Back in the early 1980s, when you saw "Laser" prefixed to a heavy rock icon—as in "Laser Hendrix," "Laser Floyd," "Laser Zeppelin," and later "Laser Van Halen"—you and your fellow stoners knew what was in store at the Pacific Science Center Laser Dome: an evening of smuggled booze and ample, though miraculously discreet, clouds of weed. Abetted in darkness by loud music and rainbows of ricocheting lasers, the lucky ones might get a hickey or three.
The rest of us got a good buzz. First-timers saw music in a new way, even despite the inevitable idiot, who, remembering the death-dealing "Carousel" ceremony from the dystopian movie Logan's Run, would hoist his hand aloft and shout the film's futile tagline, "Renew! Renew! Renew!"
Fanning out overhead, rays of light pulsed and shimmered to music we knew by heart. Fused to familiar songs, the rippling lasers not only burnished sonic details (the ringing telephone of Dark Side of the Moon or the slowly evaporating drones and recessed whispers nestled within Led Zeppelin's intro to "In the Evening"), but also insinuated an emotional connection to abstract forms—spirals, eddying curves, and other light-scrivened shapes that otherwise would be judged as "weird" and then ignored.
Decades later—amid the selfsame darkness, loud music, and lasers—Seattle Opera's BRAVO! club presents Laser Opera, which weds classic recordings of opera arias to a laser light show. Selected by Seattle Opera honcho Speight Jenkins, the concert teems with landmark performances, including Maria Callas singing "Vissi d'arte," from Puccini's Tosca, and the stentorian Birgit Nilsson in the "Liebestod," from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.
With an eye to touting Seattle Opera's season, Jenkins also programmed arias from upcoming operas: Jussi Bjoerling and Robert Merrill in "Au fond du temple saint," from The Pearl Fishers by Bizet, the immortal pairing of Christa Ludwig and Walter Berry in the harrowing "Fifth Door" of Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle.
Dappling the ceiling with lasers may seem quaint; the fusion of sound and light, though ravishingly beautiful, seems more akin to the 1970s experimental Polytopes of Iannis Xenakis than to the computer- generated graphics that wallpaper movies, TV, and advertising today.
Yet Laser Opera continues a secret tradition crucial to opera, and indeed to all music: not the exaltation of genius composers, legendary musicians, great works, or new styles, but conjoining unexpected, seemingly disparate elements to seek something new—while offering a good evening out. At Laser Opera, free theater-style snacks are included, and drinks are available for purchase. If you want to forgo seats, bring blankets and pillows for the floor.
See Laser Opera Thurs Dec 4, Pacific Science Center Laser Dome, 200 Second Ave N, 676-5553, 7 pm, $5. Phone ahead for reservations.
The much-lauded Roosevelt High School Jazz Band rolls through the Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn Jazz Nutcracker, a souped-up, swinging version of the Tchaikovsky chestnut. Also Sat Dec 6 at 7:30 pm and Sun Dec 7 at 2 pm. Roosevelt High School Performing Arts Theatre, 1410 NE 66th St, 420-3931, 7:30 pm, $10–$20.
SEATTLE COMPOSERS' SALON
For this monthly informal presentation of new music, MC Tom Baker corrals fellow composers Doug Palmer, Marcus Oldham, Clifford Dunn, Brian Cobb, and Mark Wilson to present finished works, previews, and works-in-progress. Chapel Performance Space, 4649 Sunnyside Ave N, 789-1939, 8 pm, $5–$15 sliding scale donation.
LADIES MUSICAL CLUB
Pianist Oana Rusu Tomai performs a selection of Rachmaninoff's Études-Tableaux and then teams up with soprano Natalie Lerch and cellist Brad Hawkins for André Previn's "Vocalise." Also, Alyce Rogers debuts a song cycle by Jacob Avshalomov set to poems of Emily Dickinson. Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Ave, 622-6882, 2 pm, free.
CELLO AND CLAY
Why should a music score stay flat on the page? Cellist and installation artist Paul Rucker has a singular gift for reimagining musical notation. Here, he concocts solo cello improvisations based on clay sculptures fashioned by the audience. Nontoxic, nonstaining clay provided. Chapel Performance Space, 4649 Sunnyside Ave N, 789-1939, 7:30 pm, $5–$15 sliding scale donation.
GALLERY 1412 FOURTH ANNIVERSARY
Anyone enterprising enough to pen a history of experimental music in Seattle should begin not with the hundred or so artists in the scene, but with the venues devoted to nurturing and connecting them. While many well-known clubs like the Crocodile hosted an experimental gig here and there, few spaces truly championed the avant. Since 2004, the artist-run Gallery 1412 has fought the good fight; with gentrification happening just next door, let's hope this crucial cog in the community endures. The gallery's fourth-anniversary celebration boasts the heavy-hitting alto saxophonist Wally Shoup duetting with Greg Campbell on percussion; Amy Denio on accordion; clarinetist Jesse Canterbury; and Gust Burns, who cajoles odd tones from the piano's inner strings with a trio of viola, bass, and alto sax. Gallery 1412, 1412 18th Ave, 8 pm, free, but donations accepted.
MESSIAEN ORGAN CYCLE
Subtitled "Nine Meditations," La Nativité du Seigneur, Olivier Messiaen's first big work for the organ, begins with a slurred cluster of notes. Loose tones stumble along and then pause before a looming chord undergirded by a chirruping note or two. It is one of the rare moments in music where we actually hear a composer pondering where to go next. A crazed clockwork melody follows, winding up only to settle into a serene, chantlike passage that stakes out a sonic world where time is vaporous and to tarry, divine. Don't miss this final installment in the cycle. St. James Cathedral, 804 Ninth Ave, 382-4874, 8 pm, $15 suggested donation, students and seniors pay as able.
My nominee for classical bargain of the week: For his doctoral recital, this gutsy and talented pianist serves up one of the formidable works for solo piano, the epic Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus by Messiaen. Brechemin Auditorium in the Music Building, UW campus, 685-8384, 6:30 pm, free.