Unusual Collaboration Blends Classical and Modern Art Forms

For more information, contact Barb Steadman - 843.857.4199

HARTSVILLE, S.C. – March 5, 2012 – A novel performance of “Enoch Arden,” a musical work by Richard Strauss based on Lord Alfred Tennyson’s narrative poem, will be presented by collaborating artists Assistant Professor of Music Jun Matsuo, Associate Professor of Music Graham Wood and senior art and communication double-major Seth Johnson at 7:30 p.m. March 12 in the Elizabeth Boatwright Coker Performing Arts Center’s Watson Theater.

For more than a century, Tennyson’s classic poem “Enoch Arden” has been performed as a narrative (both in the original English and in German) set to an 1897 underscore by Strauss. In this month’s presentation at Coker, however, viewers will see a live performance involving piano, narration and a large-scale projected video.

Early last semester, Matsuo, who has collaborated with visual artists in the past, and Professor of Communication George Lellis approached Johnson, of Hartsville, with the idea of creating a video projection to accompany Strauss’ melodrama.

“It piqued my interest,” said Johnson. “It reminded me of the video work of Robin Rhode and Tal Rosner, who have also done large-scale projected video collaborations with composers. These artists have influenced my own work, and I saw this as an exciting opportunity to explore my favorite medium, video, in a totally different way.”

While the speaker, Wood, and pianist, Matsuo, will be visible during the performance, the large screen for the video will be the visual focal point for the production.

“Presenting this enhanced version of ‘Enoch Arden’ as a live performance presents unique challenges,” explained Wood.  “Rehearsals are often like choreography as we try to match certain moments in the poetry and music with specific images in the video. The collaborative process necessitates a little give and take from all of us as we work together to tell this tragic story of love, loss and sacrifice.”

“This is an epic that has endured over the years,” said Johnson, “But, still, it is dated, and the question for me was how to present this old tale in a new way.

“My goal wasn’t to illustrate the tale, as the words alone could do that. I had to offer another lyrical element, an enhancement that would bolster both the mood and energy of the poetic text and music.”

Endeavoring to reconfigure the past, Johnson’s video dwells in contrasts, offering images of antiquity and contemporary abstractions that move and flow through one another to create a visual harmony intended to compliment the text and music.

The performance is free and open to the public.  For more information, contact Wood at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .



Coker College readies undergraduates for personal and professional success through a distinctive four-year program that emphasizes a practical application of the liberal arts as well as hands-on and discussion-based learning within and beyond the classroom. Coker is ranked among the “Best Colleges” in the South by U.S. News & World Report as well as The Princeton Review. Located in Hartsville, S.C., Coker is within two hours of the cultural, financial and recreational resources of Charlotte, Columbia, Charleston and Myrtle Beach.


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