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Exploring the Dark Side of the Moon
On March 30 and 31, Radford University’s Commercial Music Ensemble and the Radford Singers will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s landmark concept album, Dark Side of the Moon, with a free live performance of the work in its entirety.
Dark Side of the Moon began a historic run in the Billboard Top 200 in March of 1973, spending 15 straight years there before briefly dipping out in 1988. In total, it has spent nearly 19 years on the charts since its release, a record no other album comes close to.
The project is the brainchild of David Rivers, Assistant Professor of Music Business and director of Radford’s Music Business program. He brought the project to the Commercial Music Ensemble in Fall 2022 and it quickly evolved into what Rivers describes as an “immersive music and arts event.”
Rivers explained that he’s worked with the Commercial Music Ensemble for several years, helping them cultivate their own versions of rock and pop songs for performances like Radford’s Bonnieroo Music Festival on campus.
“Last spring, I started thinking about doing a larger work that was more musically cohesive,” Rivers said.
“Dark Side of the Moon came to mind and I realized that March 2023 would be the 50th anniversary of the release of the album. Then I knew we had to do it.”
Rivers started by talking to choir director, Meredith Bowen, but soon began wondering if it couldn’t be bigger than just the music.
“I met with our Dance Department Chair, James Robey, and he not only agreed to choreograph dance elements, but was enthusiastic and encouraged reaching out to the other department chairs.”
Rivers said this kind of educational experience benefits everyone. The students get meaningful firsthand practice collaborating with artists outside their discipline, and for many, this is the largest scale project they’ve ever done.
“And I think performing a piece like Dark Side of the Moon will also draw in an audience that may not have been to a concert on Radford’s campus before,” Rivers said, “and that is a good thing.”
“We have packed a lot of surprises and details into this music and arts experience and I think the audience will remember it for a long time to come,” Rivers added.
The challenge resonated with the musicians. Guitarist Graham Conway, a senior in Music Business, saw the idea as a great opportunity.
“I grew up listening to Pink Floyd, specifically Dark Side of the Moon,” he explained. “It hit home when I heard they were doing this and I really wanted to be involved.”
Conway said some of the songs were second nature but others required more attention.
“It been a blast,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun playing with everyone.”
Bassist Sam Harbin, an Interdisciplinary Studies senior concentrating in Art, said he never really listened to much Pink Floyd, but the experience has had an impact.
“I’ve grown an appreciation for this album in playing these songs,” Harbin said.
“It’s very cohesive,” said senior music major Jack Bradbury. “There are a lot of themes that carry through the album and it flows really well.”
“In terms of instrumentation and texture, there’s a lot there. It’s very rich.”
Drummer Caleb Perdue, a senior in Media Studies, said the highlight of the show for him is the best-known track from the album, “Money,” which operates in a unique 7/4 time.
“It’s gas,” he said. “Much of the album relies on the same drumbeats, but this is really intricate and a lot of fun to play.”
For the dance elements, Robey and Rivers strategized over which songs should receive choreography.
From there, Robey partnered with senior Sawyer Kadel to explore the album’s themes and the boundaries it challenged by utilizing a process of co-creation echoing Pink Floyd's original work.
“For the themes, we focused on the issues of empathy, mental health, conflict, and unity in our creative process,” he said.
The dancers were first asked to generate movement individually, then to work together to develop it. In this way, everyone involved contributes to the creative process.
“Sawyer and I then worked to shape the generated movement ideas into a cohesive whole,” Robey explained.
“We examined the traditional roles between musician and dancer, stage and house, and performer and audience, to create what we hope will be an immersive experience.”
After several months of separate rehearsals, the band, the choir and dancers have begun working in the performance hall. Meanwhile, contributions from Art, Theater and Design have been taking place behind the scenes.
The end result has brought together resources and talent from across Radford’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. Concert goers can expect to experience a mix of music, art, dance, design, video and more.
The show takes place in the Davis Performance Hall in the Covington Center on Radford’s main campus. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the music begins at approximately 7:30. The event is free and open to the public but seating is limited.