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The Dartmouth
June 17, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Inspired by Poisson Rouge, Green Fish offers alternative music scene


Topel also reached out to a diverse group of students for selecting the music, including digital arts graduate student Ryan Maguire, Sang Lee '13, Alec Carvlin '15 and Lulu Chang '15. Topel works to showcase high quality music irrespective of genre, just as one would expect to see at Le Poisson Rouge.

"Out of all the venues doing music in New York City right now, they are the most eclectic and the most willing to ignore genre just to put on good music," Topel said. "That ethos of promoting music outside of genre is really key."

The undergraduate curators rotate who arranges each concert, and each is responsible for bringing musicians to perform on a given week. Maguire both curates and oversees the entire process.

The project's aims to bring to Green Fish artists of the same seriousness and high quality as those that perform at Le Poisson Rouge, according to Maguire. Because of this, the curators go out with the intention of finding musicians of high caliber who are willing to take risks.

"I think in terms of who is ready to put on the best program," Chang said. "It's different from an open mic in that it is very structured. We are looking for musicians who are very professional, both in their commitment to their art and their willingness to perform."

Undergraduates were specifically chosen as curators for their immersion in the musical community on campus, according to Topel. They are personally exposed to student musicians on campus and have an understanding of what appeals to a Dartmouth student audience.

"The reason we have student curators is so that we can connect with the undergraduate voice," Chang said.

The curators not only give their peers a venue at which to perform, but also try to bring in outside professionals they know who can bring a new and innovative artistic side to Dartmouth, according to Chang.

A Green Fish concert intends to showcase the talent of student musicians regardless of specialty, according to Topel. The audience is exposed to a variety of innovative genres of music in just one night, Carvlin said. Putting different kinds of pieces alongside one another not only keeps the audience interested, but also allows them to draw interesting comparisons and contrasts.

Ultimately, the curators' focus is on good acts, not necessarily on background. Various genres ranging from classical to electronic to jazz can make up a good musical experience.

"One of the things I like in particular is juxtaposing different kinds of music together," Topel said. "There's not a sense that you are just trying to attract one kind of audience, but an audience that is hungry for hearing different kinds of music week to week or from act to act."

The genre-bending ethos works to cultivate an active musical community, cohesive with the music department's goal of promoting good music as opposed to one genre, according to Topel. Green Fish is essentially a long-term endeavor to promote undergraduate music making at Dartmouth.

"People can come in from all walks of music and we provide for them a stress-free, open-ended venue," Carvlin said.

There is no limit to the musical talent on campus, but the visibility is often lacking, according to Maguire.

"There's the potential for a really neat musical community here," Maguire said. "But there is no cohesiveness binding it together. So I think if we can create a situation where different kinds of music making all around campus among undergraduates, graduate students and faculty, and if we can have a sense of community with each other and the community at large, we can raise the excitement about music making."

Community is the central driving force behind Green Fish. Concerts foster an environment of experimentation and support all kinds of music making, according to Chang. It unites different types of musicians in their common goal of performing.

"Music at Dartmouth in general tends to be really segmented," Chang said. "You find the DJ scene is really heavy at the frats, and the Hop generally does classical music and caters toward a very different demographic. The Green Fish is trying to integrate all those things and create a more cohesive flow of music."

To further promote the sense of community, of-age audience members are served free pie and wine, according to Topel.

"To me, this imitates the kind of music salon of the 19th century where people would just get together, have some drinks and make music," he said. "We think that's a really important part of music making."

Green Fish has a laid-back atmosphere as people are expected to casually filter in and out throughout the concert and stay for as many acts as they please. The lighting is dim in the house but colorful on the stage, allowing the audience to relax, but still focus on the music. Furthermore, there is a live, interactive feel unique to the concerts, according to Carvlin. Each performer is able to make a personal connection with the audience.

"The venue is really small," Carvlin said. "People are really close to you, so they can get a good feel for what you're doing."

That connection between the audience and performer is further enhanced by the fact that the musicians are Dartmouth students themselves. William Paja '16 said he appreciated the opportunity to see the musical talent of students and alums from the Dartmouth community.

"You usually see your classmates in an academic context for the majority of the time and to see them do something artistically expressive puts them in a different light," he said.

For the first concert on Sept. 19, Carvlin performed three of his own compositions on a beatpad and brought in Sebastian Bierman Lytle '15 to DJ. The digital musics department's Contemporary Music Lab then curated the second half of the show with graduate student pianist Ali Mattek and cellist Julia Floberg '11, each performing pieces composed by Maguire. Graduate student Carlos Dominguez, who performed a contemporary piece using a laptop was the final act of the performance. This first concert launched the Green Fish series and opened to an audience of around 50 people, according to Topel.

The second concert on Sept. 26 had a smaller audience of about 40, which came to see classical pieces performed by cellist Avery Yen '13 and clarinetist Matt Boyas '13, both brought in by Lee. In addition, there were a few indie-rock remixes performed by POGO, and Chang brought in pianist Cory Chang '13, as well as guitarist Paul Frazel '15 and flutist Leif Harder '15, who played jazz and country duets.

Music professor Nathan Davis, along with the Contemporary Music Lab, performed in the third concert of the series on Oct. 3. With only about 15 people in the audience, Topel attributed the smaller turnout to the ongoing presidential debates.

Maguire said he does not concern himself with the attendance at each individual concert but he thinks that the achievement of Green Fish's goals lies in its ability to "foster a spirit of experimentation and music making," he said.

Still, all the curators hope to see the popularity of Green Fish grow, starting with tonight's concert in One Wheelock at 9 p.m.

The concerts are planned out on a week-to-week basis, as the curators continuously seek out various acts that would be interested in performing. On Oct. 24, the music department's artist-in-residence Adam Matta, a beatboxer from Brooklyn, will be performing along with the students he has been collaborating with here at Dartmouth. There is expected to be much hype over the introduction of an outside performer.

Only three concerts in, Green Fish is a work in progress, according to Topel. The curators have big plans, however, for the long-term sustainability of the organization. It is expected to grow and improve as Carvlin specifically hopes to see smoother transitions and a better weekly program structure. Still, they are all looking forward to the future when they achieve a level of recognition in the community.

"It will be easier to branch out, to try and get more creative," Carlvin said. "We can then bring in artists who are experimental up-and-coming musicians from around us. There's a whole plethora of possibilities available to us once we get a bit more installed in the community."

Topel already has plans for the Winter and Spring terms, when he wants to have a turnover of curators. Putting the Green Fish performances in new hands will ensure that concerts remain innovative and fresh, according to Topel.

"It will be constantly evolving and adapting to what the undergrads are doing on campus," Topel said. "It will be largely driven by their interest, their knowledge of their peers and really promoting the social and community aspect of music making."

It may not yet be a match for its New York City inspiration, but the fledgling organization has opened up new musical doors for Dartmouth students, proving an outlet for experimentation outside of the classroom.

Lulu Chang is a member of The Dartmouth Staff.