Old growth is scattered across Oklahoma City in the form of empty buildings whose original tenants have moved on, moved out or just ceased to be.
As economic interests spread outward from downtown and the entertainment district, creative tactics to further spur urban renewal have emerged, such as the Resound Downtown Music Project. The brainchild of Paul Wilkes and Chad Mount, Resound was conceived to bring local and regional bands and musicians to a unique venue for one-off concerts that, when mixed with the distinctive look and acoustics of the building, create a memorable concert.
The first Resound experiment is 9 p.m. Thursday and features Oklahoma City’s all-instrumental atmospheric rockers The Non, who will join a 12-piece orchestra conducted by Carl Rath. The concert is inside the Dean Motor Company Building, 806 Dean A. McGee, which once warehoused an auto parts manufacturer and is currently undergoing renovations to turn it into a commercial space.
The building was among a handful of finalists for the first Resound concert, but ultimately won out because it had been well-maintained and would be the easiest place to put on a quality show.
“It was in much better shape than the post office was ahead of the ‘Momentum’ (art) show,” Mount said. “Its shape should create pretty decent acoustics, especially with that wood ceiling. Part of this idea is to create a unique experience, but also fuse cultures and build community, all while embracing urban renewal.”
Linking The Non with Rath, a music professor at the University of Oklahoma, was part of an effort to combine different cultures for the concert. Rath and The Non’s Zach Zeller collaborated on the musical arrangements, and Wilkes hopes that the band’s local popularity and Rath’s respected classical career will provide an interesting cross section of listeners.
“We will have a wide demographic for the first one,” Wilkes said. “Even though our online marketing and posters are very youth-oriented, once you throw in the orchestra and Carl, it pulls in a completely different audience. The hope is that we won’t just be getting 20-year-olds with 10 bucks in their pocket to spend on a show, but we will also get some people that might be looking for real estate to buy.”
Resound isn’t the first ambitious project for either Mount or Wilkes. Mount helped found the progressive venue Uptown United and helped organize the first two years of the Canvas Art Show. Wilkes worked on The Helium Project, which professionally recorded local concerts and then offered the media to the artist and public for free.
If all goes well with The Non performance, Wilkes and Mount hope other Resound shows will follow, perhaps two to three a year, Wilkes said. Eventually, the pair would like to book regional and national artists that otherwise might skip the metro on their way to Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa. The payoff for participating musicians is a concert setting unlike anything else on their tour. For the venue, it is exposure, and for the audience, it is the experience.
“When the people who go to the show drive by that space in the future, regardless of what it transforms it into, they will always have that interesting memory,” Mount said. “It will always be the Resound building where they saw the orchestra.”
Finding space in The Non’s catalogue for a 12-piece orchestra was not a simple task for guitarist Zeller. Rather than just shoehorning in some stings, brass and woodwinds, he decided to tap the expertise of Rath, who also performs with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic.
Zeller composed the scores and then passed the compositions back and forth with Rath until they came up with a complete arrangement. When choosing the songs to rework, songs off the group’s 2007 album were used rather than songs off a forthcoming album due out in late November or early December.
“Our older songs are a bit more expansive and repetitive, not as fast-paced and complex as our new songs,” Zeller said. “That space allowed for new, creative ideas to come out on the orchestral side. So, when we have a song that has a lull or come down on a certain section, that will be made into a highlight section for the orchestra to play an original part that wasn’t on the album.”
Zeller also said the band will have to turn down the amps on Thursday since the venue is likely to produce a lot of reverb, which is good for the classical instruments, but hard to manage for electric instruments.
“We will sometimes get pretty raucous, which might still happen, but the music will focus more on pleasing sounds rather than rock tones,” he said. “We are playing the more orchestral-type songs, the prettier ones, which is different because we normally play our more rock tunes that punch harder.”
Resound featuring The Non perform at 9 p.m. Thursday at Dean Motor Company Building, 806 Dean A. McGee. “Charles Martin