Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

‘Brooklyn Babylon’ recalls sound and vision of avant-garde 20th century Feb. 28 at Eisenhower

Brooklyn-based big band Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society and graphic artist Danijel Zezelj will bring the artistry and soundtrack of the 20th-century avant garde to life with “Brooklyn Babylon” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28, in Eisenhower Auditorium.

The 18-member contemporary jazz ensemble, fronted by the award-winning bandleader and in collaboration with the Croatian-born graphic novelist, will present a live multimedia production of the group’s sophomore album. Zezelj will paint black-and-white background scenes on a large canvas suspended behind the musicians during the performance.

Purchase tickets, which are $48 for an adult, $15 for a University Park student, and $38 for a person 18 and younger. A grant from the University Park Allocation Committee makes Penn State student prices possible.

“Brooklyn Babylon” was conceived in collaboration with Zezelj and Argue’s big band to present a visually stunning mythical city. The production tells the story of an immigrant carpenter and his reaction to the city’s plans to erect the world’s tallest skyscraper. He finds himself torn between personal ambition and loyalty to his community after he’s commissioned to build a carousel atop the tower.

The piece, commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, recalls visual aesthetics of the past, including silent films, Russian avant garde, Western European expressionism and early 20th-century cultural references. Musically, Argue’s big band conjures the sounds of progressive jazz, early American styles, Balkan folk and Brooklyn’s experimental indie-music scene (such as Dirty Projectors and LCD Soundsystem) to bring Zezelj’s imagery to life.

“Argue—like Maria Schneider—is among a small handful of exceptional composers who have taken ensemble music far beyond a vestige of a bygone area,” said an AllAboutJazz.com critic. “With its humanity, complexity and transformational beauty, Argue has created a timeless modern masterpiece.”

Watch Secret Society perform a trailer for the production.

Artistic Viewpoints, an informal moderated discussion featuring Brooklyn Babylon directorial consultant Isaac Butler, is offered in Eisenhower one hour before the performance and is free for ticket holders. Artistic Viewpoints regularly fills to capacity, so seating is available on a first-arrival basis.

Juniper Village at Brookline sponsors the performance.