As Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s Nights gets ready for its final shindig of a shorter season, the group String Theory is readying a fourth appearance at the party. Attendees at previous Nights over the years will remember String Theory, which is hard to miss: cello, violin, saxophone, flute, keyboard, bass, drums and vocals make up a band line longer than the room. Their gigantic harp of sorts, with its brass strings, has been installed in large theaters everywhere from Singapore to Palm Desert, even for one performance at the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Each space has its own acoustics, and each performance is different.
For this month’s Nights, the group will return to the back patio, where they played their first SBMA gig. They’ll also be including video projection on the back walls of the patio.
String Theory operates out of Los Angeles, but has its origins in Chicago, where Luke Rothschild was finishing up his degree at the Art Institute, playing music and building instruments, while his wife, Holly, was a dancer and choreographer. Their friend Joseph Harvey was studying Renaissance cello, and the three formed a “hybrid group” that would allow all three to merge their interests. They moved to Venice, Calif., in 2002 with little game plan, Holly says, other than to carve out a niche for themselves.
It didn’t take too long. Other dancers and musicians found themselves within the group’s orbit. Their Web site currently lists 20 other “members” of String Theory, who are called on depending on the concert. The group’s oddness — they can play classical as well as rock, and the choreography is as essential as the music — led them to success outside the usual “rock band” path. They have been hired to create music for film and television (they’ll be featured in the upcoming Basquiat documentary) as well as to perform at corporate functions, including the TED conference. With the group and side projects, they are very busy in 2010.
“We’ve been really lucky,” Holly says. “I think we had a realistic idea of what would happen when we moved here ? and we didn’t even try to fit into the music scene here. We have a hard time marketing ourselves, because we’re all over the place.”
However, the strings garner all the attention. The brass and copper strings of String Theory’s harp are looser, and Holly likens the sound to that of a compression wave, like those ghostly pitches from a rubbed wine glass rim.
“You can actually feel the movement of the vibrations through your hand when you’re playing it,” she says. “There are places you can stand that really seem to affect the harmonic overtones.”
The sounds accumulate, especially when String Theory plays larger venues, particularly one recent gig in a disused L.A. warehouse.
String Theory has more instruments, more dancers and more of everything than what will be on show at Nights.
“They’re only seeing a really small part of it,” Holly says.
But for now, this is how summer is going to be seen out at the museum.
At Nights, They Come Out
Along with String Theory, this month’s Nights has a lineup of music and art. Grab some swanky accessories and check out what’s on tap:
• KCRW DJ Dan Wilcox spins deep cuts from 5:30 to 8 p.m.
• Kim Sooja’s film “A Needle Woman” will premiere during the event. An experimental short about a woman trying to remain still in a rapidly moving world, it will continue screening until Aug. 22.
• Imagined Identities Photo Studio with Bob de Bris invites you to dress up using a selection of costumes and immortalize yourself in film.
• Several art activities inspired by the current exhibition of Korean photography.
• Korea-inspired h’ors d’oeuvres and cocktails.
STRING THEORY at NIGHTS
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1130 State St.
Cost: $25 to $50
Information: (805) 884-6414, www.sbma.net/nights