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CSO Teams Up With Mouse On Mars, 'Un Chien Andalou'

By Alexander Hough in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 28, 2011 6:20PM

Photo courtesy of Mouse on Mars
MusicNOW, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s new-music series, has put on its share of good concerts, but none of the programs has piqued our interest quite like this Monday’s concert at the Harris Theater featuring world premieres by intelligent dance music group Mouse on Mars and a piece of music by Argentine composer Martin Matalon set to a Surrealist film masterpiece.

The Mouse on Mars performance will be the world premiere of several pieces, "skik field," parts 1, 2, and 11, that were commissioned by the CSO. The electronic duo composed the entire thing, including the instrumental parts that will be played live by twelve members of the CSO string and winds sections. Frankly, we’re not sure what this is going to sound like, but seeing a mainstream organization like the CSO put its material and artistic strength behind a genre-blurring production is a great step for new music. The event was the brainchild of new CSO composer-in-residence Mason Bates, who wears the hats of both composer and DJ.

The first part of the program will be Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali’s 1929 Surrealist short film "Un Chien Andalou." The film’s title means "An Andalusian Dog," although it bears no connection to Matalon’s accompanying piece, "The Seven Lives of a Cat." Actually, no part of the film bears any connection to any to any other part. I consulted with our own film critic Rob Christopher to get the skinny:

It's one of the earliest, best, and most controversial of the Surrealist films. Luis Bunuel co-wrote it with Dali, and they had two rules: [1], no image could make logical sense, and [2], each would have veto power over any idea they didn't like. It caused a sensation when it was first shown. Ebert has an awesome essay about it.

It was shot silent, and during the initial screenings Buñuel himself supplied the soundtrack by alternating excerpts from [Richard] Wagner's [opera] "Tristan und Isolde" and a recording of the continental tango "Olé guapa."

Rob also gave a link to watch the entire sixteen-minute film, but we were spooked by hearing about the famous introductory eyeball-slicing scene. Rob claims it’s no biggie, and it’s worth pointing out that it’s actually a cow’s eyeball, but ugh - it gives us the willies. That was, of course, Buñuel and Dali’s intention, though. So, good work, gentlemen, you freaked us out and we haven’t even seen it yet.

If all this talk of genre-bending, anarchic film-making, and organ mutiliation hasn’t gotten you to buy your ticket yet, there’s also a post-concert reception with free food and drink, as well as live electronic sets both before and after the concert by Brian Miner of illmeasures.

Monday, January 31, at 7:00 p.m., 205 E. Randolph, $20, $10 students (get them here or here)