The Rodge Lodge seemed particularly cozy at the Julianna Barwick concert last Friday, where an intimate crowd gathered for a night of music, while outside it was snowing gently. The night’s opening acts, senior Spencer Graham and junior Hali Engelman, were, to be honest, my favorite parts of the night, singing sweet, strange original folk music.
After they had amused and bemused the audience for a while, Julianna Barwick took the stage and started singing into a synthesizer, using the machine to make the tones of her voice overlap and harmonize,
giving one voice the effect of a choir. The sound resonated throughout the room, pierced by gorgeous high notes.
When she was done, no one knew whether to clap, and even now I’m not sure whether that was actually her sound check or her first song. She asked modestly, “Does it sound okay to you guys?” to which the audience enthusiastically replied, “Yes!”
The songs that followed turned out to be a lot like the sound check, pretty and surreal; every once in a while you could make out a word. She performed in front of a rainy forest background, soft pastels blurring together on the screen as Barwick’s melodies blurred together in our ears. It would have been nice music to meditate to or to soothe you to sleep.
“It put me in a relaxed, ambient state,” senior Jessica DeArcangelis said. However, at a concert where I was paying full attention to the music, that state was rather boring after the first few minutes.
Although the crowd thinned out a bit by the end, some seemed to get wrapped up in the fairyland feeling of the music. Freshman Erin Ford, who had seen Barwick perform before, respected Barwick’s style.
“It’s great to see someone who’s both an artist and a musician,” she said.
When asked how she developed her style of music, Barwick said, “A friend let me borrow a guitar pedal that had a loop feature, and I started playing around with it.” That’s the same feeling I received when listening to her sing — that she was fooling around with technology rather than writing songs with meaning behind them.
While an indistinct, atmospheric quality is part of the New Age genre, I’ve heard other artists of the same genre that have an interesting melody and lyrics to go along with it. Barwick created the atmosphere without creating interesting songs within it. Barwick’s music would only be pleasant to have in the background. But an up-and-coming rock band isn’t as good as Guns and Roses. Someone who enjoys New Age music would probably think Julianna Barwick was good, if not among the best.