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Mills experimental musician debuts MFA thesis

Alexandra Buschman

Theatre and experimental music usually exist in separate spheres; however, Mills graduate student Alexandra Buschman marries the two worlds in an absurdist display of creative ingenuity.

Buschman is a music composition major whose work utilizes an eclectic assortment of techniques and styles in a fantastic display of expression.

“There are operatic elements that are sarcastically absurd,” says Buschman of her work, which maintains a critical perspective of modern society through the bizarre.

Her covert intent is to apply a creative analysis to modern expressions of identity through Internet presence. This is expressed under layers that are thematically imitative, but not obviously so.

Influenced by electronics and “extended techniques,” which is a fancy term for playing an instrument in an unconventional way, these elements combine in a sincere manifestation of resourceful musical ingenuity.

She described her senior thesis performance piece as “a criticism of the narcissism of modern society.” But this is just one stratum among lighting, costumes, structured improvisation and processed effects; such concealed complications are a part of the charm of Buschman’s vision.

“[Buschman] is a fearless artist,” said Elise Cumberland who, out of a cast of 17, played a singing role in Buschman’s graduate thesis performance. “She has a gift for challenging people to go beyond their comfort zone.”

Cumberland went on to explain that she was directed to inject her personality into her role without fear of showing vulnerability. Buschman intended to blur the line between performer and character.

“The performance left people wondering what it was about,” Cumberland said.

Such confusion is purposefully mystical, providing an almost ethereal point of view.

“If I had to put my work in a genre it would be an experimental musical,” Buschman explained, citing nostalgic musical cinema among her influences alongside former Mills Center for Contemporary Music director and audiosynthesis pioneer, Robert Ashley.

Buschman graduates this spring with a master of fine arts degree, having completed her undergraduate work at the University of Puerto Rico. She plans to stay in Oakland after graduation and continue with her creative pursuits.