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Puzzle of Light

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Visitors to Meredith College this past week may have noticed strange sights and sounds on campus: students banging away on sculptures comprised of bamboo sticks, hanging metal chimes and large gongs and cymbals made of industrial fans. The Dayton, Ohio, ensemble Puzzle of Light has been hard at work preparing for their upcoming concert and conducting workshops at Meredith. At 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 5, Puzzle of Light presents their world-music-inspired, site-specific sculptures, compositions and improvisations. The performance takes place in the Meredith College Amphitheater (or, in case of inclement weather, in the college's Jones Auditorium). Admission is free, and the event is open to the public. Families are especially invited, and Meredith College painters will be on hand for face painting before the show starts.

Puzzle of Light's mixture of visual and musical art comes from an interest in the power of both mediums. "I didn't want to give up music, and I didn't want to give up on visual art," Puzzle of Light's sculptor-musician Michael Bashaw explained about his group's origins. Performing with multi-instrumentalist Sandy Kreitzer, percussionist Bob Thompson and Bosnian composer and performer Edin Dino Zonic, Bashaw and Puzzle of Light might at first seem like a typical world-music/percussion-based troupe (think Blue Man Group or Mickey Hart). But their combination of sculpture and music, their attention to local environs and communities and their sense of global issues (as well as their exquisite musicianship) are something special.

Bashaw's 500-pound "giant kalimbas," for instance, and "The Monzithor" (a large, cable-strung metal object played with mallets, bows and even water-filled glass bowls) are something to behold. Placed in local artistic contexts (in this case Puzzle of Light will perform with the dance program, choir, and graphics art program at Meredith), the compositions of the ensemble take on new dimensions, spinning off in improvisations connected intimately to the spaces of the performances.

The group's sense of politics connects this local sensitivity to larger global issues. Puzzle of Light has performed at various events in the United States and in Bosnia celebrating the Dayton Peace Accords, for example. They perform Sufi-inspired songs that speak to the difficult, but promising interaction between Western and Islamic cultures. And for the Meredith concert, they have adapted their composition "Endangered" to focus on species currently threatened in North Carolina. This is a group that manages to merge the local with the global in full, multimedia form. "We consider ourselves world citizens and not really nationalists," Bashaw notes of his group's artistic endeavors. "We still feel strongly about that with all the stuff that's going on today."

For more information on the concert, call the Meredith College Art Department at 760-8332. For more information on Puzzle of Light, visit their Web site, www.puzzleoflight.com.

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