More Art, Less Noise. History {Re}Happening with d&b.


The 2017 staging of the {Re}HAPPENING in the buildings and natural surroundings of what was Black Mountain College’s (BMC) Lake Eden campus near Asheville, NC, is an exploration of cultural treasure unique to this corner of the USA. Only in existence from 1933 to 1957, however short-lived the college may have been, it burned brightly. 

The {Re}HAPPENING is to some just noise; be it visual or aural. Intellectually challenging by intent, visitors need to think and engage, the music of alumni John Cage is a fine example. Often inaccessible to those brought up on a diet of disposable pop and rock, Cage is still revered by many and will arguably outlive the Beliebers. As Jeff Arnal, executive director of the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, which organizes and produces this annual event said, “BMC was an establishment where the silos of artistic disciplines were taken down.” 

The tearing down of silos is entirely of the current zeitgeist, but where mostly that’s a destructive movement, everything about the event and indeed the origins of BMC, celebrates the positive benefits of cross pollinating art forms. As such, dance, music, theatre, performance, art, and the public, all rub shoulders and interact at the {Re}HAPPENING. 

To readers of this website and who know d&b audiotechnik well, their involvement in such an event was almost inevitable. “Once we recognised the historical significance of the college right here on our doorstep, and the importance of keeping its founding ideals alive through the fundamentals of the event, we had to support it,” said Senior Strategic Advisor and former President of the US office, Colin Beveridge. “That began in a small way a few years ago. Ironically enough we first loaned them some of the lighting equipment from our audio demo room. Initially we supported them at an informal level, but over the years that involvement has grown and with it the use of d&b sound equipment, till this year we chose to be a ‘Create Level’ sponsor. For 2017 our own Ryan Hargis supervised sound for some of the live performances, not least Third Coast Percussion.”

“The John Cage connection is what stimulated the first Happening,” said Arnal. “At BMC dining hall back in 1952 he performed Theater Piece No.1. For the time it was something completely different. This year Third Coast performed his ‘Construction’ suite, that informs what we do for our reimagining of the original Happening; we look back at the history of the college and ask, how did all that work? It’s not a standalone event, it is connected to that history, but is not that history.”

“This was a neat experience,” confirmed Hargis. “Not the normal sort of thing I do for sure. Just the setting by the lake and the nature of performance: it was very powerful – and exciting. Third Coast was more like a regular performance, left/right PA and monitors, and what they did was amazing. But as far as using PA equipment was concerned that was the exception, many elements of the event were unique installations. One was a heartbeat composition. Just a close microphone to the heart, a very low-end source around 50Hz, overlaid by some breathy ethereal vocals accented with reverb via a series of guitar pedals. I was fascinated. I will definitely do this again.” 

“We are so lucky to have d&b here,” concluded Arnal. “We have worked together in the past, but this was the first formal partnership this year. It’s not easy how technology applies to an art event, but we are always trying to find ways to improve. How can we make it sound the best? With projected images, how can we make it look the best? The great thing is if you work with artists then technicians will always end up finding themselves challenged to do things that either hadn’t occurred to them before, or no one had ever thought of, so the benefit is binary.”

“It’s just for one day, but we get people from across the country, this year we had performers from New York and California, in the past we’ve had people from Europe and the rest of the world, so there is a hunger in that sense,” says Jeff Arnal, executive director of the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center.

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