Arts, Crafts and Pocket Calculators

Arts, Crafts and Pocket Calculators

Jaime Coyne

No one walking by the Barge Canal Coffee Co. on the night of Saturday, January 31 would have thought there was a concert being performed at that moment. With a passing glance, they would have seen what appeared to be three college students, spread out over two tables, working studiously on their respective laptops. On closer examination, a passerby might notice that those students were curiously well lit. Other electronics cluttered their tables in addition to their laptops. And, oh yeah, an eager audience sat in a semi-circle around them. It was the Barge’s Saturday Nite Music Series. It was surreal from the inside, too.

The three Colgate students that make up Craftwork, junior Nick Sinopoli and seniors Joel Feitzinger and Steven Butler, wore a uniform of short-sleeved, blue button-down shirts. It was as if they were co-workers hanging around a cubicle. They did not acknowledge the audience sitting only a few feet away. The way they would nod their heads slightly to each other, they could have been playing an interactive computer game, communicating silently. If their hands had not moved in synchronization with the music playing, their presence would have seemed completely unrelated to the songs that were heard through the speakers.

Craftwork’s music is certainly unique. One song felt like it could have been played in the background of a planetarium’s Tour of the Solar System. Another sounded like an unsettling science fiction film tune. Simply put, their songs defy categorization.

It seemed very unnatural for there to have been an audience surrounding Craftwork because nothing about their presence seemed like a performance. In addition to their unique setup, they didn’t interact with the audience at all. They didn’t introduce the songs or the band members. They didn’t ever make any comments between songs. They didn’t even say, “Hi, we’re Craftwork.” It was hard to distinguish between the end of their sound check and the beginning of their set. Up to this point, listening to a recording of their songs would have had the same effect.

And then, without any warning, they acknowledged the audience. They were practically theatrical. The band member next to the thus far neglected microphone suddenly turned to the audience and explained that the next song was called “Kraftwerk,” and then added, “We’re far more German than we pretend to be.”

This song, unlike all the others, had lyrics — though not many. It consisted mostly of the mantra: “I’m the operator of my pocket calculator.” Sinopoli began doing a robot-esque dance, while holding up a calculator. The band member with the microphone — who who was really speaking rather than singing — soon dropped the lyrics, picked up a calculator and joined his friend in his calculator dance. Perhaps it is important to mention that all of this was accomplished with complete deadpan.

The members of Craftwork are surely the people who understand Craftwork best, so maybe it is better to let them explain themselves: “Craftwork is the Berlin Wall made of computer parts. Craftwork is an empty snow globe. Craftwork is two electrical wires almost touching. Craftwork is a microwave singing Bach. Craftwork is a dirty sock in a dryer full of clean shirts. Craftwork is your generation’s collective tinnitus.”