By Caitlin White
Back in 2008, the Blessed Sacrement color guard team of Cambridge, MA approached David Byrne about using some of his music in one of their routines. Generous, prolific genius that he is, Byrne assented, but under the condition that he get to see the ensuing routine. After watching their performance, Byrne said he was beyond intrigued:
I was stunned at what I was seeing, and being a musician I naturally wondered to myself: what if these performances had really great live music? Wouldn’t that lift it to another level?
Byrne began putting together a project that has now come to fruition: Contemporary Color. The production pairs musicians with 10 color guard teams from the U.S. and Canada for live performances at both Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. Still, for as popular as it may be, plenty of us probably don’t really know what color guardis. In case you’re not familiar, here’s how the Contemporary Color press release described Color Guard:
Modern color guard has evolved out of military tradition, stepping outside of the marching band to become an independent competitive sport known as one of the “marching arts.” Color guard can be found in most American high schools, colleges, and universities, and uses props like flags, rifles, and sabers, along with movement and dynamic music, to express a conceptual motif.
It seems pretty awesome! They also call it “the sport of the arts” which is an equally apt, intriguing description. Byrne’s project attempts to bring this arty sport to a wider audience, and to do so he’s enlisted a number of incredible contemporary musicians to craft original compositions for the project. Aside from Byrne himself, the roster also includes Nelly Furtado, Devonté Hynes, Kelis, Lucius, Money Mark + Ad-Rock, Nico Muhly + Ira Glass, St. Vincent, tUnE-yArDs, and last but certainly not least, Tom Krell of How To Dress Well.
Today we’re premiering a mini-doc of Krell meeting his Contemporary Color team from Mechanicsburg High School at the Winter Guard International World Championships in Dayton, OH. Directed and shot by Bill and Turner Ross, the doc gives some sense of what these high school teams are accomplishing in their routines and how working with live musicians effects their process. Watch it below.