Focus Group LLC is an “experimental” opera ensemble formed in 2016 by Ethan T. Parcell. World Record is a three act opera about a singer in the midwest concerned with the past, present and future of world records. Well, this isn't something I hear everyday.
The opera feels like it was created to be on stage with a full on production. As a straight audio experience I can’t say it’s an easy listen. That doesn't mean it’s not worth listening to but I felt like I needed the patience of a buddhist monk at times. The words are spoken in different ways and then would break out into singing on occasion. It often reminded of how Phil Elverum talks on “A Crow Looked At Me” or the way Jamie Stewart from Xiu Xiu would sometimes deliver words.
Perhaps some of the play went over my head but I had a really hard time following the narrative. It’s often a stream of consciousness, artistic and ambiguous. There is just no denying that the whole experience felt “artsy.” There’s really no other way to put it. Take for instance “Little League.” The focal point are the words which become impressions. I was battling with the juxtaposition between the instrumentation and music. The music at its best can be beautiful at times but rarely becomes more than the hum of mediative strings.
Some songs had more movement such as “First Aid, Terms and Conditions” which has some fantastic avante garde type free jazz. As the opera continues there was often captivating music such as on “Tornado ’67.”
I can go deep with art and appreciate it. David Lynch, The Drift by Scott Walker, etc. I basically judge that art off the subjective visceral experience I get because that seems to be the best way when it’s so interpretive. Sometimes I don’t know how to feel which is ok. That’s pretty much how I felt with this experience. There were moments of confusion, appreciation, frustration and elation. I suppose if you are an artist who wants a person to experience a full range of emotion then I would say “mission accomplished.”
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