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Musicians team up to create a steampunk operatic experience

James Ackley and Bala Brass win Global Music Awards for work on “Deus Ex Machina”

USC trumpet professor, James Ackley, part of the highly acclaimed and award winning brass quintet Bala Brass, recently collaborated with performers from around the nation to create a new operatic listening experience. The CD, "Deus Ex Machina,” has won three Global Music Awards.

Released worldwide on October 1, the cutting edge electroacoustic work "Deus Ex Machina” is a new graphic novel steampunk opera by award-winning composer and University of South Carolina School of Music alumnus Robert J. Bradshaw.

The CD was recorded in historic Cabot Cinema in Beverly, Massachusetts — conducive to the post-victorian, steampunk opera – a gorgeous vintage space to help the singers get into character for the sessions.

“In a fascinating twist, the entire opera is performed to the main character’s clockwork heartbeat and the sounds of steam engines (all synced with the music),” composer Bradshaw explains. “It was important that every aspect of this project be choreographed as the soundscape (sounds of the world where the opera exists) are ever-present until the tragic demise of the main character."

In addition to the release of this recording, which includes sophisticated packaging with beautiful photography, extensive biographical information, and libretto booklets, “Deus Ex Machina” was recently performed in New York City (August 2015).

The work features soprano, Gillian Hurst (Rockport, MA), returning from Scotland to record alongside baritone Gary Wood (Salem State University, Professor of Music) and tenor Brendan P. Buckley (Plymouth State University). Also featured is Bala Brass with trumpeter James Ackley (University of South Carolina), Seelan Manickam (Keene State College), Kristen Sienkiewicz (Austin Peay State University), Robert Hoveland (Plymouth Philharmonic), and tubist John Bottomley (University of Massachusetts Amherst). Completing the star-studded artistic team of performers is virtuoso percussionist Megan Arns (University of Missouri) performing on Timpani and engineer/percussionist Benjamin Fraley.

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