“Classic rock” usually does not fit comfortably into the domain of “classical music.” However, when the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts (SOTA) is taking a multidisciplinary approach to the performance of the tracks from the Pink Floyd double album The Wall, this is likely to have as much of an impact on the nature of serious listening as the original album had on what we tended to dismissively classify as “mere rock.” By the time bassist Roger Waters began thinking up his rhetoric of alienation for his lyrics and tunes for this ambitious project (which can be traced back to July of 1978), the rubric of “rock opera” had become reasonably established. Whether or not any of the works created under that rubric were truly “operatic” will probably continue to be debated; but Alan Parker subsequently created the film Pink Floyd – The Wall, which was released in 1982 and combined live-action footage with animation sequences by Gerald Scarfe at his most surreal. The Wall may not have been “operatic” in the strictest sense of the adjective; but it definitely lent itself to performance through dramatic interpretation.
The original album was very much a product of the rebellious Zeitgeist of its times. No one over thirty could be trusted, because anyone in that group could be held responsible for everything that the young saw as wrong with the world. While it is probably the case that every generation has its own characteristic “age of anxiety” (with apologies to W. H. Auden), SOTA Principal Brian Kohn decided that The Wall was relevant enough to the present day to be used as the basis for a school-wide collaborative project. He submitted a request for the rights to use the material as part of a fund-raising effort to Water’s management, and permission was granted.
The result is now taking shape and will be given three performances at the end of this month. Over 200 students will be involved through all ten of the arts disciplines in the SOTA curriculum:
- Guitar will provide training in rock guitar technique
- Instrumental Music will provide backup with both an orchestra and a band
- Vocal is providing choral backup for the solo voices
- Musical Theater will cover the performance (singing and acting) of the lead roles
- Theater is providing actors who pantomime certain parts of the story
- Dance will both choreograph and perform specific numbers
- Media is creating short videos to provide visual accompaniment for some of the songs
- Theater tech is creating costumes, special effects, and the necessary programming for sound and lights
- Visual Arts has created the poster and other artwork
- Creative Writing will provide supplementary articles about the themes of The Wall for the program book
Kohn himself is serving as Artistic Director for the entire project, assisted by Vocal Director Erika Weil and Technical Director Paul Kwapy.
The final results will be given three performances, all at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, October 29, Thursday, October 30, and Friday, October 31. All performances will take place in SOTA’s Dan Kryston Memorial Theater, located at 555 Portola Drive. Ticket prices range from $15 to $28, and all tickets may be purchased in advance through a Brown Paper Tickets event page. Tickets will also be sold at the door, and further information can be obtained by calling 415-695-5700.