Last updated June 5th 2016

What happens when you take a group of outstanding musicians and put blindfolds on them, for an improv-jam conducted by touch?  A wild night of music that’s jazzy, melodic, psychedelic, hard driving rock, reggae and more, all swirling and merging into something entirely its own being, something different and fun, something that draws you in to listen, something that makes you want to dance!

Blind Orchestra in action/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

Blind Orchestra in action/Photo: Ayelet Dekel

The Blind Orchestra performed at The Zone in Tel Aviv last night, and it was an exhilarating experience. The creative concept of Dov ‘Balu’ Rosen, blindfolded orchestrated improve works like this (more or less): the musicians are blindfolded (they really cannot see, I checked!) and the conductor moves among them with two (soft) batons – one touch to the head is the signal to vocalize, a touch to the arm or shoulder is the signal to play the instrument, a double touch with both batons is the signal for a solo, and the follow up touch is the signal to stop. Simple? Not really… it’s deceptively simple. Someone begins with a sound and rhythm, and the next person to join in goes with it, builds on it, perhaps with a twist; each person coming in takes from the others, and goes with the music to see where it goes. And it can go anywhere…

I didn’t know what to expect, but the ensemble of musicians – Rotem Bar Or (The Angelcy), Uri Marom (The Angelcy), Itamar Ben Yakir (Hoodna Orchestra), Itay Kaufman (The Raw Men Empire – TRME), Nadav Lazar (TRME) and Shaham Zacharin (Space Creatures), joined by special guest Alon Neuman (no stranger to improv – Whose Line is it Anyway?) – just about says it all. When these people come together onstage, you know that something wonderful is about to happen.

There were three sets to the evening, each conducted by a different musician, beginning with Itay Kaufman, then Rotem Bar Or, and finally Dov ‘Balu’ Rosen. Itay first tapped Rotem, who began singing in a mournful tone, then Uri Marom joined in the singing, Dov on drums and Itamar Ben Yakir on trumpet and Itay gave Uri the clarinet, and it became something different altogether, jazzy. When Alon Neuman was tapped to sing, he riffed (in Hebrew): “I’m trying to go with the flow, but how do you do that?” These guys are not afraid to be funny, and that is part of the fun.

It was as fascinating to watch as to listen, and even the listening was transformed by this process, the feeling of the music was magnified by seeing the act of composition take place. Mesmerizing beats, electric madness that subsides into calm, a Mizrahi wail that turns into a psychedelic spin, Klezmer gone wild, Reggae rhythms, rock ballad, and manic rock intensity – it was all there, last night. At some point I (literally) threw down my notebook, and got up to dance.

Blind Orchestra, I just want to know: when do we get to do this again?

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