty of that sound, that harmony! Sound was so powerful to me. I started improvising as a young teenager in a band, tried to imitate blues lines and gradually I started to write down what I was improvising.”
Studying electronic music while being heavily influenced by classical composers and producing “reality operas” throw many of his musical peers for a loop. His work has been regarded as highly controversial amongst the classical music community. “Musically I don’t seem to fit into a category. I have never felt at home in any musical scene: the contemporary classical was too scientific & pretentious, pop / rock music can be honest but is often very predictable and musically limited, and the world of improv is too boundless for me. Like many composers I want to be in control, so I am homeless, but that is a nice starting point! I borrow a little here, steal a little there. I do not believe that controversy has affected my artistic choices, though. I follow my ears as a musician and I write down what I like to listen to.”
Naturally, we wondered if Jacob embraces this controversy and how it affects his artistic choices. “Yes I do embrace it of course. What more could an artist want, because nowadays it is not so common to be called controversial. Although it does not say anything about the quality of my work, I do like it, since it draws some attention, and attention means: publicity. The most precious thing for an artist nowadays is attention, especially in these modern times, where each and every individual is hungry for attention. Our whole virtual existence on Facebook and Twitter and in the media is about attention, so as an artist you have to live up to all that! It has never been my intention to be controversial. I believe it would be impossible to be controversial for the sake if it, but it seems to be the consequence of my artistic behavior.”
Watch “The News” trailer below. Performers include Fulcrum Point, Lori Cotler and Stoppelenburg. Tickets can be purchased here. Use promo code “crawl” for $15 tickets! We’re also giving away a pair of tickets to the show. Simply leave a comment below and tell us what your favorite current event to talk about is. We’ll select a winner at random next Thursday, April 26. Good luck!