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Wits Jazz lecturer premieres album at virtual National Arts Festival

- Wits University

Dr Jonathan Crossley launches 433 Eros with his band, Deep Spacer, at the 2020 virtual National Arts Festival (vNAF).

Crossley and his band members, Cesare Cassarino and Etienne Oosthuysen are among hundreds of talented artists featured at the 2020 National Arts Festival.

The popular arts festival, which celebrates the arts in South Africa kicked off online on 25 June 2020 and  runs until 5 July.

The production of 433 Eros by the electro-acoustic trio, Deep Spacer, is “the culmination of over two years’ of testing, rehearsals and unhinged excessive bouts of technological tweaking,” says Crossley, a Senior Lecturer in the Music Department in the Wits Schools of Arts.

The “Spacers” were working on the album prior to the lockdown, which prompted them to complete it in time for the vNAF, says Crossley.

“Honestly, the crazy part is that without lockdown, the project would never have coalesced into this work.”

Although the trio spent sleepless nights finishing off the album, Crossley is proud of the final product because, for the first time, they incorporated visuals into their music. For the vNAF, the album comes in the form of a 60-minute “film” with different videos edited together. The album is supported by curated audio responsive visuals, and quotations from leading cyber-theorists.

“The big break for us is when they [vNAF] said we need to do some film work. This is the best thing we have done so far.”

“The model for the film was the same as for the music. We had to look at how we can get the film to respond to the music. We wanted the film to be another member of the group and to respond the same way to the music,” he says. 

The band is intuitive and experimental and do not rehearse their “improvised, abstract music”.

“The Spacers are zealous about non-composition – the band room is viscous, chasing the goal of free-improvisation within the realm of tempo based contemporary music. As such, rehearsals are relentless systems interrogations, with the technological framework yielding contemporary musical invention.”

Deep Spacer Group, Cesare Cassarino, Dr Jonathan Crossley and Etienne Oosthuysen.j

Crossley says the vNAF has given the trio great exposure as non-conventional jazz artists. Crossley, who is also co-founder of the band, describes the album as “immersive, a timeless album with diverse acoustics.”

The jazz lecturer’s musical interests range from classical guitar, to improvisation and jazz, through electronic music and experimentation. He has a number of albums under his belt, which include My Friends and I, a chamber jazz album; Funk for the Shaolin Monk, a rock album; as well as Got Funk Will Travel. He also has two experimental noise albums, What if the Machines Spoke Back to You? and The Cyber-Guitar Recital.

Crossley integrates technological innovations and systems for his music compositions and improvisation. His PhD research led to the development of an extended guitar system – or hyper-instrument –  the Cyber-Guitar, which extended the scope of the electric guitar beyond the use of the hands, encompassing the joints of the upper body through the use of a mechanical exoskeleton.

The 433 Eros album can be streamed for the duration of the vNAF and will be available on Apple iTunes and Spotify on 6 July 2020. Ticket holders can stream vNAF content until 16 July 2020.