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Arts & Entertainment

JacobTV examines human condition through 'The News'

| Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 11:20 a.m.
A submitted still from JacobTV 'The News.'
A submitted still from JacobTV 'The News.'

Dutch avant-pop composer Jacob Ter Veldhuis thinks of himself as a beachcomber who strolls the shoreline looking for objects of interest or value.

In actuality, Ter Veldhuis, also known as JacobTV, most often does his treasure-hunting indoors and on a couch where he channel-surfs for useful video snippets and sound bites from television news and talk shows.

Sometimes, it's the melody in Sarah Palin's voice that captures his attention. At other times, he's struck by something as trivial as a show host's in-depth discussion of eyeliner or as monumental as an image of a protester during last year's Arab spring uprising.

"Reality is so much more fascinating than fiction," Ter Veldhuis says. "When (Palin) first met (conservative talk show host) Glenn Beck on Fox TV, it was fantastic -- the dueling between the two -- you could make a whole opera about that conversation."

After harvesting the sound and video snippets, he works with other artists to create a work that mixes musical composition, video and social commentary.

"I try to put down what they are saying. It's a fascinating process that keeps me busy. I love picturing our world. Music is an abstract, but with sound bites you can manipulate words," he says.

For the past year, he has been working on "The News," a 90-minute reality opera that will have its world premiere Friday at the Byham Theater, Downtown.

"The News" is a compilation of nonfiction electronic footage collected from an international sampling of broadcasts, speeches and sound bites from newscasters, politicians, scientists, televangelists, movie stars and celebrities as they spoke on a wide selection of social and political issues from global warming and war and peace to tomorrow's weather forecast.

YouTube clips made while "The News" was a work in progress show images and words that flash and vibrate with hypnotic effect as words or phrases rapidly repeat as they might in an operatic aria or as a thematic phrase.

"I'm more interested in showing humanity and the human condition. I look at the news in a different way. Music is a different way to look at it. There are things you cannot say in words that you can say in music," he says

Supporting and mixing with the recorded snippets are live performances by two vocalists and nine musicians.

"Live music is what makes it interesting. I've had (recorded) installations that can be done in a black box theater. But it's far more interesting to have musicians interact with the video. The combination is interesting," he says.

"The ladies ('anchorwomen' soprano Josefien Stoppelenbrug and alto Lori Cotler) present the news, along with the talking heads on the video. They make the music come alive," he says. "Of course, it's a piece that never ends because the news never ends."

JacobTV: 'The News'

Presented by: Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Distinctively Dutch Festival

When : 9 p.m. Friday

Admission: $15-$30

Where: Byham Theater, Downtown

Details : 412-456-6666 or

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