Troy Reimink / The Grand Rapids Press / 10-13-05
When it comes to wildlife, Tony Shechtman is way ahead of the curve.
The 29-year-old Grand Rapids musician has had a lifelong interest in wolves, and recently has been amused by the extent to which pop culture has appropriated his favorite animal.
Groups such as Wolf Eyes, Guitar Wolf and Wolfmother are getting a lot of press, and, coincidentally, indie buzz band Wolf Parade is in town the same night Shechtman unveils his project, the Tony Shechtman Orchestra.
"I guess I must be pretty in touch with the collective subconscious," he said. "I feel drawn to the image of the wolf. The spirit of the wolf represents intelligence, courage and individuality, paired with the inseparability of a pack."
That's how he approached the creation of T.S.O. (not to be confused with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra). The group consists of Shechtman and local musicians Jason Mask, Jason Potts, Adam Boot and Jacob Meekhof.
The band will perform a 45-minute instrumental rock piece composed by Shechtman, who will play piano and act as conductor. Their music, which combines numerous genres with unorthodox instruments, is divided into nine movements, employing connected themes.
"It's an experiment in musical context," Shechtman said. "The basic idea was to take outside musicians and try something different than the usual, to put our talents into a different context other than a bar or coffeehouse.
"There's no scene, no rock stars, no style. It's music for music's sake."
The show takes place in the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts theater, which Shechtman said will allow audience members to experience the material more directly.
"Every individual will hear a different story," he said.
The composition follows a loose narrative based on a dream Shechtman had as a kid -- a dream about cats. A feline sensibility inspires each interconnected movement.
"Rather than it being nine songs, there are recurring motifs that represent parts of a story. The story was used as a composition tool."
Although Shechtman wrote the music and leads the group, he insists T.S.O. is a collaborative effort. He has worked with each of the members on different projects, including local bands such as La Vulgara and Draggin' Anchors.
"It wouldn't sound the same with any other musicians. By writing this, I sort of molded the pot and they filled it."