Rodrigo y Gabriela Did Something Wagnerian. I Hope.
October 20, 2007
I’ve been maintaining a reasonably steady stream of events through Upcoming.org, tourfilter, and Going.com, but I’m not actually going to all that many. A shift in emphasis these days for all sorts of reasons. When I do go out on the town, I make sure it counts.
Rodrigo y Gabriela counted big. I saw them on October 17 at Boston’s Orpheum Theater. It’s one of those old, 19th-century theaters with baroque accents and a grand domed ceiling. One of those theaters that probably catered to a more classical clientele until it was time to renovate. Rather than spend the money, the owners made it a rock venue.
Springs are coming out of the chairs and the paint is peeling from that grand domed ceiling. But honestly, it suited me just fine. Every seat is a good seat, and rock doesn’t work so well in a clean place.
Rodrigo y Gabriela were incredible. They’ve been reviewed elsewhere, so just add my +1 to this one. I do want to share my suspicion that these two, former trash-metal musicians, Mexican buskers in Ireland, did something that made me imagine they know the work of Richard Wagner.
Several times during the last hour of the show I thought I heard the beginning of the only song I knew (thanks to Paul Irish’s aurgasm blog): Diablo Rojo. But the hint of it would fade back into another amazing but unfamiliar piece. Then, at around 9:30, Rodrigo and Gabriela did a back-and-forth that was unmistakably a piece of Diablo Rojo. Apparently, the only song I knew was also an audience favorite…as people started to achieve an even greater level of excitement than what R y G had already brought them to, the dialogue gave way to a Metallica cover.
Finally, at 10pm, they gave it up to us: A full, euphoric Diablo Rojo. The relief was evident – everyone jumped out of their seats, clapping and dancing.
It was a perfectly calibrated use of the delayed-resolution device. I associate the concept with Wagner, since a professor pointed it out to me in Tristan und Isolde – the music never resolves until the opera’s end, maintaining a feeling of unsettlement throughout. The Wikipedia entry describes it as follows:
The music of Tristan und Isolde is… notable for its use of harmonic suspension: a device used by a composer to create musical tension by exposing the listener to a series of prolonged unfinished cadences, thereby inspiring a desire and expectation on the part of the listener for musical resolution.
In the opera, the overall effect is of unease; in Rodrigo y Gabriela’s performance, it was of anticipation. I’m a neophyte when it comes to music theory, but I’m taking pleasure in imagining that this duo so adept at cross-genre is also good at quoting across history and cultures.