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Matt Heckert collaborating with Musical Traditions, Inc. (The Paul Dresher Ensemble)

Award: $35,000 Performing Arts grant awarded in 2006

Premiered: March 7, 2009, Stanford Lively Arts and November 12-14, 2009, Mondavi Center, Davis; subsequently revised and performed many times

Sound installation and mechanical theater artist Matt Heckert explored relationships between original metal works and the sounds they make in collaboration with the Paul Dresher Ensemble and its Artistic Director and composer Paul Dresher.  Heckert’s inventions functioned as both the physical set and as sound-generating instruments for the new music theater work, Schick Machine, performed by acclaimed percussionist Steven Schick. Daniel Schmidt also contributed invented instruments and theater artist Rinde Eckert wrote and directed the work.

Schick and Dresher hatched the idea of collaborating on a new piece that incorporated movement, vocalization, and invented instruments along with Schick’s virtuoso percussion performance. Dresher approached Heckert to join their partnership because Heckert’s creations “present a unique synthesis of sculpture, sound art and performance.” Heckert’s Schick Machine sculptures were made of steel, spring steel, and aluminum, and were activated by electric motors.  They took shape thorough experimentation with various materials and continuous collaboration with Dresher.

Lead Artist Matt Heckert is a mechanical sculptor who first gained prominence through his work in the 1980s with Survival Research Laboratories and subsequently, through his Mechanical Sound Orchestra, where a computer controlled compositions by a series of inventive machines. His work has been shown in galleries and as part of festivals throughout the world. The Paul Dresher Ensemble is one of the leading American companies producing new opera/music theater today. Its repertoire is almost entirely commissioned. The ensemble’s performances attract listeners interested in bridging aesthetic divides—between “serious” and “popular” styles, or between different musical genres and ethnicities.